Tag Archives: sports

Local Sports: Key Component of Staying Local and Relevant? Or First to Throw Overboard? (Both?)

Lets Go to the Videotape!

"Let's Go to the Videotape!"

Of all the things that have stayed with me about growing up watching local TV news, two things stand out: the evolution of WCBS/NY’s “2” logo over the years, and the time I got to sit in Warner Wolf’s chair on the Channel 2 News set.  As a kid in Connecticut watching New York news, I won’t ever forget Beutel and Grimsby and the Cool Hand Luke music;  I won’t forget Jim Jensen, Chuck or Sue.  But for some reason, it’s Warner Wolf who I think was the first true “character” that made watching the 6 o’clock news something I would actually talk about at school the next day, what with his trademark style and “let’s go to the videotape!”

Today, there aren’t many wise young sportscasters expecting to be Warner Wolf one day.  Sure, you don’t “go to the videotape” anymore, but more importantly, sports has become the go-to source for deep-sixing talent and freeing up cash at struggling stations from coast to coast. WCBS, Wolf’s old station and the one I watched as a kid, (Anybody remember “NewsBreaker Territory?”) recently fired its main sports anchor, Ducis Rogers, and the morning guy, John Discepolo.  Sports, struggling for air time, is down to one lone anchor/reporter.

New York still has Len Berman, but many markets may do away with local sports altogether. Managers claim there’s no need, since true sports fans get their info from ESPN, or regional sports nets.  As Stacey Brown writes in the Scranton Times-Tribune, “Nightly sports reporting and local news appear to be headed for a divorce.”  

WOLF/Scrantons FOX 56

WOLF/Scranton's FOX 56

“It is a shame you don’t see more local sports during the newscasts,” Jon Cadman told Brown.  Cadman’s GM at (ah, irony) WOLF-TV in Scranton.  He says costs are just too high, and something’s gotta give.  So forget about seeing your kid’s high school touchdown run on Channel 16.  Maybe it’ll make SportsCenter.

In my own newsroom yesterday, as the sports folk were busy writing scripts, producing their ever-shrinking six o’clock sportscast, I heard the bellowing boom of the Asst. News Director:  “Sports is dead!”  It happens a lot.  And as a newsguy, I get it–to a point.  When news breaks, you’d expect weather and sports to give.  But in this environment of cutbacks and layoffs, is killing sports altogether the next step?  And does that, in a sense, take away one more thing that sets local news apart?  

I’ve worked in some sports-crazy cities, especially in the South, and let me tell you, there’s hardly a bond as strong as that between sports fan and sports talent.  When they show up at the high school football game on a Friday night, that’s the kind of thing that earns viewer loyalty. (Remember the Friday night football shows where sportsteams would actually use the station helicopter to fly around to as many games as possible?  Bringing not only a camera to get the game on TV that night, but the chopper to fly the colors in front of a packed stadium:  “Wow, Channel 5 ROCKS!”)

But even in small town Scranton, sports is on life support.  And in big city, sports-crazed New York, calling it a sports “department” seems like a bit of a stretch.  Are we turning away viewers to save a few dollars?  Or do the viewers really not care anymore–have they truly moved on?

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LATEST LAYOFFS: WCBS/NY Cuts Rodgers, Discepolo

Ducis Rodgers/WCBS Photo

Ducis Rodgers/WCBS Photo

NY Daily News TV writer Richard Huff quotes a source at WCBS/NY this morning, saying Channel 2 has pink slipped sports director Ducis Rodgers and morning sports anchor John Discepolo, leaving the CBS O&O with a sports team of precisely one: Sam Ryan. Huff says station officials refused comment, but Huff’s source credited the cuts to “cost cutting.”

The layoffs (Rodgers’ last day is reportedly Thursday, with Discepolo ending his Channel 2 run on Friday) come just days after Huff’s column
 arguing that local tv sports itself is an endangered species.

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Local TV Newsers: Has Sports Run Out the Clock?

Richard Huff at the NY Daily News puts it bluntly to local tv sports anchors and reporters:  “That’s it.  Goodnight.  Go home.”  As stations’ budgets contract and reporters are cut from payrolls, Huff argues the money committed to a daily sportscast is not well spent:  “When die-hard sports fans are glued to ESPN – with tickers at the bottom of the screen giving them all the results – along with all-sports Web sites, what exactly do local sportscasters bring to the table?

Very little, if you think about it.

Generally speaking, local sports anchors update box scores and intro highlights.”

As we’ve reported, KVVU/Las Vegas just decided to drop weeknight sportscasts altogether, saving sports for weekends and special events.  George Michael unplugged the Sports Machine in DC.  

A High School Football Game... on ESPN

A High School Football Game... on ESPN/New York Times Photo

And if you take a moment today to drift over to the sports office in your newsroom today and take the talent’s temperature, you’ll notice an icy fear.  They feel time running out.  Anchors who once had extended segments in weeknight newscasts now struggle to get in a minute of scores, and most have had the experience of hearing, scripts in hand, IFB in ear, pancake on face, “Sports is dead!” as a breaking news story forced news producers to take back the few seconds sports was allotted to make room for live chopper pictures of that rolled-over bakery truck.

So, come on sportsters… what’s the argument for survival?  Can a regional cable sports net cover high schools as well as you can?  Can ESPN really do what you do?

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Vegas Station Benches Weeknight Sports

The longtime local news formula of news, weather and sports has been sliced by a third at KVVU/Las Vegas, where the weeknight sportscast has been sent to the showers. “The sportscast is not what the viewers come to us for, research has been telling us that for years,” KVVU news director Adam Bradshaw told reviewjournal.com‘s Steve Bornfeld. “The economics of broadcasting dictate we put our resources in places where we’re going to get ratings.”

Bornfeld reports today KVVU will continue to cover sports, including weekend sportscasts.

The full cut comes after years of cutbacks in sports coverage, with some local news stations dialing back the daily sportscast to something in the “sports and scores in a minute” range, and putting sports photographers into the daily news shooting mix, and cutting sports reporters at many stations.

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Latest Layoffs: Sports Gets Deeply Downsized in Dallas

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Nita Wiggins/KDFW Photo

KDFW/Dallas has sent another sports reporter packing, quietly releasing Nita Wiggins last week after eight years at the station. News Director Maria Barrs declined to say much to Dallas news blogger Uncle Barky:  “Her contract had ended.”

Without Wiggins, DFW is essentially running a two-person sports team, primary anchor Mike Doocy and weekend anchor/reporter Max Morgan.  A local newser inside the DFW newsroom said the cuts are hurting morale:    “For a station that devotes as much air time to local news as FOX 4, this clearly shows what direction local sports is going.”

Local newsers:  what’s the situation in your shop?  How deep are the sports cuts?  Do your sportsters travel?  (And lest us not forget the much-discussed Tampa sports liveshot from Ft. Lauderdale:  one woman crew, doing it all by her lonesome.)

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