John W. McDonough/SI
Los Angeles has never had a reputation for being a great sports town. Sure, we have great weather and great beaches, but when our teams play we show up late and usually leave early. And sometimes we don't show up at all, especially if our teams are bad. It's one of the reasons why we lost two NFL franchises and won't get another one for the foreseeable future.
I still think there are few experiences in sports better than a USC football game at the Coliseum, an afternoon ballgame at Dodgers Stadium, a UCLA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion, a Lakers game at Staples Center or New Year's Day at the Rose Bowl. The skeptics can say what they want, but in the immortal words of Randy Newman, "I love LA."
It is, after all, still the No. 2 media market with two teams (if you count Anaheim as part of LA like the Angels do) in every sport except for the NFL. The media, however, that covers this market is shrinking by the day. A microcosm, no doubt, of what's happening in many other sports cities across America.
Not only have there been major layoffs at newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Daily News and the Orange County Register, but television and radio stations are also cutting back. This week KLAC 570, which has been the radio home of the Lakers for over 30 years, merged with Fox Sports Radio in a move that saw eight on-air personalities lose their jobs. Those that remained will now be hosting nationally syndicated shows that will no longer focus on LA teams.
KSPN 710, the local ESPN affiliate, already airs plenty of national programming and will likely increase its national presence when "The Worldwide Leader" opens its LA headquarters across the street from Staples Center.
Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket (formerly Fox Sports West 2) ditched its only local news show "The Southern California Sports Report" years ago and primarily airs national programming and infomercials outside of local games. The only real local sports television presence is a few minutes at the end of nightly newscasts, and even those reports are being cut down.
The most troublesome aspect of sports coverage in Los Angeles is that newspapers have also significantly cut their coverage of local teams as editorial staffs are being trimmed due to the economy. The result is little to no coverage on teams outside the Lakers, Dodgers, Angels, USC football and UCLA basketball.
Even those teams aren't getting the coverage that they once did. For example, the Daily News and Orange County Register, which used to compete against each other, entered into content sharing agreement last year and now a Daily News staffer covers the Dodgers for both papers on the road, while a Register staffer does the same with the Angels.
This is after the Daily News was already folded into the "Los Angeles Newspaper Group," a collection of nine daily newspapers in the area where staff writers rotate among newspapers and file the same stories for all nine papers. It's almost as if some games are covered by a Times writer and another writer essentially serving as a pool reporter for every other newspaper in town. Yet, because staffs have been cut so thin, even the LA Newspaper Group can't cover every home game of the Clippers and Kings and already relies on wire stories when they're on the road.
Even the Times, which cut over 200 editorial jobs last year, doesn't cover the Clippers and Kings on the road and occasionally rotates writers for home games. Basically, any team other than the Lakers that plays at Staples Center is viewed as a fringe team and is covered as such.
Suddenly, bloggers who cover the Clippers, Kings, Ducks and other local sports teams in Los Angeles aren't just supplementing the coverage that's already out there. They are becoming the only coverage out there for their teams. As local papers continue to merge with one another and radio and television stations do the same, making for one big national sports voice, bloggers and podcasters are suddenly becoming the only way many local sports fans to find out what's going on with their team. Never before have fans and sports teams needed bloggers so much. What was once thought of as a hobby for fans has now become a necessity in order to follow many teams. Unless you want to read an AP story or one written by a team employee, how else are fans going to get some local insight into what happened, for example, during a Clippers or Kings road game?
Unfortunately, like the newspaper reporters that once covered these teams on a full-time basis, these bloggers can't travel with the team and talk to players after road games, leaving a huge void in the coverage that surely won't be filled in this economic climate and may never be filled again as the way sports is covered at a local level has likely changed forever.