Out of all the topics I discussed back in 2007 when I first wrote of what I liked about sports media, how television sports news is covered has not changed much at all.
The one thing that amazes me is that there are still sports segments in local television news. I no longer know of anyone who watches local news for sports coverage. As a matter of fact, many stations are asking their sports anchors to transition into the news side of the operation. The local sports anchors today, even in medium-sized markets, are often young reporters right out of college. Even when stations cover college and high school athletics, it appears that the information is old. Regrettably it’s only a matter of time before local television sports news will be eliminated from the newscast or relegated to online only.
One change in television sports coverage has come in the increasing presence of regional sports networks (RSN). In the Boston market both Comcast SportsNet New England (CSNNE) and the New England Sports Network (NESN) have launched daily sports shows within the last four years. Each has also created niche news shows focusing on the teams (Celtics for CSNNE and Red Sox/Bruins on NESN) which they hold broadcasting rights. Even though these RSN’s currently don’t have the market share of an ESPN, they’ll probably hasten the death of sports reports in local newscasts.
As in 2007 ESPN continues to hold the ratings edge nationally when it comes to sports news reporting on its varied television networks. As I wrote four years ago, I watch these shows to get informed. Not to get entertained. There are still hosts at all levels of television sports reporting who feel the need to create catchphrases and other anecdotes to be seen as cool. I don’t want cool. I want authoritative reporting, where the respect of viewer is paramount.
It does bother me that ESPN tends to promote one sport over another, presumably based on the rights fees they hold. My concern is ethical, not entrepreneurial. It puzzles me that ESPN will choose an NBA early round playoff game as its lead story over, say, the clinching game of the Stanley Cup Finals. But from a business standpoint, I understand. With the choice I’d probably choose journalism over business in making that decision.
Although still a concern for some, I’m not bothered by a network (ESPN) having nearly every segment of its sportscast tied to a sponsor. I have yet to see a time when that sponsorship has impacted the quality of the information presented during that segment. When that happens, I’ll complain.