Last Take On Wilner? Support Brady!

I’ve been tied up in two days of seminars so I haven’t had much time to write. I have to tell you, there is no bigger topic in this city, when it comes to sports where people, with real opinions anyways, then the issue of sports radio personalities. This blog will turn 3 in a little less than a month. Of all the topics that I have written about, none has been responded to more passionately then issues about sports radio personalities. To those who question who is listening or something like that, I am telling you the industry is an issue that people feel very passionately about.

Here we are, 4 days since word of the “suspension” broke and it is still being talked about on both local and national talk shows. To me, the issue has become very simple. Wilner may be an ass on the air to fans, the appearance right now is that Rogers may censor him or any other on air personality for being critical (perhaps overly- but that is debatable) of Roger’s owned properties.

Lots of you have been keeping me up to date on what people have been saying either on twitter or on the air and I thank you. Capn2patch posted a few links earlier today and a couple are worth nothing:

TSN’s off the record discussed it on a segment called – Really Off The Record. Friend of the Pressbox, Gord Kirke was on with Cam Stewart, Jeff Hutcheson and Brian Dunstan. Hutcheson, from Canada Am fame I believe framed the issue properly. Why did a guy who is paid to be a critic get suspended for doing his job and what message does that send. I know some people think he was too personal or too over the top or critical or confrontational but is that reason enough to get suspended- that’s the issue right? The best part of the clip- in my opinion anyways was when Landsburgh and Dunstan went at it over whether or not Cito Gaston is thin skinned. Discuss amongst yourselves and share here please!

I find Bruce Dowbiggin’s first line of his column on the subject the most interesting: “The FAN 590’s new brain trust has made no secret that it’s going to make changes. Soon.” Really? It has????? Is that simply by conducting polls? I have not seen anything released saying changes are coming soon. I will say, as I have before – changes are coming and I do believe they will be sooner rather than later (more is coming I promise) but I wouldn’t say that the Fan folks are the ones blabbing about it!

Dowbiggin’s last line is probably the smartest one, at least in terms of advice to those working at the Fan 590 right now… “The conclusion for a potential FAN 590 employee? The line between the corporate cousins is wafer thin. Uncomfortable dissent will be scrutinized unless your name is Bob McCown. Proceed at your own risk.”

Allow me to present another issue that has been raised quite often and that is the history between these two guys. I have said that for the most part I always found Wilner to be a homer. I thought that until this season, specifically, Wilner was a Blue Jays apologist and that included Cito. I will add the caveat that Wilner didn’t, if memory serves me correctly endorse the hire at the time Cito was brought back. For some reason I seem to recall Wilner saying, at the time that Cito wasn’t going to change the fortunes of the struggling club- I could be wrong but that is what I remember. Now, I may be straying off line but this is a topic that is of great interest to me, especially in sports. I raised it with Tony Amrogio on the PressBox and now I want to raise it again. Stay with me here. Helen Thomas resigned from her post at Hearst Publications after making an insensitive comment about Jews in Israel. I don’t want to discuss the whole issue here however, I found this article in the Washington Post very interesting:

“Thomas’s comments — Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Poland and Germany, lands that tried to exterminate persecuted them — went largely unnoticed in the mainstream media until it was picked up by the Drudge Report and Montgomery County’s Walt Whitman High School asked her to bow out as this week’s commencement speaker. Various rationalizations were offered up for the lack of coverage: she doesn’t hold public office; the press shouldn’t be policing First Amendment rights of opinion writers; her views on Israel were long known; and, finally, no one really takes her seriously any more.

What is far more likely is that the news media, with rare exceptions, are loath to subject their own to the scrutiny we routinely apply to others. Imagine, if you can, if those same comments had been made by a sitting governor, head of Fortune 500 company or even some Hollywood star.”

Do you think this is true to a certain degree here? Are those in the business loath to subject their own to scrutiny we apply to others? Lots of writers are coming out in support of Wilner. With the exception of Jeff Blair and Greg Brady, I haven’t really seen others take public stances the other way. Do you think that this is simply due to protecting the sanctity of the “brotherhood”? Look at where Mike Toth is these days not so long after he made his sexist comment about women in the sports journalism profession. Will sports MSMers keep quiet on the news of their peers because they are there peers? I am really curious as to what people think? If Wilner were a hothead- and I am not suggesting he is, do you think other journalists can report on that? Is it news? The media today, especially the sports media have to report on way more than sports. There’s business, law, sex scandals, and I am only just beginning. We constantly hear, read or see stories about athletes, coaches, owners or officials misbehaving. Yet we don’t hear, on the record anyways stories of those in the industry unless they caught with their proverbial pants down. Thoughts? comments?

Lastly… On the topic of MSMers, Greg Brady is once again taking to his bike to try to raise funds for cancer. I donate every year to his cause, I think it’s terrific that he does it and I do believe that “public figures” doing things like this really helps the cause. So…. I am asking you to give as well. (Other MSMers who do similar charitable work I am happy to promote your cause as well- just let me know).

I say all the time how hard it is to give these days. I am sure you get hit up all the time for donations from friends, co-workers, nieces, nephews etc. I can’t tell you that this one is any more important than any other charity. Here is what I will say. Greg Brady is putting his money where his mouth (or a$$ ) is. Not only that, and yes he is a friend of the Pressbox, he like other MSMers is one of the most active on Twitter and most accessible to us fans too. It’s for a good cause, so if you can spare a sheckel please do. Donate here please.

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June 8, 2010 6:52 am

Thanks for the shout out TSM

I notice that the banner ad here is sponsored by Rogers. I mention this not to denigrate TSM or insinuate that TSM cow-tows to Rogers, but to simply say ‘you’ve got to pay the bills’.

That goes for anyone in North America on this side of the lawn, Peter pays me, I pay Paul, Paul pays Mary and on and on it goes. Some Peters have bigger payrolls than others. In this town, Peter pays many. Many are reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them. Some are wannabe radio hosts *coughblaircough* some may have future commitments *coughbradycough* . Nevertheless, few can claim to be independently wealthy and therefore have to look out for number one.

What does that say for unbiased sports coverage? We need more bloggers.

Raptors Devotee
June 8, 2010 7:39 am

TSM, I totally agree that Hutcheson totally got it and I feel the exact same way.

Blair is really starting to annoy me. His tweet alluded to the fact that Wilner should have not confronted Gaston in the media scrum but privately, and upon further prodding, stuck his head in the sand saying that he won’t say more on the subject. I give him credit for like you said, being one of the few media bretheren whom did not support Wilner, but at the same time, I get the sense that there is some personal animosity there between him and Wilner, and this was not said strictly on merit. I tweeted Blair if he was going to expand upon his comment, and he tweeted back no, that is all he is going to say on it. I tweeted Blair if he would discuss it on PTS yesterday and he never tweeted me back. Keith Law, signing off with him on PTS siad “I support Wilner 100%” and his line went dead instantly and it was not responded to by Blair or Shannon.

The bigger issue here is how Rogers i.e. Fan 590 has obviously instructed their staff to not discuss or respond to it in any way. Only Blair/Landry as far as I know from the Fan have said something, with Landry supporting Wilner. Zack Cooper blogging the Blue Jay game Sunday got lots of comments about it and did not comment, finally posting that no Wilner comments are allowed.

The gag order and censorship put on by the Fan is the likes I have never seen before on this. Why is the Fan and Kollins specifically so sensitive to this? My theory is because they now know by the media and public reaction that they butchered it and the optics are so bad both in the present plus the precedent it sets for everyone else employed by them outside of McCown, that they have basically put their collective heads in the sand. For me, I will never listen to the Fan in the same way as I did before, always questioning if what is being said is what the broadcasters really feel, or is it sanitized. The ratings will suffer as a result, and I will focus more, as I have been doing on blogs that have freedom of speech and are not unduly influenced by ad dollars. Capn2patch brings up a lot of good points on this as well.

As far as the media backing each other up and you using the shameful Helen Thomas example, I have no doubt that this happens. Helen Thomas went far beyond sports though, and what she said was so extreme that anybody who had knowledge of what she said and buried it is guilty as well by condoning it by not exposing it.

Thanks for staying on top of this, as what the Fan does not realize is that they have to clarify their position on the Wilner suspension to give it some context. The way they are leaving it hanging is far worse for them. Seriously, how can Wilner possibly come back and work the same way he did before. He likely will move on once he finds another position. I am surprised that he came back and he did not take the Fan to the labour board over this. The fact that his union filed a grievance shows me that there is merit to him doing so. What conclusion can I draw from this? Maybe that Wilner himself is accepting somewhat of what happened, and that he was warned that if he did this, as a consequence this would happen to him. If so, then I apologize, but if so, the Fan and Kollins should say this, so we know that Wilner understood the conequences of his actions.

June 8, 2010 4:42 pm

It’s very difficult to take Hutcheson seriously when his network had a bunch of anchors parading themselves with the Olympic torch relay at the same time covering it as a news product. I wonder did good ol’ Hutch and the CTV/TSN talk about that conflict of interest? Did he go on OTR and be critical of the news being blurred with promoting themselves. Was anybody on CTV critical of that or even reported in-depth stories of the general public or even former Olympic stars not able to carry the Torch because CTV needs there entertainment host or always “stilled haired” anchor parading around with the torch. These guys are all wh*res to some extent, they all have conflict of interest and very few stand up and bite the hand that feeds them, and McCown IMO faux *wink wink* anti-establishment doesn’t count.

You don’t really get any great debate in radio anymore, most of the hosts on the Fan have other jobs as individual team broadcasters. Remember every Raps broadcaster think every off season signing (From jermaine to Turk) is going to put the Raps on the top of the East. Or having the Argo broadcaster dare talk about the Argo doctor passing out HGH and the league with no testing. They all speak the team line and Wilner did it as well. He did it more obvious than anybody, that’s why it was so noticeable when he went 180 and started bashing on Cito that he would never do with previous managers, even if the examples are the same.

How come when Gibbons players revolt and Zaun wrote the teams a “sinking ship” on a lockeroom board, it was the players fault. But when it happened to Cito it was “Cito not able to relate to the current players”. So what is it with Wilner, did he just have something against Cito. Or could it be something I just thought of right now. Could this be Wilner wanting some “street cred” and not be labeled as a “homer” so who is it easy to go after, maybe the manager who is on his last year before retiring. Go after him harshly for the year, then you can go around and say “See I can be critical” but then still “be nice” to the guys who’s going to be here longer and signing your checks.

I think it’s interesting that couple of guys I respect a lot, Blair (he does need to cool it on his anti-UFC stuff though) and Brady are on the other side of most of the media who is taking Wilner side. Brady the only person I saw asking who exactly is Wilner working for? the Fan, the jays, or a combo of both? I think it’s up to we as listeners and viewers to make up our own minds on who’s got credibility and who doesn’t. If somebody is constantly wrong, we can call them out on it and show respect to the guys you think is fair. I think I see more fairness these days on the papers and blogs like this than I do see on any of the electronic media. PS The Grill Room talked on this yesterday with Stormin Normin, Buffery, and Zeisberger. They say Wilner will be on Wed.

Greg Brady
Greg Brady
June 8, 2010 5:57 pm

Two goals to this post:

1. Thanks to TSM for donating and urging others to do so. The Ride of 220km for a traditional “non-cyclist” goes a lot faster knowing others are donating to the cause and making a difference. The Ride’s a great adrenaline rush when you finish, but it is exhausting. I’m on a mission to get to Hamilton Saturday before 2nd half of England/USA kicks off!

2. TSM is somewhat misquoting me in his article, however. I am not on a side here. I think Mike Wilner’s an excellent host, and nobody follows the sport as diligently and I enjoy that he won’t tolerate stupid questions or comments.

My point was simply some broadcasters are paid by the team…some are paid by the radio station. It is difficult to serve two masters sometimes. I’ve gotten cheques from radio stations, and I’ve gotten cheques from sports teams. The approach is different. I’ve had Scotty Bowman scream at me before with 15-20 reporters around. I’ve had Lloyd Carr stare at me for about 12 seconds after I’ve finished asking a question. It’s no fun. But coaches have no more of a right to be a prick than a reporter does.

My point was that unless The Fan’s boss says so, or unless Wilner says so, you really won’t know what the suspension was about. I don’t know either man, so I don’t have an opinion on who did what right, and who did what wrong.

It’s fantastic how you can’t answer a question from someone on twitter without it being twisted as having made some grand public statement, but that’s going to happen when people are looking for controversies where they don’t exist. I’m not shy about pointing out if someone in the sports world or the media is being a bit of a hypocrite, but I wasn’t there, I couldn’t tell you. I just know that people who also weren’t there claiming to know what Rogers did, Cito did, Wilner did who weren’t — are being unfair to all parties.

June 8, 2010 7:51 pm

Appreciate that you took the time to come by and post here to clarify your position Greg.

Fwiw, my outlook on this is from a fans’ perspective. To me, the optics from the fallout are not good.

What we do know is this, reporter has public incident with club manager. Reporter posts his dissatisfaction with said manager on company sponsored blog. Reporter is suspended for a period of time. The rest is conjecture. Opinion based on fact.

So, in a nutshell, since on the surface it appears that Mike Wilner was suspended for asking questions the manager was not comfortable in answering, and that He ‘appears’ to have been suspended for those actions, the crux of the issue for me is the validity of the opinion that I listen to on a daily basis. Is it sanitized, or is it truly un-distilled opinion from someone charged with bringing to me, the fan, unbiased and unqualified opinion. Whether the opinion has any validity or not is inconsequential, I don’t want to be the victim of a propaganda machine.

To me, as a fan, on the surface, it ‘appears’ that .

And that impression will last until 1. A public comment is issued from Rogers Media explaining their actions relevant to Wilner’s suspension. And 2. a guarantee that I can accept that will reassure me, the fan, that this media conglomerate will not coerce biased opinion through intimidation from members of the Toronto media.

The fact that you do or don’t support Wilners’ position is immaterial, but what would be of value was if you brought this fans plight to a broader audience.

Raptors Devotee
June 8, 2010 8:02 pm

I agree 100% with Capn2patch. I have done everything I can to get Rogers to come clean, with no success. Although the media is never truly objective, as we all have some natural biases, what happened to Wilner without an explanation is wrong on all levels. This will not go away for me in two weeks, two months, or two years. It is a watershed moment that I will harken back to until the truth comes out, which we all deserve.

June 8, 2010 10:59 pm

Called the Fan tonight before Wilners’ show started and asked to make a comment on his show elaborating the 2 points I stated above. With my stated intention, I didn’t make it to air, but I was offered to make a comment with tonight’s game in mind. I declined.

The producer was sympathetic to my concerns and explained that Jay’s Talk wasn’t the platform to make the point. Censure? Maybe, it was interesting to hear Wilner open the show by saying he couldn’t comment on the situation.

A kinder gentler Mike on the air tonight, I would have cut off the second caller. Mike made a call of it by leading the caller. As I type this I wonder if this is all related to the lack of butts in the seats. Rogers bosses thinking that commentators and analysts are too critical and therefore casting a shadow on fans hopes and as a consequence staying away. More rah-rah equaling higher attendance.

Raptors Devotee
June 9, 2010 10:53 am

Brilliant post Capn2patch. I did not think of the censorship card being played out to increase ticket sales, but it does seem to add up when I gave it some thought. Rogers would love nothing better than Wilner pulling a Swirsky in order to put more butts in the seats, as they have shown me that they will do anything to accomplish this, even the draconian measure of suspending Wilner to teach him a lesson.

The kindler gentler Wilner just won’t cut it for us who are used to him calling it like he sees it, unsanitized. He will revert back to his former self, as it is ingrained within him, and will have to meet with Mr. Kollins once again when he crosses that line. It is all quite sad actually, and the fact that Rogers is so powerful that nobody is really pushing hard for some answers disturbs me.

What I do as a hard core Raps fan is choose to be discriminate in who I read. I trust certain writers who are mainstream but speak their mind, and certain blogs as well. For example, Doug Smith is a Raptors apologist, so I can’t take him seriously, while Arthurs/Grange/Koreen all cover the Raps legitimately, warts and all. I am not that big a Jays fan (still trying hard, but hating them growing up in Monteal it is tough) but now do want them to win more than lose, so that is a start. If I become more avid I will seek out the legitimate sources to reference.

June 9, 2010 10:01 pm

Ha Patch, totally noticed the kinder and gentler Wilner yesterday, not sure if we were talking about the same caller but that guy who wanted to trade for that Orioles prospect I could feel poor Wilner breathing into a paper bag trying to stay calm. Again Wilner I have such mixed feelings on, he does come of as a bit of a jerk, but when he does it to the crazy callers, it’s great. Even though I think he’s wrong a lot, he does make his points clear and I do find him entertaining. I’ve said it before but most hosts I like, I like there show. The listen to him because he angers me doesn’t work for me, except maybe the exception it Wilner

RapDevot you got good taste in basketball writers, I haven’t read Koreen stuff too much but Arthurs and Grange are great. As for Doug, lets say we agree. These sort of boards it’s always much easier to complain (believe me I do a lot of it) but I think our print media does a good job all around. Yeah sometimes we can wonder what the editors are thinking about what they put as their priority. But overall with all the dailys we have, we are pretty lucky to find some quality writers for every sport. That’s what I guess good competition does.

That’s why I am a big supporter of a second sports station, some say sports talk already repetitive with a single station, I don’t think so. Look at the papers, there’s like a handful of them and the diversity & competition makes it for better effort & better writing. If it was a single paper, sports reading would be repetitive. Another station would make sports talk fresher and higher standards. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in recent times the only show on the Fan that they made tweaks and changes is PTS co-host (Kelley/Toth) as that’s the only Fan show that has direct sports talk competition. I really wonder until there is competition the most drastic change we get on the other shows on the Fan really bother to do any changes or improvements that go beyond just changing the title of a show

I really want to make it clear that I agree/understand Brady point. Brady always been consistent in the past talking some that might be working for or being associated to close a team & the conflict of interest it can bring compared to your beat writers, columnists and general radio show hosts. To be fair I didn’t really see TSM (if that is indeed Brady is talking about) saying Brady was “Anti-Wilner” but just saying that you & Blair were the only people that talked about it that it’s probably more gray area than the simple black & white that most others were saying. PS Who would have guessed it’s difficult to give a in depth opinion on a complicated issue with 140 characters lol. PSS Congradulations on the Bikeathone. PSSS Brady for the audio guest but this time say beforehand so we can send in questions

June 9, 2010 11:10 pm

Need to keep the iron in the fire, so to speak.

Not much being printed postmortem.

William Houston (scroll half way down) from today.

At the end of the entry, Houston quotes Landry from the morning show.

”The wrong decision was made here. It was a mistake to suspend Mike Wilner. Mike Wilner did not volunteer to take the weekend off. He was told not to be at work. And I think that’s wrong, and it sends the wrong message. And I think this company made a bad mistake. . . And it makes us look bad, and it may even in fact be embarrassing for some people here at the radio station. I think it is embarrassing to the radio station, I think it’s embarrassing to Mike Wilner, unfortunately. And I think it all could have been avoided if it weren’t so public.
“What I have not been able to figure out is, was this an edict from Rogers Corporate? Was this an edict from the Blue jays, directly to us? Was it from someone in the hierarchy of the Blue Jays to someone in the hierarchy of Rogers and then it trickled down?. But I think it’s the wrong decision, it shouldn’t have
happened and I’m sorry it did.”

No comment it seems from Stellick, he must feel his tenure is secure for the foreseeable future at the Fan.

Missed this article from Chris Zelkovich from the Star on Monday.–zelkovich-benching-of-the-fan-s-mike-wilner-sends-disturbing-message

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