photo credit: Deadspin
by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail
Happy New year everyone. I’m going to clear the queue so forgive me if some stories are from a couple of weeks back. Before that, I’d like to say thanks to TSM for this site. It’s an honour to be able to write here for this audience. I’d also like to thank all of you who read and especially those of you who take the time to share your opinions. When I read other comment sections I’m often reminded of how good the people are who comment here.
Lastly, I’d like to thank all those in the media who reached out this year. I’m grateful for your feedback and for the encouragement. I’m also grateful to those of you who have written to take issue with something I wrote or to stick up for someone who you think is not getting a fair shake. It’s easy to ignore criticism these days, especially with mute and block buttons, but if I’m not being fair then I want to know so I can address the problem.
Multi-Platform Media & the Death of Journalism
From a media perspective the biggest recent story was Skip Bayless calling Johnny Manziel an alcoholic and a liar. The Browns back-up QB apparently missed a team meeting due to a bender he threw the night before. This was one of several alcohol-related incidents for Manziel this year. Bayless appeared on his television show and claimed that the QB has a problem with alcohol and is lying to others and to himself. His co-host asked for clarification, saying “do you believe that Manziel is an alcoholic and a liar?” Bayless responded by saying “Yes, I do … If you want to call him an alcoholic I’ll go that far.”
I don’t want to waste time on whether we should be outraged by what Bayless said. Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing calls the claim “repulsive and shocking.” What I’m interested in discussing is the interview Sid Seixeiro and Stephen Brunt did with ex-ESPN Ombudsperson Robert Lipsyte. The latter appeared on PTS to discuss the Bayless comments (5pm hour on 12/29, iTunes link). Full credit to PTS producer Ryan Walsh (I’m guessing) for getting such a relevant guest on short notice and during the holidays.
Let’s start with the obviously bad parts of the interview. First, Sid and Brunt spent 3 minutes after interviewing Bob Cole talking about how much they love Bob Cole. As a result the Lipsyte interview ran out of time. Sid actually cut the guest off mid-sentence. Not good. Second, after playing the audio clip and bringing the guest on air, Sid’s first question was some odd attempt at humour and the over/under of the number of panicked emails at ESPN. The guest either missed the joke or found it unimpressive because he answered with an awkward “Uh-uh.”
The rest of the interview was very interesting though not for obvious reasons. My opinion is that Lipsyte came off very poorly. Here is why. First, he flatly misrepresented the actual comments. According to Lipsyte, Bayless “didn’t go that far” as to call Manziel an alcoholic, which exactly the opposite of Bayless actually said. I’m not sure why neither host corrected him on that. Second, Lipsyte’s answers were often incoherent and contradictory. He talked about how there are different journalistic standards for entertainers and journalists at ESPN, and that there was nothing wrong with Bayless calling Johny a liar because that is just his beliefs and he is expressing concern. He then went on the say that Bill Simmons was rightly suspended for calling Goodell a liar. Again, neither co-host confronted him on the apparent double-standard.
Lipsyte also went on to talk about Simmons at length, making several snide remarks, and commented about how entertaining he finds Bayless. If this person was the neutral voice at ESPN this might shed some light on why they have seemed so incompetent in handling their employee suspensions over the last few years. The best part of the interview was when Brunt asked how networks, including Rogers, should handle the different journalistic standards for their TV/radio entertainers and the real journalists they employ. The answer given was that we need to “live with the conflict of interest and that there are no clear lines.”
In this age of convergence it is very hard to find anyone without a corporate relationship with either Rogers or Bell. Yet we all still form opinions about the credibility of the people we listen to and read. My question for you this morning is: how do you decide who is a real journalist and who is not?
We all make our own personal decisions about who we like and don’t like. That’s a separate issue. What I want to know about is who you find credible and why. Often these two issues are blended together. For example, I don’t think Wilner is a very good baseball host but I also don’t find him very credible when talking about the team’s management and clubhouse. If Scott MacArthur had Wilner’s miserable personality, I wouldn’t like him either but I don’t know whether I would mistrust his judgment in the same way as I do Wilner’s. As another example, I find Jonas Siegel very pleasant to listen to, but his recent blow-up about Kessel makes me wonder if he is giving a fully objective analysis of the team. On the other side, does it matter when Bob McCown claims to have scoops that never pan out? Not to me. But obviously it matters a great deal when “insiders” either blow or get beat to big stories.
Anyway, I turn theses questions over to you to ponder. Can you separate your like or dislike of someone from their credibility? What makes someone credible in your eyes? Who has lost credibility and why? Who is merely an entertainer and thus held to lower standards?
Most Improved in Toronto Media
With a new year already under way it’s a good time to reflect on the year that was. In my last column I discussed the people who I believe are letting the audience down. Today I want to nominate a few people for a “most improved” award.
1) Michael Grange — Grange did a nice job this year in his few appearances on PTS. He seems to be getting more comfortable with the back and forth that makes for good sports talk. He also seems to have adopted Brunt’s strategy of refusing to take the bait when Bob wants to bore the audience with arguments not worth having. Grange still has a tendency to sound like a deer in the headlights when it’s his turn to ask a question to a guest, taking multiple passes and false-starts to get his question out. On the writing side, I have been reading his Sportsnet stuff more often. It’s usually very good and provides a different angle. I wish he were still attached to a paper. Given that the Star keeps Cox on as their lead columnist despite his departure to SN, maybe the Globe would have Grange back?
2) Macko & Cauz — at some point this year the switch flipped and I came to see these two as lovable instead of forgettable. I’m not sure I can fully explain it, but there is something just plain endearing about the interaction between these bros. My main complaint is that the show sometimes slips into Cauz playing Devil’s Advocate for a not very interesting or reasonable position. That’s when I flip the station. But when it’s good it’s because they pick good topics and have interesting discussions without relying too heavily on callers to fill the air. One of the things that made the old Tim&Sid Score show great was the amount of pre-production they did getting audio clips ready and having lots of planned segments where each knew what the other would argue. I’d like to see more of that from M&C. Use calls as a last resort … maybe have a segment called Phone-It-In Fridays! or something. Other than that, keep it up and I’ll keep listening.
I’ll turn this one over to you: how have your listening and reading habits changed this year? Who would be your most improved?
TSN has reached a deal with the UFC for more MMA and with EUFA for more soccer. I wonder if these deals are the result of Sportsnet being out of cash or out of programming space or a little of both. TSN has a lot of work to do predicting where the TV market will be over the next 10 years. Top level soccer seems like a safe bet, while UFC is more risky.
George Stroumboulopoulos sat down with Toronto Mike for 2 hours to discuss his life in music, entertainment, and sports. You can listen to the podcast here.
The Chronicle has a long story about academic fraud by athletes and coaches featuring someone who perpetrated it for several years. If this is an issue you care about, the article is worth your time.
Low Hanging Fruit
- Dear National Post: there is no quick way for me to see on your front page if featured writers like Scott Stinson or John Lott have written anything new. Consider doing what the Globe and Star do and have permanent boxes where the latest column is flagged.
- Aside from the flubs mentioned above, I thought Sid did a decent job in his hosting duties on PTS. (I can’t comment on the call-in segments). He was especially good at making the first segment in the 5pm hour worth listening to. When Bob is around that is when he tells us what is on his shopping list or what he ate for breakfast.
- Naylor and Arthur had a good discussion of why Canada’s Mens soccer team has been so dreadful despite our huge population of immigrants from soccer mad countries.
- Have Sportsnet personalities been told not to promote the World Juniors? A glance at the Twitter accounts of various people suggests there may be some merit to this theory.
- If anyone knows how to reach Bill Houston (ex-Truth&Rumours), please let me know.
thanks for reading and commenting,
until next time …
mike (not really in boston)