Dec. 14, 2000
"There's been a lot of talk about low attendance at WKU home games. My question is why the local media outlets (i.e., Daily News, local Radio, WBKO) don't run daily tidbits about WKU athletics. In your 'major' markets, there are daily news items (some human interest, or player profiles) that tend to generate interest among the fans. Has this already been looked into?" -- question submitted by Michael Simpson, Bowling Green, Ky.
"Your question is a good one and one that I have personally struggled with since my arrival 16 months ago. Media, whether they want to admit it or not, play a crucial role in building up athletes and athletic programs or conversely in damaging their reputations. The Bowling Green media is generally kind to Western Kentucky, however, from the majority of our media, we lack the real hunger, passion, and overall support in the generation of the human interest stories and player and coaching profiles that help the community become more connected with our student-athletes, coaches, and administration. Unfortunately, we must manufacture the overwhelming majority of our local media coverage. Our Sports Information department spends hours generating game updates as well as reporting individual and team accolades. However, they need some help.
Taking the media one area at a time, below is how I would evaluate the local situation. My response is lengthy, but I feel you have asked a legitimate question that cannot be answered in one or two sentences.
Courier-Journal - We had a great football year with the Louisville Courier-Journal. C. L. Brown of the C-J did a great job covering us all season. Moving our September and October football games to 5 p.m. kick-offs helped us get front page Sunday game coverage stories (many times with accompanying photo) for all but one of our home games. Last year we were rarely featured on Sunday as our games did not conclude until after their print deadline. Coverage was greatly improved this year by the C-J. (Our attendance was also up considerably in September and October.) We wanted more feature articles from their columnists during the week, however, they typically elected to write about other in-state successes and failures which was very frustrating considering the success story we were generating all season. Next year will be a challenge for us as we move to the Gateway. There were three (counting Western) OVC schools in Kentucky so critical mass contributed I am sure to some of our coverage this year. We will be the lone representative in the Gateway from the state of Kentucky and we know the type of coverage we have been getting from the C-J as the lone Sun Belt Conference representative. We need to work on the C-J to carry the Gateway and SBC sections and standings during the week just as they do the SEC, Conference USA, and OVC. Western fans can help by calling and writing letters of support in that regard.
Daily News - Sports Editor Bill Gamblin was great to us. Unfortunately he was a one man show asked to do entirely too much for this entire region. The rest of the writers have little interest or understanding of intercollegiate athletics, including most of their editorial staff. Several articles appeared in the Daily News where the writer never called for information or to check the accuracy of previous articles or columns from which that particular article was based... minimal journalistic standards and virtually no journalistic integrity. Additionally, I have never been in any city that did not either put sports as its own section or at least feature sports on the front of a section everyday. What is up with that?
Most of the sports you read in the Daily News is torn straight from the AP wire and has more to do with fitting the appropriate space around the ads on the sports page than having the right fit locally and logically from a human interest stand-point. Typically, what we release from Sports Information, you will read word-for-word in the Daily News. There is no interest for improvement by the Daily News that I can sense. We recognize that the Daily News is very cost sensitive, to the point of producing an inferior sports coverage product, and have suggested, recommended, begged, and encouraged the Daily News staff to improve their journalism quality AND save money by hiring students from the country's number one ranked school of journalism, Western Kentucky University, to comprise the majority of their staff. We have students looking to expand their portfolio, students who could author great feature stories and other pieces, students that would require minimal compensation with no need for costly full-time employee benefits. Until the Daily News wants to produce a better product, sports fans and Western fans from this area will continue to rely on wkusports.com, USA Today, and the Louisville Courier-Journal for our sports information.
The advertising department of the Daily News has been great to us, evident by every Wednesday's Big Red page and the every-other-week HAF full page report that we co-produce with them. They have also been very good to us with other advertising opportunities and they really supported our play-off efforts with ads of their own encouraging fan support and attendance.
The photojournalism at the Daily News for Western athletics is fantastic. Some of the best sport photos I have ever seen -- Joe Imel and Clinton Lewis of the Daily News were behind the lens.
We would love to see more local Western coverage, beyond a game report, and more overall conference standings and conference highlights. Columns central to Western athletics would also be a welcome addition. Unfortunately we can not write it all for them.
WBKO is a great partner for us. They devote one-third of their 10 p.m. news every Sunday night from November - March to Coach Dennis Felton and Steve Small so that they may provide an inside look into Western basketball with their "Hoops on the Hill" program. Jason Sage does a nice job with highlights for all of our programs. Typically we lead off sports, as we should, being the local hometown team. The other reporters from WBKO, including weekend sports anchor Drew Amman, are very supportive and complimentary to our efforts. Rick McCue, VP and GM, and Brad Odil, General Sales Manager, are very supportive of Western. It would be nice to see a regular Western athletic calendar of events. However, WBKO is a real asset.
WKYU is family to us. As such, you can see almost a dozen and a half of Western's basketball games on WKYU. They are great in highlighting our programs and running our game schedules. We are improving our relationship with them everyday. WKYU is the backbone of Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network (HSSN), the new joint venture television programming project between WKYU and WKU athletics, offering Hilltopper games throughout the season in up to 10 million homes per broadcast! WKYU will be the key to our athletic television future.
Commonwealth Broadcasting, with stations WKLX-FM (100.7) and WPTQ-FM (103.7) in Bowling Green, serves as the driving force behind our game broadcasts on the newly-created Big Red Radio Network. We have never been in as good a position as we are currently with Steve Newberry, Derron Steenbergen, Dale Thornhill, Joe Roberts, and Barry Williams .... all of Commonwealth. We feature a 25,000 watt FM station as the flagship for our football and men's basketball broadcasts (WKLX-FM, 100.7) and a 25,000 watt FM station devotely solely to women's basketball (WPTQ-FM, 103.7). In addition, Commonwealth and Dave Hunziker, the Voice of the Hilltoppers, have cleared over a dozen affiliates this year for football and men's basketball broadcasts, making WKU the second-largest college radio network in Kentucky. We continue to grow our network with new affiliates and new sponsors almost monthly. The Commonwealth group offers us tremendous exposure and promotional opportunity.
We have solid relationships in Bowling Green with all other radio stations, save one. These radio stations will help us with public service announcements (PSA's), ticket giveaways, and general promotion of our events. Our former flagship has issued a directive to their staff that restricts their ability to run PSA's or other promotional announcements for WKU athletics with the exception of reporting a score or upcoming event. We expected that type of treatment when we switched flagships. In time, we expect the situation to improve.
In general, we are in a good position with respect to the Bowling Green media. The one area that could really improve for the benefit of everyone would be the quality and depth of the coverage from the Daily News. We are trying to work with them regularly to accomplish this goal. Hopefully we will get there.
Thanks for your question and your support of Western athletics.