The media is powerful. News media has been shaping the lives of humans for centuries. Information is power. In the modern age, it is quick, accurate information that earns the trust of the community. Local news media is all about one-upping the competition in the area. Who can get you the traffic report faster so you avoid delay on your morning commute. Who has the most accurate weather machine that can predict if a cloud will drop a milliliter of water in your area? Which news anchor do you feel most pleasing to view and listen to just before you head to bed. It may not be the hilariously extreme situation in "Anchorman" but there is competition and the local news teams all want a shot of bigger and better things. Print media is moving from the physical world to the digital world but those local newspapers are still fighting as much for your smartphone as they did for your doorstep.
The Florida Panthers have been bad for a long while. It is understandable that local media saw them as a non-story because frankly they were. However, things are changing quickly. The Cats may be on the brink of something absolutely special, the likes of which could be much bigger than the unreal run in 1996 or the flukey run of 2012. The local news media in South Florida have had more than a solid month seeing these Cats rack up victories at a tremendous pace. Yet have they truly done a good job or even made an effort to let South Florida know that?
The Miami Herald- A+
George Richards is the beat writer representing the Herald for the Florida Panthers. Following him on twitter and reading his posts is a delight and the Miami Herald has also known when the Cats were the big sports story that they would occupy that front page of the sports section.
The Sun Sentinel- B-
Harvey Fialkov has the beat for the South Florida Sun Sentinel when it comes to the Cats. Fialkov is just as involved as Richards when it comes to coverage of the team and has a style that is all his own but it's enjoyable. The Sun Sentinel could do with putting the Cats more to the forefront as far as I can see on their webpage. As of the 9th win on the streak it was pushed to the bottom of the page while the top was occupied by another abysmal season from a Miami Dolphins team that hasn't won a Super Bowl since disco was popular. They know the Cats exist but apparently a beached whale in Miami is a bigger story.
The Palm Beach Post- F
The Palm Beach Post does not have a beat writer for the Florida Panthers. They have not had one for more than a decade. Yet the Palm Beach Post is so much behind their competition that it ought to leave many Panthers fans wondering if they should even bother picking that paper up. The Florida Panthers have a massive amount of not only fans but important personnel that live in Palm Beach County and yet the Palm Beach Post, almost stubbornly, refuses to acknowledge the team's existence even throughout this historic streak. On the nights of the eighth-straight victory on January 2 and the ninth-straight on January 3rd, the Palm Beach Post twitter account had a total of zero, 0, cero, none, nada on the Florida Panthers. Zilch. Yet the last place Dolphins (and I've been a Fins fan since I was 11) continue to get more than enough coverage which they frankly do not deserve.
TV stations (collectively)
These folks, WPLG (ABC), WSVN (FOX), WFOR (CBS), WTVJ (NBC) are jumping on the bandwagon but also they have some knowledgeable sports reporters and all-around sports fans running their operations so it is just something that only needed a consistent club to fix. They are active on twitter and likely will ride this wave wherever it goes.
Palm Beach/Treasure Coast- F
WPTV (NBC) finally acknowledged the streak on twitter after the eighth win although seeing how they are the affiliate of the network that holds the national NHL rights they should be better. It also looks like the station will do an upcoming piece on the team which is encouraging and good on them for finally catching on.
The rest of the stations however continue to lag behind it's pretty shameful to see that the other stations cannot even muster a tweet about the club. WPBF (ABC) had more about the Cleveland Browns than the Florida Panthers on their online sports page. WFLX (FOX) doesn't even have a pulse from what I saw. And WPEC (CBS) doesn't even know that there are other sports besides football. All these stations are getting destroyed by their counterparts in bigger, badder Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.
WQAM is the actual radio affiliate of the team and are often doing their programs at the BB&T Center before handing off to Alex Donno and Doug Plagens on the game call so WQAM's effort is truly there. 790 the Ticket in Miami had Dale Tallon on a few days ago so it looks like they are finally jumping on the bandwagon as well. 640 sports is also a radio affiliate and has also had Panthers players and personnel on from time to time. ESPN Deportes now carries Panthers home broadcasts and led by the fun team of Arley Londono and Octavio Sequera. 970 WINZ just had Vincent Trocheck on their radio show in the morning on Monday.
ESPN West Palm? Another sad example of not only ignorance but also a cancer to hockey in South Florida on par with Canadians who would rather have the game be a niche sport rather than a global game. I tuned in once during one of ESPN West Palm's radio shows and a person called in to ask the hosts a question. The question was "why don't you guys talk a little bit about the Florida Panthers every once in while." A fair question, not delivered in a whiny manner or in a complaining way. The hosts' response? "Nobody cares about stupid hockey down here." *CLICK*.
WJNO 1290 AM also failed to mention the Cats in their morning talk show on Monday morning. Oh boy, this is bad.
South Florida news media, you can do better. Palm Beach County can especially do better. At least try. Pretty sure the outlets in Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have figured out how to give proper coverage to their 4 major pro sports leagues and their local colleges and local high schools. The Florida Panthers are a story and one that the media across the three counties are sorely slow to understand. These stations are going to end up being a Deadspin, Canadian media, or YouTube post on how clueless Floridians are on hockey if the Panthers gain momentum to compete for the Stanley Cup. Don't let yourselves be another "Florida Man" tweet. And any Florida Panthers fans reading this please start making noise. Write letters, tweet back, call in to these media outlets and make so much noise that these stations cannot possibly ignore the magic going on in Sunrise.
Hockey has survived in South Florida without these outlets. The Florida Panthers entered the league in 1993 and now South Florida has rinks in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Miami Beach, Pembroke Pines, Kendall, Coral Springs, and Pompano Beach. However, hockey will not thrive unless everyone in the community is on board. Casual fans one day can become hardcore fans the next. It's time to get everyone on the wagon.