By Dave Hughes, DCRTV.com
It's no secret that area TV stations are cutting back the amount of newscast time devoted to sports news.
This comes just weeks after Baltimore's Channel 45/WBFF announced it was cutting back sports news in its local newscasts. The Fox affiliate will experiment with dropping its 15-minute "Sports Unlimited" segment at the end of its 10 p.m. newscast in favor a shortened sports report.
A few years ago, ABC affiliate Channel 2/WMAR bid adieu to Scott Garceau and scaled back its coverage of sports news.
"Broadcast stations have been in retreat for years in the face of intense competition from the likes of all-sports cable channels, such as ESPN and Comcast SportsNet, and Internet sites that provide round-the-clock access to sports news," media reporter Paul Farhi wrote in the Washington Post. "This has siphoned away hard-core fans from sportscasts at 5, 6 and 11 p.m., leaving stations with viewers who have only a marginal interest in sports."
Many local TV stations have concluded that "it's fruitless to try to compete with networks and websites that are devoted to sports all the time," Malcolm Moran, director of the John Curley Center For Sports Journalism at Penn State, told the Post. He predicts that many TV stations will drop sports news altogether within five to 10 years.
Not all Baltimore-area cable TV providers carry Haber's Washington station, but he is a familiar face on the sports media scene.
For the past several years, he has been a play-by-play announcer for Tennis Channel -- including a recent Legg Mason tournament in Washington -- and for other national and regional sports networks. Haber was recently in Paris to call the French Open.
"Tennis and play-by-play have been two longstanding passions of mine," Haber said. "In the past several years, I've had the good fortune to be able to combine those passions. I look forward to now having time to pursue those opportunities more vigorously."
This fall, Haber will be the TV host and in-arena emcee for the Champions Series -- a 12-city tennis tour featuring Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and other stars older than 30.
Before joining WUSA in 2004, Haber did a morning show on Washington's Z-104 contemporary hit radio. Before that, he was sports director and anchor at WCBS-TV in New York City, replacing legendary sportscaster Warner Wolf.
From 1997 to 2000, Haber was sports director at Washington's Channel 5/WTTG, seen on most Baltimore cable TV systems, and received a national Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting. During the mid-1990s, Haber was one of the anchors of ESPN's "SportsCenter" and also served as the network's tennis correspondent and as a contributor to "Outside The Lines" and "College Gameday."
Haber received attention earlier this year for his commentaries in connection with the defamation lawsuit Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder filed against the Washington City Paper.
Haber, with the support of WUSA and its parent company, Gannett, made a stand in support of the newspaper's First Amendment rights and against what he called "Snyder's financial bullying, reckless claims of anti-Semitism and wanton misrepresentation of the truth."
According to a WUSA release, Haber's campaign helped launch an outcry against Snyder's attempts to manipulate both the legal system and the media -- one that earlier this month saw the ACLU and numerous other organizations file an amicus brief in federal court seeking dismissal of the suit.
Haber cites family as one of the primary motivations for his decision to step away from the anchor desk.
"I have a 5-year-old and a 9-year-old," he said. "The nature of anchoring the news is that I work each day from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. That means I'm not home for the arrival of the school bus or after-school time or homework time or dinner time or bedtime -- that's a lot of time. That's not the father I want to be."
No date has been set for Haber's final broadcast on WUSA.
"I realize my decision comes at a busy time for sports in Washington," he said. "I want to be as helpful as I can while the station seeks my replacement. We'll figure out the right time for me to sign off in the coming days and weeks."
Issue 164: August 2011