A terrible tragedy unfolded on Saturday morning as a Kansas City Chiefs player, Jovan Belcher, according to reports, had murdered his girlfriend and eventually returned to the team’s facility at Arrowhead Stadium and turned the gun on himself. Sources also reported that the two just recently had a baby, and that he was approached by coaches prior to committing suicide in the parking lot.
A sad, sad situation for everyone involved – especially the infant, who hopefully has not been harmed.
But what’s even more sad is the handling of the story by the apparent sports radio leader in Kansas City, 810 WHB.
If you tuned into the station just after the news of the Belcher murder/suicide started to develop, you heard a “College GameDay” program – no, not national, but local. And they were talking to ESPN’s Todd Blackledge (WHB is an ESPN affiliate) about the first loss of the season for the Kansas State Wildcats. They also broke down prior Wildcats victories over Baylor, and Texas Tech (led by none other than “Johnny Football” himself, Johnny Manziel) during their ten-game win streak to start the season, and previewed tonight’s tilt against the Texas Longhorns.
Meanwhile, on rival 610 KCSP, while they were still carrying the Fox Sports Radio national feed, hosts Anthony Gargano and Lincoln Kennedy were talking to Fox Sports insider Jay Glazer, who was one of the first to break the Belcher news (though not releasing the name of the player involved early on). Shortly after, the Entercom-owned station broke in with local hosts updating listeners about the situation.
Over on the Union Broadcasting-owned WHB, they were still talking to Blackledge about the Wildcats, in a chat that must have went on for at least fifteen minutes. At 9:55 AM local time, they did do an update on the shooting at Arrowhead Stadium, including the identification of Belcher, before going to a commercial break.
To WHB’s credit, they did have an item on their website during the 9 AM (CT) hour, and they in fact did report news of the Chiefs player shooting on the air before they started their interview with Blackledge.
But Kansas City sports radio listeners who wanted a local take on the shooting, as well as new details as the news developed, should not be expecting an interview with Blackledge in the first place.
I don’t care if it’s a Saturday morning and the name of the show is “College GameDay.” And I don’t care if there has been but one shining moment (an overtime victory against the Saints) of yet another losing record for the Chiefs. This is a breaking news story involving one of two major sports franchises in your city. If you call yourself a sports station, you put all regular programming on the backburner and provide wall-to-wall, local coverage for your listeners, and worry about talking to Todd Blackledge later (the Wildcats/Longhorns game isn’t even being played until tonight!).
And what makes WHB look even worse was the fact that a competing sports station was providing news and information on the Chiefs shooting, and they were carrying Fox Sports Radio! It’s not as if WHB was airing national ESPN Radio fare – they were airing local programming. And yet they opted to greenlight the scheduled Blackledge interview and hold off on developing news and talk about the shooting in the Chiefs parking lot, and in turn treat their listeners like morons.
I realize that Twitter, where many people first learned about the Belcher news, was the go-to place for developing details as they happened. But the listeners of Kansas City sports radio deserved better. A local host should have been on the air keeping listeners informed, not talking to an ESPN college football analyst about whether or not the Kansas State Jayhawks will clinch a BCS berth.
Seriously, does anybody even know the name of the program director of WHB? You can’t even find it on their website!
And while KCSP is no angel in this situation, either – face it, they were still carrying a national Fox Sports Radio feed, though they were talking about the Chiefs shooting – they did have the decency to eventually break in with local news programming, while the local host is talking to a national analyst from the Worldwide Leader.
WHB owes their audience an apology.
But it’s no excuse for a station that calls itself a Kansas City sports radio station and treat the news of a Chiefs player shooting like an afterthought.