I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

Poor Sports

As anyone who regularly reads my blog knows I am obsessed with the fact that daily news on television and in the newspapers has not kept up with the times. I am amazed that Canadian broadcasters continue to produce national newscasts in the same style that they were produced 30, 40 or even 50 years ago. This despite the fact that the internet and all-news television has made the way viewers watch TV news change dramatically.

Newspapers have added style and shrunk their pages but they too continue to pump out their daily editions as if the internet had never been invented and they choose stories as if we, the consumers of news, have not seen any TV news or looked at the web.

I sometimes wonder what it will take for a few modern ideas to take hold. For the various media to assess what they do well and just as important the ways in which they can’t compete or even provide a valuable service. National newscasts, for example cannot possibly compete with the speed of all news television. All news on the other hand, does not have the time or the staff to look at stories in depth. I should not have to spell out the direction each should go in.

The internet pumps out volumes of information from all kinds of sources. The problem is an internet reader cannot always know or trust the sources of that information. I have a hard time watching the national newscasts because it seems like déjà vu. I have seen or heard the stories all day long. Newspapers are even slower. I sometimes feel like I have seen every story in my newspaper, it is yesterday’s news. I would love to see my newspapers filled with more opinion, more columnists from all across the political spectrum and because they have the staffs and the time, way more investigation and in depth stories.

This is all a long preamble to what I consider the most archaic and outdated source of news that exists today: the local news sportscast. Look, I am a huge sports fan. I love all the major sports and a few of the minor ones too. I am constantly surfing the web for the latest scores and sports news. I take part in hockey and baseball pools and have been known to make a bet on the NFL. So I am not coming at this as an artsy elitist or a news purist. I understand where the sportscast came from. In the “old” days there was no TSN, no the Score, no Rogers Sportsnet. The only opportunity most TV viewers had to see the scores and highlights was on their local newscast. In five to eight minutes the local sportscaster would let the audience know how their local teams performed, if there were any injuries and of course, show the best goals, touchdowns and home runs. If he, it was always a he until City-TV came along, had time, he would tell you whether the rival teams won or lost. In some cases local sports ran a crawl or put up a list of all the scores. They had a job to do and they did it well enough.

Can someone tell me the point of the local sportscast today? If I want to see highlights I have the choice of eight sports channels on television in Canada. I can go to the internet and find the scores to any game, whether finished or still playing. Heck I can even find out who is at bat as we speak or what yard line and which team has the ball in the football game. At the end of the day I can see an hour long sportscast that gives me all the scores, all the highlights, a few feature stories and even a panel discussion. If I want to just find out whether the Blue Jays or the Stampeders or the Canucks won or lost I can tune in The Score and look at the bottom of the screen. In a matter of minutes I will see every score in every game in every sport.

If you are a sports fan you have all kinds of ways and means of keeping up to date and truth be told, you find the local news sportscast inadequate at best and laughable at worst. If you are not a sports fan you probably could care less.

So why waste the time, money and the resources it takes to produce an inadequate and obsolete portion of the show? Wouldn’t local news be better served by hiring three or four more news reporters and dumping the three or four sports hosts and reporters? Wouldn’t the newscast love to have the camera operators assigned to sports available to news? I haven’t even mentioned the editing time that is currently gobbled up by sports. I don’t know anyone who watches their local newscast to see the sports news anymore yet we are still pouring all kinds of resources into the sportscast.

None of this means I want sports to disappear from local news. I would just like to see sports covered like all of the other news. When something important or interesting is going on, send out a journalist to cover the event. A good feature on the small crowds at the Blue Jays games would be of interest. The fight over a new stadium for the Tiger Cats in Hamilton is news. If the Leafs ever win the Stanley Cup the rash of heart attacks throughout Toronto and Canada will be a lead item. These stories can and should be handled by the journalists who cover their cities every day. There is no need to waste a long portion of the newscast on badly produced, incomplete and archaic segments that are available elsewhere to anyone who is really interested in the information.

So if anyone knows the answer to my queries I would love to hear from you. In the meantime I suspect the only answer is: ‘you know we have always done it this way and we haven’t really given it any thought.’ Isn’t that how most of the Canadian media works today?

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5 Responses

  1. the506 says:

    Local TV sportscasts should be just that: local.

    I live in New Brunswick and the state of the news media in this province is paltry at best, but nowhere is this more pronounced than in broadcast sports. There isn’t any. The only TV newscast based in the province (CBC) laid off its sports anchor years ago, and the Halifax newscasts focus on major leagues first, NS teams second, and if there’s time, we may give you the score of the Saint John Sea Dogs game.

    Meanwhile, so many local teams and tournaments suffer from poor attendance. There’s no publicity, no promotion, no way to get acquainted with the teams or players. All because the suits think cloning SportsCentre is the only way to go – and they either do just that or not bother.

    Yet another way local TV misses the mark.

  2. Geoff says:

    I think you’re looking at the local sportscast issue through Toronto blinkers. Sure, you can find out all about the Leafs, Raptors, Jays, Argos, etc. on the sports networks. Where does someone go to see highlights of the Regina Pats? Saskatoon Hilltops? Local stations survive by being local.

    • hlbtoo says:

      Geoff, you are right…I am looking at this through Toronto, rather big-city, cenrtic eyes. I still think however, there is a better way than the 8 minute sportscast with professional highlights. In the smaller centers you may get Regina Pats scores and a few shots from the first quarter but they can’t deliver a decent highlights package unless the game was aired completely somewhere. In my opinion you would be better off listening to local radio and reading your local newspaper. They can provide proper coverage. Why do you want to watch inept coverage on your local station anyways?

  3. James Wicks says:

    Howard has scored another goal.

    The Internet is to television, what Craigslist is to newspapers. It is forcing great changes, some good, some not so much.

    Many local stations here in the U.S. have cut sports time down to just a few minutes within the news wheel, or outright eliminated it altogether. These days, the Sports Director at a local TV station is the dinosaur within the dinosaur.

    I feel fortunate to still be working in TV after more than two decades, in a career that straddles both sides of the border. Be it here in the U.S. or home in Canada, the diagnosis is universal: television is one of the few business models left that has not changed since it was first introduced in the middle of the last century.

    Change is now upon us, for better or for worse.

  4. Ibrahim Imiru says:

    Easy for you to talk about cancellings local sportcasts. Try living in Montreal and watching the national channels. You’d think the Habs and Als played in another country (last I checked, we’re still in Canada). No way I’m trusting a Toronto sportscast to cover my teams – how much do you think Canada will hear about the Impact once they move to the MLS next year? Nada.

    You’re right, though Howard -why duplicate TSN’s coverage when these local shows have so much homegrown stuff going on?

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