The Mere Appearance of Impropriety

The best part of writing this BLOG and it is a blog, is waking up in the morning and finding emails from many of you, those of have chosen to include what I have written in your daily lives, letting me know things, asking questions and just voicing opinions. This morning was no different as there were several asking the same question: How does a media critic end up co-hosting a radio show that he writes about? Bruce Dowbiggin it was being reported was set to appear on the Fan 590 with Andrew Krystal.

So of course I took to the blackberry and emailed Don Kollins. Kollins, who I firmly believe is a good guy and doing what he believes is best, told me that Dowbiggin wasn’t a co-host or a guest host but was only going to be on for 1 segment. When I asked a couple of times if Dowbiggin was being paid for the one segment (hence Dowbiggin pointing it out in his column, see below) Kollins asked why that was relevant.
Go figure.

So, yes, Dowbiggin was on the Fan this am, sitting in with Krystal not for “a segment” but rather for “an hour”, albeit unpaid. What did that hour result in??? An unpaid, in my opinion, puff piece in Canada’s National Newspaper which talks about how “shocking” and “controversial” Krystal is. I mean really.

Do sports fans in the city want to wake up to Krystal’s mixture of phone calls, bombast and witty innuendo? The Fan has much invested in his success after a long hiring process and failed attempts to attract other hosts for the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. slot.

What an odd thing to say about Krystal. Seriously, where is the bombast? I guess the witty innuendo is when Krystal refers to kicking someone in the balls. The phone calls, as mentioned previously are the new goal on the morning show.

The one segment I heard live was about Dowbiggin’s theory that Baseball is a dead sport with those under 35. The first caller called in and said I’m 34 and I watch baseball. Then a little later, after several callers expressed their agreement, another guy called in and said he and his buddies, aged 26 all watch games not only on TV but day games on illegal websites. The response- next caller.

Does this sound familiar:

Others complain that bloggers hiding behind anonymity don’t reveal their conflicts or connections to either management or players. Things that would never pass muster with an editor go viral on the internet.

I guess, there is no issue of hiding the conflict this evening. It was right out there for the world to hear. Media critic appearing as a guest for an hour to then follow up with a story critiquing the same host and show. It gets better:

Citing the September ratings, some bloggers are jumping the gun, trying to draw conclusions after one month of ratings against AM 640’s talk/sports format. But Krystal had been on the job for only a week when the numbers were taken. It will require a more thorough sampling to get definitive answers.

Don’t treat this is ego, but I am pretty sure I am the only idiot, bathrobe wearing blogger who wrote about the ratings. So it’s not bloggers, it’s a blogger, this blogger. Is that what one calls a backhanded compliment?

Now to be fair, at least to Andrew Krystal, those numbers aren’t his in the morning slot. He was still in the Hogan slot.

Does that sound like jumping the gun to you?

Now, apparently Dowbiggin like Bob Mccown didn’t read what I wrote:

Rumour is, that for the first time, in the month of September, amongst men aged 25-54 year olds 640 Toronto won every hour starting at 6am until noon. Yes, I am told that this has never happened before and that the Fan lost in every morning hour against 640 Toronto.

Mccown went on air (thank you) and asked how an 11 something compared to a 2 something is losing. Those of you who just read that, does my article say anywhere anything about the 3-6 slot??? Does my article draw any conclusions?

Talk about being misquoted. I mean wow.

First I’m accused of jumping the gun and then drawing conclusions. Isn’t that slanderous?

Usual Suspects sat in as an unpaid guest for an hour Thursday to watch the Fan 590’s new morning man challenge the rules about sports radio in the essentially conservative Toronto radio market.

Anyone out there think Dowbiggin’s latest piece couldn’t have been written from his basement. Did he have to be sitting right there to “capture the spirit of the thing”?

Oh, I remember now:

Taking shots at public figures from the grassy knoll and then sneaking away promotes a Dutch courage among many bloggers. It’s a point of honour for most MSM to show up after a tough column and let the subject have his say in person. Having to look Roberto Luongo or Dion Phaneuf in the eye after a critical column about them might produce some sober second thought amongst the bloggos.

So guest hosting- or whatever you want to call it is a point of honor after, or in this case before a tough column.

It’s hard for me to understand how neither he nor the Globe (to be fair I didn’t try to reach Tom Maloney) don’t view his appearance on the Fan for an hour as a total conflict of interest. If nothing else, it left me wondering alound, and apparently some of you too, where are the journalistic standards? Let’s see if I get this right. OK, he wasn’t paid, but he did get an hour of free air time on the station( perhaps it was an audition). The return? An article about the show in his paper. Sound about right? Did I miss anything?

Let me put it to you this way. If you listen to the hour, it sounds like Krystal and Dowbiggin are buddies. I don’t know if they are, it’s just how it sounded. If you listened to the hour, or any part of it, and I told you an article was coming up by Dowbiggin about Krystal, how fair, unbiased and balanced would you expect it to be?

This isn’t an attack on either guy by the way. I would be saying the same thing about Zelkovich (if he were doing media stuff) appearing with any radio host. If Houston was in studio with Mccown for an hour it would be equally as bad in my opinion.

It’s just hard for me to figure out exactly how this passes the smell test. Maybe I’m nuts. The minute Dowbiggin appeared on the show, live and in studio he lost credibility with me when it comes to his opinion of the Fan, Krystal and the sports radio scene in Toronto in general. I’m sure he could careless about me. How about you?

Speaking of the Fan and the Globe, today was, in my opinion the best show Jeff Blair has done while a regular host. Take a listen to the 10am hour where Blair talked about the Toronto Blue Jays search for a manager. To me it was Blair like Blair was when he guest hosted PTS. The topic wasn’t forced, or contrived. His opinions were meaningful and the dialogue was real. It’s the first time it didn’t feel like every 2 minutes I heard “it’s the Jeff Blair show- 416-870-0590”. Until today it has seemed like Blair’s been fed generic topics and being reminded to say his name and the phone numbers every 10 seconds. Today was great. I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

By the way, Krystal’s interview, although it appeared to be totally scripted was the best sports interview he’s done while on the fan. Not nearly as good as when he talks to politicians or the like.



The new column is here

the old one is here

Blair’s best hour is here

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October 22, 2010 8:14 am

Interesting points TSM. I didn’t listen to any of the hour when Dowbiggin was on with Krystal (as i have pretty much KO’d the morning show) so my comments are based on your article.

I am not surprised by anything Bruce does anymore. I am sure he is basking in the sun as being the only official media critic left standing. It is hard for me not to agree with you that essentially he just received a 1 hour infomercial advertising his column.

Perhaps Krystal and Dowbiggin can make this a regular spot. At this point the two of them make quite a strange pair of bedfellows, but perhaps it shows the integrity of both (or lack thereof).

End of day, i think both are starved for higher ratings for each of their products.

As for BobCat, maybe one day he will read your blogs and all the comments and realize he has many fans. He should have thick enough skin to accept the mild criticism and recognize the overall compliments to his show.


October 22, 2010 9:01 am

Lets be clear that the Globe has a love relationship with The Fan (ie> Brunt/Blair>>> etc) lets face it beside Cox all other guests are Globe reporters…
conflict of interest? YES>>>
then Dough Boy goes on and says in his column it was unpaid>>> He has been a guest/PR person for The Fan and Krystal since it was announced he was comming to TO

October 22, 2010 9:46 am

Andrew Krystal is annoying as hell. Him talking to Mike Wilner about the Phillies the other day and playing the “President Kennedy is dead” clip every single time Roy Oswalt came up was the last straw. I listen for sports talk, not unfunny jokes repeated ad nauseum.

October 22, 2010 10:10 am

Interesting article and approach from Dowbiggin. His slam at bloggers could as much directed at Cox given his current dispute as at you.

I think it is great that there is a need to respond to the criticism and opinions found on this site. Unfortunately you become fair game for rebuttal once you enter into the realm of critic.

So why not take a page out of his supposed playbook and invite him on the pressbox to debate, in person.
We’ll see if he still has the look’em in the eye bravado.

The comments on the Dowbiggin article do seem to coincide with those here and are in support of the ratings you talked about. Interestingly the full morning was trailing 640 and Krystal was fully ensconced in the 9-12 slot during that time. So in my mind, there is no slack that needs to given to him regarding the acceptance of his program.

It was nice to see TSM get recognition as being the first source for media news in the comments. The only real concern I had is that Shannon is back …..

October 22, 2010 10:20 am

It’s so great to realize that over 25 years or so ago when I first saw Dowbiggin and thought him to be a smug, self important talking head, my assumptions rang true. I’ve pretty much ignored him since and only found out he still had relevance (?) thru this column.

Keep up the good work.

October 22, 2010 10:35 am

Dowbiggin seems to think the only criticism of Krystal is that tame Toronto is offended by the shock jock. Frankly I’m offended by Krystals lack of sports knowledge. He reads the sports page and gives his opinions. That’s not insight. That’s what I can get from the guys at Hortons in the morning.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
October 22, 2010 10:37 am

in the current age of convergence we no longer have anyone employed by a large media outlet who can “watch the watchers.” this leads to blatant conflicts that would have, in the past, violated journalistic ethics. But that standard seems to be changing.

The best recent example was Brunt running with the olympic torch “as a journalist” when his employer paid for the rights to cover the games showed. His response? “This is not a big deal.” Sounds similar to Kollins’ response “how is that relevant?” Lesser examples of conflicts include the FAN suspending Wilner for criticizing the Jays, McCown pimping the Bills for Rogers, Toth asking for tickets on the air …

i think the point is that journalists are embedded with the stories they cover like never before, and so more than ever we need independent people to hold these people to a certain standard. the globe has decided not to hold Dowbiggin to any standards whatsoever, and the Star has relieved Zelkovich of his media duties. the message seems to be: “just trust us when it comes to journalistic standards.”

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
October 22, 2010 10:41 am

p.s TSM, i think getting someone on from Ryerson or UofT to speak on the issue of journalistic ethics in the current media age would make a great pressbox.

October 22, 2010 10:52 am

Dowbiggin appears to have cemented his place as the current poster child of the decline of journalistic standards with this foray on to the Fan (and, apparently, his poaching of statements made on this site). Being the last media critic standing does not mean you are (or were) the best.

He would redeem himself to some extent if he appeared on TSM Pressbox. BTW, would McCown ever do a segment here? It would be quite interesting…

Sam from Scarbrough
October 22, 2010 11:13 am

Dowbiggin is just trying to weasel into a job at 590.He sees a guy like Blair (very little radio experience hosting a 3 hour show all alone) and says to himself geeez I wanna piece of that.

What interests me is Kollins take on low ratings.Sure,he will say it was a “transition” period and ratings are not accurate then will deflect to say our web hits and podcasts are way up.

Well Sherlock, yes web-hits are up because you have probably lost 50% of your listeners (might be a low figure) and what people do is go to web-site to pick and choose a 5-6 min segment they MIGHT want to listen to (ya that sells advertising big time)

And, boy do I miss Football Fridays and also ,Lee Hamilton.

Rob C V 3.0
Rob C V 3.0
October 22, 2010 12:06 pm

I enjoy reading this BLOG, it is informative and well done – I also enjoy reading Dowbiggin’s – for very different reasons. His column is like a train wreck that happens three times a week – I have to read it, even though I find it almost repugnant. I often post on it too and it is never to compliment him…When I read earlier he was “gleening” material from this site, I was really intrigued given his checkered past for borrowing content…He was a guest on Krystal in September too on th 9 to noon show and I found him to be taking it very easy on Krystal and the FAN ever since.
Regarding McCown: any regular listener can verrify this – anyone who calls in and criticizes McCown gets yelled at, then cut off before they can finish their point. Most callers are almost sycophantic, not surprisingly, he likes those ones – He has the largest, yet most fragile ego of anyone I can remember. It is almost funny to listen to if it didn’t anger me so much…
Keep up the good work here.

October 22, 2010 1:27 pm

Agree with you on pretty much all points.

I heard that baseball segment too, and it was quite funny. It was basically caller after caller disproving Dowbiggin. Even Krystal said ‘I know a bunch of young guys who’ve been following the MLB playoffs’. Dowbiggin said “Yeah, but are they under 35?” Krystal said “Yeah”. Dowbiggin: “Oh.”

Dowbiggin stinks, it really is true. Offers next to no media insight, and his forays into sports are so out of touch.

Fully agree with you on Blair. I hope he and The Fan find that ‘sweet spot’ for him, because he does have potential.

As for McCown’s little jab at you, I wouldn’t take it personally. It seemed fairly good natured (at least to me). I imagine he read your article that focused on 640s gains on 590 during the morning, and though ‘ahem…what about my gains’. Either way, it’s becoming pretty clear that a great deal of the TO media reads your site!

Think there’d ever be a chance in hell you could get McCown on the Pressbox?

October 22, 2010 1:35 pm

McCown and/or Brunt on the pressbox would be very cool.

October 22, 2010 1:36 pm

As for Krystal, I’m still kind of on the fence about him. I find him entertaining, but he really needs a better way to tackle talking sports. He clearly doesn’t have the knowledge necessary, and that awkwardness shows.

But, as a radio host, I think he could be good if he was comfortable and not scrambling to create ‘controversial topics’. I heard him on the radio in Halifax and it was FAR better.

If The Fan wants to salvage his show, then give him a real sports focused cohost to quarterback the sports discussion. Then, maybe even allow Krystal a couple non sports segments in the show. Politics, science whatever. I think if the sports talk was good, people wouldn’t mind a few forays into interesting non sports talk.

As it is, he’s combining sports (which he’s not good at), and non sports (which he very well may be good at) into a weird half assed hybrid that’s not pleasing anyone.

October 22, 2010 2:45 pm

I only recently discovered this blog and enjoy the bits that talk specifically about the media. I happened to hear a bit of Dowbiggin and Krystal and wondered about it.

For the record, Dowbiggin did appear at least once with Krystal in the 9-12 slot and I think he used to appear on his show in Halifax.

Dowbiggin has no objectivity here – he is clearly friends with Krystal, agitated for his friend to get a job in Toronto (all the while he was taking shots at the old morning shows), and he is now so compromised that he can’t really claim to be an objective media analyst (as he does in his column and in his weekly appearance of CBC radio’s “Q”).

I really used to like the Fan. Like most people, hearing talk about sports helps take me away from the real problems in the world. It is play. And I also enjoy thoughtful discussions with genuine hosts. That’s why I still like McCown and Brady (and also Wilner) – because they are real and will let others talk. Blair, when he is not being forced to take repeated phone calls and/or compete with the bombastic Krystal, can be a pleasure to listen to.

But Krystal, his shock-jock pseudo-intellectual ADHD abrasiveness, his lack of sports knowledge, and the constant barrage of phone-calls, have soured me a lot.

I wish some of the hosts there could say what they really think about one another.

Heaven help us if Dowbiggin gets a job at the Fan. If it ever comes about, I wonder if he will refer to himself in the third-person as “usual suspects” just as he does in the pages of the G&M.

Chris F.
Chris F.
October 22, 2010 3:08 pm

Well Dowbiggin never really had much credibility to me anyways so this isn’t unusual. Kinda upsets me that he’s using what looks like a friendship with Krystal to worm his way on the air and then use said time on the air to talk about it in his column. You never saw Zelkovich or Houston doing that kind of thing and I know when Zelkovich once did a Q & A piece with McCown he hadn’t been on the station in eons. It was also pretty interesting as Bob pretty much admitted that the bulk of his radio personality is an act. (not his opinions but the way he carries himself. It’s basically a ramped up version of his usual personality)

I do think a sports guy is something Krystal needs BUT the problem is, Krystal thinks he’s the voice of authority. If you listen to him talking with the morning sports update guy he would talk as if his opinion is the only one that matters though he’s gotten a little better with the give and take it still doesn’t sound like an actual fluid conversation. Bobcat does this sometimes but usually as a way to frame the conversation going forward and it usually becomes very organic. There’s very little organic conversation with Krystal. That’s one thing I miss about Gord and Don, while they had definitely had gone stale they were able to have some pretty interesting conversations for the most part. It almost seems like Krystal believes if he gives up some of his “power” he’ll lose face or something.

As for Blair I really think he’s got tremendous potential as a Radio/TV personality. I’m glad that he was able to be in his element this morning and really, he should be given a bit more editorial power with his show rather then following the “format”. I think that Blair is a guy who can turn into a Bob Ryan type minus some of the ego and bluster and that’s a GOOD thing.

Last but not least i’d LOVE to see if Dowbiggin would come on the Pressbox (doubt it) or even Bobcat or Brunt. Maybe give Bobcat a chance to express his views about the media business in this city and country from his perspective and to learn more about what makes him tick. I hope that he doesn’t read this and think we’re all against him because I have fond memories of listening to him when I was younger. The man is an icon in this city and it will be a huge loss in Toronto sports media when he’s gone.

October 22, 2010 3:34 pm

Dowbiggin’s “been there done that” at the Fan. He co-hosted (with Steve Paikin) a 9 to 12 slot show back in ’96 IIRC.

Sam from Scarbrough
October 22, 2010 3:43 pm

Re:Smack,True ,but it was a show where 590 gave them the airtime and they sold their own advertising.
It still happens today,the outdoor/fishing show on Saturday sells there own ads,and also that horrid Mickey Mouse betting show on Sunday’s sell their own ad-time

Chris F.
Chris F.
October 22, 2010 4:56 pm

Re: Sam

Isn’t the International Sports Report also under that same set up?

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
October 22, 2010 5:09 pm

I actually called Blair this week, as I also noticed TSM that he is more relaxed now, not repeating “You are listening to the Jeff Blair show” every two minutes, and engaging his listeners more on the call-ins.

I had a delightful discussion with him on which player who I have never seen play I would like to see. I immediately called in, as the mythic Babe Ruth is someone I would love to have seen in person for not just one game, but an extended period of time. Blair and I had a really thoughtful discussion on it, and he thanked me with a “good call” after we had finished.

The Blair of a few weeks ago would not have been as civil and enjoyable to listen to. I am quite frankly amazed by the attitude and comfort change that Blair has made in the 9-noon chair, and I applaud him for it, as we desperately need him to succeed in that time slot.

October 22, 2010 5:55 pm

I listened to McCown this afternoon and noticed that the commercials are just becoming murder. Bob went to commercials at 3:14 and then wrapped up his final hour at 5:53. Five plus minute blocks of commercials will cause people to bail on you.

October 22, 2010 5:55 pm

I can’t comment on Krystal and Dowbiggin, since I no longer set the alarm for the morning show, and generally won’t turn on the Fan until after 9, to see if Blair is on – if yes, and callers dominate the segments, I turn it off again until after noon. I have seen too much plagiarism on Dowbiggin’s blog (from this site) – plus the guy seems to have a very think skin. It may be me, but I can’t see how Krystal can last much longer unless his contract is better than Bobcat’s, meaning more secure from termination. I thought we’d get more Smith 9-12, but maybe that’s just more BS from Kollins. His decisions have gone against my preferences (expressed in their surveys) pretty much across the board. Brady is getting better, and McLain is sometimes unintentionally hilarious – when he’s not totally stupid. The station is in the process of losing me, and has been told so, with no response despite asking Kollins to contact me. Guess I’m not their desired audience any more, now I have some money to spend on sponsors’ products. Ah well, I’m only one person, can’t expect anyone to care about me – but what if my attitude is more common than opposed? Kollins, put things back and get back to K/W, maybe your approach of ignoring listeners works out there.

October 22, 2010 7:20 pm

Sounds like they are a little worried that someone is able to get the facts on ratings and is not afraid of offending people with the facts!
I like it when the” real journalist” yea right!!are worried about your blog!!Keep up the good work!
Your faithful followers have your back!!

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