COMMENTARY: The Los Angeles Kings are more popular than ever on local television news broadcasts, which should be music to the ears, and candy for the eyes, of long-suffering hockey fans in the area. But the local television news outlets are, evidently, horribly unprepared to cover the game. The result is unfathomable mistakes, and shoddy reporting. Even worse, Los Angeles area hockey fans should not get their hopes up for much improvement down the road.
LOS ANGELES — Back in 1999, when the Los Angeles Kings played their first-ever game at Staples Center, a 2-2 tie with the Boston Bruins on October 20, 1999, I remember getting there very early so that I would have time to take the grand tour, so to speak.
After walking past the Chairman’s Room on the Event Level, I turned into the tunnel leading to the ice surface, nearest the Kings dressing room, and as I turned, I saw KNBC-TV’s (Channel 4 here in the Los Angeles area) Fred Roggin doing a live spot on one of their evening news broadcasts.
At first blush, one might think, “hey, it’s great to see Staples Center and the Kings getting some positive media coverage on local television for a change.”
Alas, that was not my first, or even my second thought. Rather, my first and only reaction was, “we’ll never see him here again, unless the Kings win the Stanley Cup someday.”
To be fair, I have not attended every single game since that night, so perhaps Roggin has been at Staples Center to cover a Kings game since then. However, I can say that I have been a member of the Kings credentialed media since 1997, with the exception of a couple of seasons, and I have never seen him at a game.
Of course, Roggin is not the only one. I have also never seen KABC-TV’s (Channel 7) Rob Fukuzaki covering a Kings game at Staples Center (like Roggin, that does not mean Fukuzaki has not done so; it only means that I have not seen him, and that if he has, he has done so very infrequently). Despite their absence, this story is not about them at all, at least, not specifically.
What this story is about is the virtually non-existent coverage of the Kings and the National Hockey League in our local broadcast media here in the Los Angeles area. To make matters worse, even when the local broadcast media tries to cover the Kings, the coverage is minimal, at best, and, as we have seen in the last couple of weeks, laughable and embarrassing at its worst.
But before I go into that, it should be noted that there are exceptions. On radio, even though they are both very, very limited by the fact that their stations do not give much attention to the Kings and the NHL, both Ted Sobel (KFWB AM 980) and Dave Joseph (KSPN AM 710, better known as ESPN Los Angeles 710) provide excellent coverage of the Kings within those limits—neither host lengthy radio shows where they can focus on the Kings or the NHL.
As we have all seen as the Kings have skated into the 2012 Western Conference Finals in dominating fashion, the local television news stations have all begun to provide coverage, some of them, for the first time all season long, outside of reporting scores and showing game highlights.
Indeed, since the first round against Vancouver, camera crews from KCBS 2/KCAL 9, KNBC 4, KTLA 5, and KABC 7 have been at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, California on a regular basis, and on some days, you might see Jim Hill or Gary Miller from KCBS/KCAL, Mario Solis from KNBC, Steve Hartman from KTLA, and Curt Sandoval or Jon Hartung from KABC.
You might even see one of more of them at Staples Center on game day.
Of course, none of them were around to report on the Kings during the regular season, as in every Kings regular season before now.
What this all comes from is, as much as those of us who love the game so much hate to admit, hockey remains a niche sport in the vast majority of the United States.
The fact that there are just six or seven cities in the United States where the local NHL team gets serious media coverage should tell you all you need to know about why the Kings and the NHL are virtually ignored by the local broadcast media. To make things even tougher for the Kings, unlike other professional sports teams, they are competing for air time with two NBA teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers, who are enjoying more media attention than ever, two Major League Baseball teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (who should still be the California Angels, or the Anaheim Angels, but I’ll leave that op-ed piece to a baseball writer), and two major players in collegiate sports in UCLA and USC.
If you ever wondered why the Kings barely get any mention at all on our local television news broadcasts, now you know. That said, none of that is an excuse for the use of old, or inaccurate logos, not knowing the names of the players, or how to pronounce them even if they do, on our local television news broadcasts.
The first such incident during this season’s playoff run came on a KNBC newscast where they showed the logos of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings over anchor Chuck Henry’s left shoulder. The only problem was that the logo was for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
Catching the error, the Kings posted a complaint about the faux pas on their always-irreverent official Twitter account. To their credit, KNBC apologized on Twitter right away. KNBC also aired an apology on a later newscast, which you can watch below.
@LAKings: You are correct & we are red-faced. Caught it when it was too late. We've corrected the graphic; you won't see that error again—
NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) May 15, 2012
But KNBC’s faux pas was not the first time a local television station made that same mistake. Indeed, KCBS/KCAL mistakenly showed the Sacramento Kings logo during a report on the Los Angeles Kings during their 11:00 PM news broadcast on November 4, 2010, when the Kings were in first place in the Pacific Division, earning themselves greater attention by the local media.
Fast forward back to the 2012 playoffs…
During KTTV-11’s newscast on May 20, anchor Liz Habib reported that Kings center Anze “Kopidor” scored a goal. She also mentioned Kings defenseman Brad “Doty” in the highlight package she was describing at the time (you can view the report below).
To be fair, Habib immediately corrected herself after she botched Anze Kopitar’s name, but she did not notice the mistake with Drew Doughty’s name.
Habib also mentioned the Kings having the “ball,” during the highlight package, but immediately corrected herself in that instance as well, going so far as to mock herself by saying, in a derisive manner, “he got a touchdown,” after Kings left wing Dwight King scored a goal.
On her Twitter feed, Habib later took responsibility for not catching the errors in the script copy she was reading. Her feed also indicates that she follows the Kings, at least to some degree, and that she attends games. As such, I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.
But that has not stopped Kings fans from criticizing her on social media. Some of the criticism has been light-hearted, including parody Twitter accounts, @BradDoty8 and @AnzeKopidor. There are also parody accounts on Facebook for both. But sadly, some of the criticism launched in her direction, especially on her Twitter feed, has been nasty, classless and totally uncalled for.
Still another local television news outlet showed the Kings’ silver “chevron” logo, used from 1987-88 through 1997-98, during a report.
The latest flub came this morning from KCBS, which aired a report about the Kings 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 4 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals (Kings lead the series, 3-1, and can eliminate the Coyotes with a win in Game 5 on Tuesday, 6:00 PM PDT in Glendale, Arizona).
During their report, they thought they were showing the Kings mascot, Bailey. But the mascot they actually showed was Slamson, the mascot for the Sacramento Kings.
The real Bailey set the record straight on Twitter.
LA Kings (@LAKings) May 21, 2012
Bailey LA Kings (@BaileyLAKings) May 21, 2012
With at least one more game in the 2012 Western Conference Finals coming up tomorrow, and maybe more post-season action to follow for the Kings, one can only shake their head and wonder what the local television media is going to screw up next during their coverage of the Kings.
To be sure, these are careless, sloppy mistakes that are totally inexcusable for a professional news organization. But the root cause for this kind of shoddy, unprofessional journalism is the fact that these news outlets do not and cannot spend the time to give hockey the attention it deserves here in the Los Angeles area. After all, the Kings are just barely above the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of priority when it comes to news coverage here, and not just on television.
As such, the local television news organizations do not allocate the necessary time and resources to their coverage of the Kings, and keep in mind, it is not just the reporter or anchor you see and hear on television. There are writers, editors, and staff who edit the highlight packages, and other reports, along with those who handle the graphics that are seen on screen.
Without the necessary time and resources needed to properly cover hockey in Southern California, the sport, and its teams, are treated as second class citizens (probably much lower than that, actually), in terms of the coverage they get on local television. What’s worse is that it also leads to unconscionable errors in their coverage, and it is easy to tell, based on their body of work, that the televison news organizations here in the Los Angeles area barely pay any attention to the Kings at all—and this is not meant to point fingers or blame anyone. However, it does point to the reality of television sports news coverage here in the Los Angeles area…the Kings just don’t rank high enough.
The reason? It’s simple. It comes down to popularity. Hockey simply isn’t anywhere near as popular as the other major professional or collegiate sports, so it gets bumped way, way down to the bottom of the ladder.
What also hurts the Kings, to some degree, is that while the Dodgers and Angels have both won the World Series (numerous times for the Dodgers), while the Lakers have won multiple NBA championships, UCLA has its NCAA basketball championships, and USC has its NCAA football championships, what do the Kings have?
Zilch. Zero. Nada. The closest thing they have is making it to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals. But after losing to the Montreal Canadiens in five games, the Kings immediately resumed their place near the bottom rung of the local television sports news coverage ladder.
What will it take to move up that ladder? A Stanley Cup Championship. But even then, will that be enough to garner more coverage from the local media than they normally get?
Maybe a little. But if I were you, I wouldn’t hold your breath for much more than that.
Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home playoff games against the Phoenix Coyotes – May 24, TBD (Coyotes vs. Kings: Game 6 – if necessary), are available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.
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