Local Media Coverage Of The San Jose Sharks Is Pathetic
Whether you’re a long time Sharks fan or new to team teal, one thing you may have noticed is local media coverage of our beloved hockey team is pathetic. I’m not talking about the recent decimation of papers featuring the quality reporting of local scribes like Mark Purdy, Ann Killion, Ray Ratto, etc… who have long since moved on as the newspaper machine came to a grinding halt. Yes, I’ve covered this topic before, but this is about new media rather than having specific focus on radio. After a few fans asked me about local media coverage during the recent game versus the Colorado Avalanche, I decided to take a look at how the various local media have covered the Sharks since the week of the NHL All Star Game at the end of January. After all, with San Jose hosting the annual star-studded event for the first time in 22 years, you would think it might be a big topic. You would be wrong. And for those of you looking for receipts, I’m about to ask CVS to hold my beer.
Let’s begin with the major local television stations. As you’d expect, the majority of coverage comes from the local sports hosts on these respective channels.
KTVU (FOX 2)
Oakland-based KTVU features 4 sports anchors, Joe Fonzi, Mark Ibanez, Jason Appelbaum, and Scott Reiss. Both Joe Fonzi and Mark Ibanez are nearly invisible on social media. Joe has tweeted only once this year while Mark hasn’t used the Twitter machine since 2016. In fact, a cursory review of their social media accounts show near dormant activity across all platforms. While Jason is a frequent tweeter, any non-Warriors tweets on his account are just retweets. Conversely, Scott is far more active and covers many more sports. I can personally confirm actually seeing Scott at Sharks events too. Scott recently produced a segment covering the Sharks dads trip in January.
However, this video is on Scott’s personal YouTube page and not on KTVU’s. Aside from any coverage Scott provides, the Sharks are typically an afterthought on KTVU. In fact, when I browsed the sports section of the KTVU website, there is no mention of the Sharks. Somehow though, there are 2 blogs featured on the site and neither of them have been updated in 2019. When I used the site’s search field, “Sharks” returned no results. Despite producing a segment lamenting the lack of Sharks coverage during the 2016 Stanley Cup run, KTVU’s Sharks reporting is woefully inadequate.
KRON (Unaffiliated 4)
Since the departure of Gary Radnich, I honestly, wasn’t sure if San Francisco-based KRON still covered sports. According to a sparse and infrequently updated website, J.R. Stone appears to be the current KRON sports guy. While the KTVU anchors mentioned above are exclusively sports driven, J.R. is also a regular news anchor according to their website.
When your network doesn’t have the major affiliation bucks, I guess you have to do more with less. As for the sports section on the KRON webpage, there are no Sharks stories, but there is a feature on the Dodgers.
On the Sharks specific page of the KRON website, the last Sharks related story posted is a game recap of game 4 versus the Golden Knights from May 4, 2018. Seriously.
KPIX (CBS 5)
KPIX is the best bet for local Sharks fans looking for coverage of team teal, mostly due to sports anchor, Vernon Glen. Despite KPIX being located in San Francisco, Vern has done several segments from SAP Center, most recently versus the Blackhawks last weekend. While the KPIX Sports Director, Dennis O’Donnell, is more SF sports focused, he’s also had his occasional Sharks segments. From the tweet below, you can see they went live from the Tank during their last weekend sports show.
#GamedayKPIX at 11:30pm with @DennisKPIX — @vernKPIX in a victorious @SanJoseSharks locker room after "the flu game". Plus @Athletics new 2nd baseman Juckison Profar, and @AMHSAthletics basketball star Haley Jones who is headed to @GoStanford pic.twitter.com/gVXH1OkTiE
— KPIX 5 (@KPIXtv) March 4, 2019
The KPIX website gets points for being the only one of the 5 local networks to feature the Sharks on the sports section on their homepage. They also feature every major local sports team on their sports-specific webpage. Finally, their Sharks specific page contains a story for all of the most recent games. However, points get deducted for simply publishing AP articles rather than authoring their own.
KGO (ABC 7)
The main sports anchor for KGO is Larry Beil, formerly of ESPN and KTVU. Based on a review of Larry’s social accounts, it would appear Larry may not be aware the Sharks exist. However, if you thought KRON’s site was bad, they’re merely holding KGO’s beer. Their website is an onslaught on the senses and features many broken links. It’s pretty clear that they’ve hitched their wagon to the Warriors train and welded the connectors. The main sports page features one Sharks story about the Bruins tilt which was 3 games ago. Even though the actual Sharks page does feature current content, it’s all pulled from ESPN. The KGO social media department also clearly lacks attention to detail when it’s about team teal since this was posted to their twitter feed after the Sharks lost 5-1 to the Capitals on Valentine’s Day.
— ABC7 News (@abc7newsbayarea) February 15, 2019
KNTV (NBC 11)
Based in San Jose, it’s a little surprising the Sharks don’t have a larger presence with KNTV. Raj Mathai is both the primary news anchor and sports director. Prior to becoming an anchor, Raj and KNTV covered the Sharks well. However, KNTV is affiliated with NBC and since NBCSN Bay Area broadcasts Sharks games, perhaps KNTV has decided to let the RSN take the lead on coverage and these outlets share content.
The KNTV website gets points for not only featuring 5 Sharks stories on the main sports page, but for also including the Sharks twitter feed. Nevertheless, as NBC Bay Area provides specific pages for the Giants, Niners, Athletics and soon-to-be-gone Raiders, there is no Sharks specific page. Also, their Sharks game coverage is sporadic as they feature no stories on recent games against the Avalanche, Blue Jackets, and Penguins. However, KNTV does deliver the occasional Sharks specific tweet including one about the recent All Star Game, a history about SJ Sharkie, and a feature on a blind hockey super fan.
Regional Sports Networks
For the fan of any local team looking for TV coverage, NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California is the best and only bet. Yes, the Warriors and Giants dominate the programming, even providing random live streams on Facebook for those teams. As for the Sharks, they do post the Sharks Central broadcasts on their YouTube channel and frequently provide a live stream from local Sharks practices on game days that include Sharks broadcast members Randy Hahn, Jamie Baker, Dan Rusanowsky and Bret Hedican.
Either way, the local television outlets typically only show up for the playoffs despite all the other newsworthy events that occur during a typical season.
Sports Talk Radio
KNBR has been around since before the San Jose Sharks existed and while both local sports radio talk stations largely ignore the Sharks, KNBR has come around in recent years. Whether or not it began before the must-listen segments with former Sharks broadcaster and frequent TealTownUSA guest, Drew Remenda, afternoon host Tom Tolbert is essentially the only host to fly the teal flag at the “50,000-watt blowtorch”. In fact, last month KNBR essentially had a Sharks week that featured several Tolbert interviews including Kevin Labanc, Evander Kane, and Joe Thornton. There was also an interview with head coach Peter DeBoer during the Murph and Mac morning show and an interview with general manager, Doug Wilson, by Bob Fitzgerald. Of course, a couple weeks later, former Sharks employee Fitzgerald showed up to the Sharks vs Blackhawks game at SAP last week wearing a Blackhawks shirt. I wonder how the Warriors or Giants would feel if Fitz took in a game while sporting a Bulls or Cubs jersey.
Aside from Tom Tolbert, and former host Ray Ratto, none of the KNBR hosts are known for their hockey acumen. Many will say local sports talk radio doesn’t cover the Sharks because the team doesn’t move the needle in the ratings. While television numbers may prove that claim mostly true, perhaps the ignorance of the hosts when it comes to the Sharks bear some responsibility as well. I have vivid memories of calling Gary Radnich to talk about the Sharks playoff run in April 1994 and he offered his typical yet lazy response of “no one cares”.
Their “Sharks talk doesn’t move the needle” argument may also be supported by the chicken and egg theory. In other words, local sports talk radio doesn’t talk about the Sharks because fans don’t call in about hockey. But hockey fans don’t call in about hockey because local sports talk radio never talks about the Sharks. When Sharks games were broadcast on KARA, prior to KFOX, there was a call-in show following every game and there was never a lack of callers clamoring to talk puck.
As for KNBR Sharks coverage on social media platforms, the KNBR webpage makes no mention of the Sharks. On their Sharks specific page, images are broken, and the latest article is an AP article from May 8, 2018. Seriously.
As for KNBR on Facebook, I scrolled back to January 24th, the beginning of NHL All Star Weekend. There was not a single Sharks specific post despite San Jose hosting the event. However, they did have 3 posts about the Pittsburgh Steelers. On KNBR twitter, despite conducting 5 different Sharks interviews over the course of 10 days, not a single Sharks or All Star Game post was found. It was left to the Sharks PR people on Twitter to try and get the word out. Any topic would have trouble “moving the needle” without adequate promotion.
95.7 The Game
Launched in August of 2011, 95.7 The Game began as a flagship station for the Oakland Athletics and, until February of 2017, was a sister station to long time Sharks flagship station, 98.5 KFOX. Any hope for Sharks talk that fans had for the new sports station was quickly extinguished. In fact, when some Sharks fans began calling the station in mid-September asking for Sharks talk, the response from then-host Brandon Tierney was “It’s September. Why would we talk about hockey?” Of course, there was no response when it was pointed out to Brandon how much basketball talk occurred during the month of September.
Just like KNBR, the majority of 95.7 hosts are clearly ignorant of hockey. In fact, a former host, John Middlekauff, actually had to ask Brodie Brazil if a power play or penalty kill was considered “special teams”.
@brodiebrazilCSN they call penalty killing special teams? Same with when your on a power play?
— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) February 2, 2014
During one of the rare times 95.7 actually discussed hockey, former host Sean O’Connell was discussing the team with Sharks pre/post game host, Brodie Brazil. During the discussion, Sean mentioned that people were saying Antti Niemi was putting up “Vezina-type numbers”. Sean showed off his ignorance by pronouncing the hallowed trophy as “vuh-ZEE-nuh”. Brodie stayed cool and slyly corrected him, but for NHL fans, it was a cringe-worthy moment.
As I mentioned in a previous article, the disappointment with 95.7 The Game is at higher level for most fans because of their half-hearted attempts to cover the Sharks. They abandoned a weekly segment called “Tank Talk” after less than 3 months. The Game also tried a weekly show hosted by Brodie Brazil and Drew Hoffar called The NHL Rush but scheduled it for Sunday mornings at 10am during football season. It’s as if the powers that be at 95.7 were setting up their Sharks coverage to fail while hiding behind the excuse of “hey, we tried”.
While the high turnover level that plagued the station in its infancy seems to have ended, the amount of Sharks talk at 95.7 The Game remains at an all time low. While I’ve heard nothing about any recent Sharks interviews, host Damon Bruce recently hosted a State of Bay Area sports show and clearly neglected a team and area, based on the tweet below.
3:00-4:00 (State of the Giants)
4:00-4:45 (State of the Warriors)
4:45-5:00 (State of the East Bay)
5:00-6:00 (State of the 49ers) pic.twitter.com/QOzvxXLxQg
— The Damon Bruce Show (@DamonBruceShow) February 15, 2019
In spite of having someone who actually writes Sharks articles, The Game’s website has no mention of the Sharks on their homepage. They did have 3 Giants stories, 1 49ers story, 1 NFL combine article, and what felt like 27 different Warriors posts though. It’s pretty clear that the prime directive at 95.7 is to only cover the NFL, the Warriors/NBA, and the Giants and never venture away.
On the 95.7 Facebook page, as with KNBR, I scrolled back to the NHL All Star Weekend on January 24th and found 3 Sharks-related posts. Each of the posts, on January 24th, February 21st, and February 26th, were just links promoting articles on their site. There was absolutely nothing regarding the All Star Game. To put this into further perspective, 95.7 posted 3 times what appear to be advertisements for Stephen Curry shoes during the same time frame.
The 95.7 twitter also matched this staggering output of posting 1 tweet for each article and yet silence during the NHL All Star Weekend.
So Now What?
Despite the local availability of the Sharks broadcast crew or beat reporters and personalities including Paul Gackle of the Mercury News, Kevin Kurz on The Athletic, Chelena Goldman and Marcus White on NBCSAuthentic, Ross McKeon, Brodie Brazil, Curtis Brown, or any of the other locals that could talk intelligently about Sharks hockey, neither station is motivated to utilize the resources at their fingertips. I guess it’s easier to have the same discussions about Stephen Curry footwear, ad nauseum.
Podcasts and Social Media
Thankfully, the Sharks have a pretty damn solid digital media team that churns out a great amount of quality content, most of which can be found on their YouTube channel. Shamelessly, I’m also going to promote the Sharks content on our YouTube channel. What we lack in budget, we make up for in passion. Also, you can find pre/post game host Brodie Brazil on YouTube putting out quality content regarding Bay Area sports and other topics of note.
Over the last few years, there has also been a tremendous increase in the amount of NHL team specific and Sharks-related podcasts, Sharks-focused websites, and Sharks-specific social media channels. We recommend you take look around and help support them by giving them a follow or like… right after you follow us on Twitter and Instagram, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. In fact, the lack of Sharks coverage by local media was something we so frequently ranted about four years ago that we banned it as a topic and stated one of our drivers has been to make our own Sharks coverage since local media couldn’t give a damn.
I know that the Sharks are unfortunately low on the totem pole for most Bay Area sports media and I don’t expect every word from the many media outlets to be focused completely on hockey. But I also don’t expect a popular Bay Area team, that for a few seasons was the only Bay Area team with a winning record, to be completely ignored. As I tweeted earlier this week in response to KPIX’s Vern Glen…
What’s your take on local Sharks coverage? Let us know in the comments below.