Local sports coverage is slipping in Oklahoma. As a former member of the Tulsa media, it saddens me to make that statement. Covering local sports was my passion and my livelihood. Back then I sensed it, and even more so now, I see the profession slowly dying.
There is no longer an investment being made in real, substantial journalism. When I tune into local news these days, I cringe because each station’s sportscast is predictable and dull. Each channel airs a slightly altered version of the same show.
It’s fine to show highlights from the Drillers, Shock, Talons, Barons, OU, OSU, and of course the Thunder. However, I have a feeling no one is flipping on their TV to see a couple of lousy highlights. Nobody is sitting at home anxiously awaiting 20 seconds of Redhawks footage.
So why do stations fall into this cookie cutter pattern? Is it because the anchors and producers are afraid to miss something or is it because they’ve been in the same routine for so long that they’re just too comfy and complacent to think outside the box? Frankly, I know it’s the latter because I was guilty of it when I sat at the anchor desk.
For the most part, now I’m just a viewer like everyone else with no say in what I’m being shown, only the power the change the channel or to not tune in at all. I would love to hear from local sports viewers out there on what exactly you want, but I think I have a pretty good idea.
You want compelling interviews and good storytelling. That’s it. One simple formula that could change local sportscasting. Instead of showing me highlights from every single Drillers home game, why not tell the story of the player who sends money back home every week to his family in the Dominican Republic? Why not profile the Talons linebacker at his second job where he sells cars to make ends meet and hear him talk about what he puts himself through just so he can play arena football? Wouldn’t it be uplifting to hear about the high school soccer player who battled cancer only to come back and play her senior season? I promise you, these stories are out there waiting to be told, but they’re not being told often enough. A couple features or human interest pieces done right would really separate one station from another. Keep showing the high school sports and the college football, that has its place. All I’m asking for is a little variety once in a while.
Every anchor, every reporter, and every station wants to be recognized as the best. Ask tough questions, tell inspiring stories and viewers will take notice. This is the only way local sports television can survive.
I wish I could say local sports radio was any better. It isn’t. I know some of the local hosts are legends and many of them have forgotten more sports trivia than I’ll ever know, but would a little effort be too much to ask? I don’t notice much preparation being done for these shows and I can’t remember the last time I listened to a really well thought out, tightly packaged program. Blend some national news with some local flavor, throw in some creative segments, a dash of pop culture, and some timely guests, and you’ve got yourself an interesting radio show! I’ve had enough of newspaper writers and former coaches acting as co-hosts and re-hashing games that took place in the mid-1980’s. I want preparation, professionalism, and I want guys on the air who are willing to push themselves for a better product. What I hear now are guys who simply show up everyday for a few hours to collect a paycheck by repeating headlines and scanning box scores.
And…now I’m stepping off my soapbox. I’m not going to call out any stations or any specific members of the media. I know most of them and I respect most of them. I know their jobs are often stressful and rarely easy. But I also know they’re capable of so much more. The sports fans in this state deserve so much more than the same stale sportscast or radio show day after day after day.
So, to the viewer out there, I say hold your media members to a higher standard. To the hosts, anchors, and reporters out there, I say don’t give the news directors and the general managers any excuse to cut local sports for good. Give them a reason to make sports segments longer than three minutes a night. Get back to being real journalists and watch the ratings rise, watch the awards pile up, and watch local sports media be resurrected.