Sports ‘journalism’: Top of the 9th?

Full disclosure: I’m no sports fan. So take what I saw about the possible the decline of sports ‘journalism’ with that grain of salt.

Consider: Penn State surveys local TV people in the top 50 markets and finds that sports ‘news’ is heading downhill fast. 76 percent agree that the role of sports in local news broadcasts is diminishing. 55 percent agree that someday sports may not be a part of local TV news. Now see this story about college programs not even trying to get on TV; they’re going to the web. Finally, see this panel discussion with sports bloggers saying they just won’t need sports beat writers because they can see the sports themselves.

On newspapers, the latest readership figures I find show less than half read sports sections, which is a helluva lot more than read fashion and food sections. But fashion and food sections bring lots of endemic (that is, related) ads. Sport sections get tire ads. Sports costs a lot more to produce and is less profitable.

When you think about it, sports is most vulnerable to online, which is up-to-the-minute, highly targeted, multimedia, interactive. Sports scores are a commodity. Columnists are expensive — and, according to my sports-fan friends, generally useless — and, besides, in forums and blogs today, everybody’s a columnist. Local TV sports reports can’t compete with ESPN. And they really get local — down to high schools — in four-minutes on air.

So what happens to sports journalism? Is it replaced by specialty networks on cable and online? Does it go hyperlocal to survive? Does it disappear from some outlets? Whither the jocks?