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The State of Sports Journalism

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As I turn on ESPN in the morning, I expect highlights from whatever major sporting event occurred the day before that I might have missed. But I only see an Instagram post from NBA star Lebron James. The broadcasters talk for 20 minutes about an old “Arthur” meme that James posted even though many hockey games occurred the night before or other topics were more relevant and important to discuss than what James is posting.

This is just one example of why the state of sports journalism is not good; television ratings are dropping last year the ratings were 1.51 million which was an 11% decrease from the 2.15 million the year before, which means networks are losing money, and they’re trying to change things because of that. However, what they are changing it to is not sports…it’s blending it with the entertainment industry. Therefore, these shows seem to be more like “Access Hollywood” than actual sports.

The attempts to improve ratings are only hurting the business of sports journalism. ISports are all about competition, hard work and winning a ring. They are not about memes posted online or parents of athletes who just got into the professional level running their mouth about everything.

On different cable sports stations, the same topics occur over and over again: There is more in sports than the Michael Jordan vs. Lebron James argument or if the Dallas Cowboys will make the playoffs or whatever comes out of Lavar Ball’s mouth. But broadcast sports journalists seem to care more about the ratings than the actual sports themselves.

There are more sports teams than the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. All teams deserve to be covered, not just the ones that will create the most ratings.

ESPN is certainly guilty of forgeting that there are other teams. While listing the number of champions in Chicago since 1965 during its 2016 World Series coverage (before the Cubs had won), a prime example of ESPN’s inequitable coverage was the inclusion of the Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks…without including the White Sox.

The same thing occurred during the most recent postseason when ESPN was talking about how the Dodgers were 7-1 at a certain point and reported that only one team had gone through the whole postseason with only one loss: the 1998 New York Yankees. This was also false. The 2005 Chicago White Sox were 11-1. ESPN, Chicago has two baseball teams.

Let’s get one thing straight: ESPN has some fantastic writers, and their online writing covers everyone. Their TV needs to change. It is not just ESPN’s television that needs to change; Fox Sports 1 also has some shows that talk about the same thing every show. They talk about LeBron, the Cowboys and other similar sports topics. Many shows on that station, such as “First Things First,” “Undisputed,” and “the Herd,” praise LeBron as if he can do no wrong. And whatever LeBron does, FS1’s Shannon Sharpe praises and Skip Bayless criticizes. They’ll do this instead of covering a Thursday night football game or an upcoming big game.

Turning back the clock to old ESPN segments, Stuart Scott’s segments back in the 1990s had lots of facts leading up to the game and actually explained what had occurred during the game. They didn’t talk about what memes were posted before and after the game.

ESPN is also transitioning their regular SportsCenter on TV to SportsCenter on Snapchat. However, their Snapchat coverage is more about cracking jokes than actual sports. Kate Nolan, the show’s new host, recently attempted to crack jokes about the sports events that occurred. Instead of Nolan talking about a record that Tom Brady has (throwing a touchdown pass to 68 different players), she decided to joke around about Pat Pass’s name and how she wished Patriots’ Tight End Rob Gronkowski was number “69”…because that is mature.

This needs to change. Sports broadcast journalism should be hard facts about a variety of teams. It should not be the LeBron James and Tom Brady Show because there are 3,694 other athletes in the four main professional sports (Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball Association) who may not be as good, but they are up there.

So, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network: You’re being called out. Fix the way you have sports on TV.

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