The death knell sounded quietly last week. On. of New Yor.s broadcast stations, WPIX Channel 11, announced that it had eliminated their sports reporting staff for their nightly 10 .clock news. While some reacted with shock, surprise and disappointment, the announcement came and went with little protest from the fan. There was no out crying of sympathy for reporters like Lolita Lopez, one of the few Hispanic female sportscasters in the industry, and the reporting of scores was handed off to the news anchors, who could easily roll the highlights for the two minutes allotted in sports in the hour. Just south of the dial, Fox-owned Channe.s 9 and 5 have played shrinking coverage with their sports reports as well, with veteran Russ Salzberg doing his best auctioneer impersonation to fit scores into a one or two minute window at the end of Fox Fiv.s ten .clock news before doing a slightly expanded report on MyNetwor.s Channel 9 at 11. While the three local network newscasts continued to devote more time to both scores and stories (especially WNBC which has Verizon as a sports-specific sponsor for anchor Bruce Beck and crew) it is probably a matter of time before the dollars in covering local major market sports continue to become a thing of the past as we know it.
While some may wring their hands at the thought of the loss of the traditional coverage, the ability to find new areas of sports-specific coverage in an ESPN dominated era has actually created more opportunities for exposure, albeit not the traditional kind. At the same time, TV media members are working hard to make themselves more versatile, more diverse and more valuable to their employers, which is not unlike most professionals in the workforce today. Those who can tweet, post, log stories and also do the morning show find themselves in demand. In New York for example, we find Fo.s Duke Castiglione manning the sports and entertainment stories for.Good Day New York. hitting the road for traditional sports coverage both on air and for .com and finishing every Sunday night with the stations mainstay, their Sunday night.Sports Extr. show. WNB.s Beck, tweets, covers the high school scene, logs reports for wnbc.com and will anchor everything from marathons to MMA if needed. Just being the talking head over highlights and showing up for a presser here or there will not work anymore. Hustle by media members is almost if not more valuable than the hustle by those they cover.
So where does the opportunity lie to have stories told, if not just with the traditional media coverage. Soliciting blogs, micro niche news sites like Patch.com, the evolution of content providers like Cinesport (which has quietly become a big force in providing video content for newspaper websites across the country) and working everything from college media to blogtalk radio and podcasts all add up for the right story. Those stories are amplified by the effect of a solid social media outreach as well, and all of that is still backed up by the traditional newspaper and TV outlets, spread across the vast channels that each now seeks to fill with content.
So does the elimination of the WPIX sports crew show a trend in traditional news coverage on air, or is it an anomal.? In most markets news crews are already pooling video on stories, and the ability for news to source raw video through Skype and other technology is making the need for field reporting in a short window of two to three minutes a night even of less value. Then again if the spot brings in sponsor dollars and can effectively integrate through other areas of new.digital, social, community et.then local sportscast can continue to survive as it does today. It is a great shame that so many senior sports journalists who have not adapted have gone to the wayside. Some like a Len Berman have gone to writing and blogging in their own, and are hopefully thriving in a new environment. Others are struggling to fit in. At the end of the day, the sponsor dollar and the viewer needs are tantamount, and if the need for sports news is coming from other sources then those on air will adjust. The issue will be convincing those who seek the coverage that the pieces of the alternativ.blogs, microsites, podcasts, social media et.add up to the effectiveness of seeing a short piece on the air. That remains a challenge even as sports coverage shrinks in the local newscast, and will have to be another adjustment in the viewing and value habits of those who get, or now do.t get, the airtime they had in the past, no matter who is calling the scores in front of the camera.