Report: WPIX Drops Sports Department

It appears to be the end of an era in New York TV News. Tribune-owned WPIX/Channel 11 is poised to dump its sports department. With it, the New York Post reports Lolita Lopez (left), the station’s sports director, is getting reassigned.

The paper said it wasn’t certain if sports coverage would fall into the laps of the news anchors or if it would be outsourced.

“I hope it’s not the start of a trend, but I’ve heard of other stations around the country doing the same,” former longtime WNBC sports anchor Len Berman (below) says. “I’m a firm believer in local sports and I don’t believe local sports is diminished by ESPN. But I know there are many in management who don’t agree.”

This would mark the first New York City TV station to forgo a sports department.

Of course, Channel 11 has a long history attached to sports. First, for decades of Yankee baseball, and more recently WPIX has been the home for Mets games.

This is the latest change for news director Bill Carey, hired in November 2009. His biggest splash, to this point, was the overhaul of the 10 p.m. newscast in October 2010. Anchor Jodi Applegate, formerly from News 12 Long Island, was brought in.

Carey reassigned veteran team Jim Watkins and Kaity Tong. Watkins is the solo weekend anchor, while Tong reports live for a few minutes each weeknight from different locales throughout the five boroughs.

Four current ‘PIX employees told the Post that along with the major cost-cutting measures, they are concerned that their shop has become a deteriorating work environment.

Additionally, the Post also says that WPIX wants to change union rules to have reporters as a “one-man band”–covering stories without a camera person.

Although making slight gains with Applegate, WPIX was outdistanced in December by WNYW/Fox 5 in the 10 p.m. news Household rating  (2.8 to 1.9).

A WPIX spokeswoman had no comment about the station’s sports situation at this time.

“As a New Yorker, it’s sad to see a tradition that involved the Yankees (and now the Mets) plus Jerry Girard and Sal Marchiano just fade away,” Berman says.