Journalist. Educator. Researcher.
In April 2020, Kevin Hull (South Carolina) and Miles Romney (Brigham Young University) were scheduled to present their research “Sports: A Television Newsroom Afterthought” at the International Association for Communication and Sport (IACS) annual conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference was ultimately cancelled.
Below is a summary of the study. If you would like to cite any of these statistics in your research, please use the following citation:
Hull, K., & Romney, M. (2020, April 2-5). Sport: A television newsroom afterthought? [Paper presentation]. International Association for Communication and Sport (IACS) 2020 Summit on Communication and Sport, St. Petersburg, FL, United States. (Conference cancelled). Summary available at https://kevinhull.net/2020/07/18/sports-a-television-newsroom-afterthought/
Sports: A Television Newsroom Afterthought?
The days of local sports broadcasters getting six minutes for their segment of the newscast have been over for decades (Likes, 2012). In 2019, sportscasters are lucky to get more than a few minutes as some television stations have eliminated the sports segment completely (Benz, 2007; McGuire, 2005; Zurawik, 2011). For those still on the job, many question the future of the profession. This study examines the perception that local sports broadcasters have on their place within the newsroom hierarchy.
In a survey of nearly 100 local sports broadcasters working in smaller markets throughout the United States, sportscasters said they did not have enough staff to cover local sporting events, had concerns about support of newscast management, and wondered if their future might be in a different profession.
More two-thirds of the respondents (67.1%) said their sports department contained just two employees. According to those working in a two-person department, 74% said that was not nearly enough people necessary to properly cover the sporting events in that market. This means the sportscasters have to make difficult editorial decisions: “Choosing almost daily between one or the other, regularly having to miss stories that I would otherwise love to include in our coverage.” Another stated that the smaller staff means doing multiple jobs: “There are lot of teams to cover and a lot of times, you are anchoring and reporting and doing three other people’s jobs just to make it work.”
The staffing shortages made some question the support from the bosses at the television station. While the sportscasters were aware that they were at the bottom of the priority list, that did not make it any easier. Some responses include: “We often get the short end of the stick,” “sports isn’t valued by management,” and “sports is the last thing in a newscast and the first thing to get cut. News always takes precedence.” One even stated a concern with equipment: “We don’t have our own sports cameras. News will send reporters out with all the cameras and I’m stuck having to reschedule. Frustrating.”
Local sportscasters’ also expressed frustration with their inability to cover their local teams outside of their home city. When asked if they could travel to cover the local teams, the sportscasters almost universally gave a variation of what one sports broadcaster wrote: “Very rarely. Not very far.” State championships just a few hours away were often listed as the lone exception to the travel restrictions.
Ultimately, many of the frustrations listed by local sports broadcasters come down to budgetary decisions by management. There is not enough money for more sportscasters in their department, sports-only equipment, or sports-related travel. This has some questioning their future in the business. As one wrote, “they might not need sportscasters in five years.” To stay important, local sports broadcasters should demonstrate that they are emphasizing the local in their title, which can show their importance to the community.
Benz, K. (2007, September 26). Don’t drop sports from local TV news. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/84669/dont-drop-sports-from-local-tv-news/
Likes, T. (2012). On-air or on life support: The demise of local TV sports. Electronic News, 6(3), 171-174.
McGuire, M. (2005, March 23). WTEN to alter nightly sports. Times-Union. Retrieved from http://alb.merlinone.net/mweb/wmsql.wm.request?oneimage&imageid=6329141
Zurawik, D. (2011, July 11). Baltimore’s late newscasts are shifting their focus away from sports. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-07-12/entertainment/bs-ae-local-sports-decline-20110712_1_sports-anchor-sports-blocklate-Newscasts