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The Death of the Local Sports Anchor


The Death of the Local Sports Anchor
They were once gods walking among mere mortals. Now they’re lucky to get two minutes.
Jon Wertheim
Mar 21, 2023
--- Quote ---...  Name a major U.S. city and, odds are good, you can associate it with a long-serving, blazer-clad, impeccably coiffed, honey-voiced anchor. Warner Wolf (and then Len Berman and then Bruce Beck) in New York. Glenn Brenner and George Michael in D.C. Roggin and Jim Hill in L.A. Dale Hansen in Dallas. Bob Lobel in Boston. Bernie Smilovitz in Detroit. Mark Rosen in Minneapolis. Dennis Janson in Cincinnati. Champ Kind in San Diego. The last one is a joke, of course. But Anchorman had it right when it observed: “There was a time, a time before cable, when the local anchor reigned supreme. . . . He was like a god walking amongst mere mortals.”

Like a reliable friend, the local sports anchor was there at the appointed time, offering companionability as he provided news and highlights not easily obtained elsewhere. Unfailingly, it all came deployed with a heavy dose of humor (and homerism). It was all but an occupational requirement to have a schticky catchphrase; a particular cadence; a distinguishing characteristic, which ranged from inane (zany sweaters!) to quirky (Don Hein, sports guy for the NBC affiliate in my childhood market of Indianapolis, sometimes played tuba on the air).   ...

Local sports anchoring was once a major pathway to network prominence.  ... Until it wasn’t.

The first big blow to local sports anchors was delivered by ESPN. When an all-sports network hit the air in 1979, concurrent with the explosion of cable, fans no longer needed to rely on the guy at the local station. SportsCenter came on at the same time as local news, siphoning viewers. And it was a full hour of sports highlights. The show had more production value than a local newscast. The highlights themselves were longer and more nuanced. The banter between the hosts was far more entertaining than the chatter between the sports guy and the meteorologist. ...
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Sports Illustrated

I live in a very small TV market but also can receive via antenna mid-market broadcasts from the nearest large city, and it's the same story. A one-hour newscast has weather reports every few minutes, it seems - info they could just as easily put on the ticker - but you have to wait till the very end of the broadcast to get a 2-minute sports report, with highlights from one high school matchup or the local hockey team. As the writer observes, the local sports anchor has been supplanted by ESPN or whatever info people get from their iPhones.


--- Quote from: mountaineer on March 31, 2023, 12:21:46 pm ---As the writer observes, the local sports anchor has been supplanted by ESPN or whatever info people get from their iPhones.

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That's exactly it.

People really don't need the local news for most sports highlights. For the major leagues, places like SportsCenter and the official league channels provide more than the local newscasts can accommodate... and for minor leagues and schools, the local newscasts are too broad to provide any meaningful coverage. Whereas a weather segment can have your meteorologist discussing in more depth the impacts of an upcoming weather events, the sports anchor in the local newscast adds nothing meaningful that the reporters haven't already added.

You can still get a decent amount of local coverage through radio, which has a smaller and more localized per-station footprint and is built better for long-form discussion. That, and weather impacts people's day to day lives, while sports is entertainment.

You also factor in the business. Mega-groups like Nexstar, Sinclair, Gray and Byron Allen (the last of whom is building an empire using affirmative action laws) are gobbling up all the mid-sized and smaller market TV stations and homogenizing them.

A lot of contemporary writers don't grasp that not everyone is glued to an iPhone or any other computer-driven source for their news. They just assume that others are as addicted to social media as they. Many of us are not.

Yeah, well so what? Everything changes. I remember as a kid having to wait for the weekend to watch basketball my favorite spectator sport on tv. Pro and college basketball was rarely reported on tv. You were lucky to get a brief recap on local tv or in the local paper.
So I welcomed with open arms the era of ESPN and much more televised coverage of college and pro basketball and the extensive sports reporting of big games.
The irony is that now I am so fed up with virtually all pro sports and haven’t watched a pro or college bball game for several years.
I couldn’t care less about the problems of the local sports reporter. We still have them on my two local network channels. They seem to be doing alright.


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