Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: Deadspin

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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?

 

Quick Hits

 

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)

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 32
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    Steve Jones6 years ago

    Very nice collection of topics Mike.

    On the issue of credibility I personally think it’s worth separating the two. Some guys just get it right, even if they aren’t the most likabke people. Of course it’s also opinion that someone is getting it right. So this can be a very grey discussion. And there are those people who you just won’t listen to due to their personality, even if they have insights. By way of example I am not a fan of Kypreos, but I think he has credibility in the hockey world. Same thing for Blair in baseball. The end result is however I rarely give them the time of day.

    Macko and Cauz, couldn’t listen to them. Then over time I started to ejoy the banter. They aren’t the best sports guys, Cauz can be over the top, but the chemistry is good. They seem to be good friends who have some interesting conversations. They could lose some of the scripted every day bits. Sometimes it just feels a bit too overproduced.

    On another note I had the same experience with Leafs Lunch. Sure it’s sometimes way to jocular and inside. O’Neill can be too moody, Hayes uses too much bro verbiage but overall it’s a good mix of personalities and they aren’t overt homers which is appreciated. After listening to SN for years it’s also nice to not have guys barking back and forth at each other. I was always left with the impression they didn’t like each other much.

    On the broadcast front I have no doubt the budget at SN has been stretched to the limit. Seems like on top of the NHL license they have hired every sports name in the country. The costs to run that ship are enormous so I beleive they have had to trim elsewhere. TSN does have some holes to fill and footie will do OK for them, MMAcnit so much. It had its day and I foresee it continuing its descent into a minor fringe attraction.

    On the topic of Sid, I am mixed. Entertaining at times, irritating at others. He certainly delivers a specific demo, which is good for him today, not so good for him tomorrow. Sometimes I think he needs to start some sort of evolution before it’s too late. Core audiences grow up and move on. When you are now the “older” guy who is still doing the same act your spot is tenuous at best. While he’s better than that think Stormin Norman. Maybe when he’s on PT he could lighten up on the T&S persona, and just stretch out on the better material he has to work with.

    As for the World Juniors I think someone forgot to tell SN it is on. Maybe that’s OK. TSN have admittedly done a brilliant job turning the tourney into a huge event. But wow, do they ever promote it. You have to wonder if they somehow eventually over hype the event. Wait, it’s Canada and hockey. Never going to happen.

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    First Comment. Long time reader. Love the discussion here. Thanks to all who make it happen.

    I don’t think anyone is a pure journalist. Some are more journalistic that others (Brunt vs. Wilner) but each have their own bias. Sometimes the bias is intentional – like Wilner’s must be as a Blue Jay promotional tool or TSN continually flogging the CFL or Sportsnet ignoring the WJC. Other times it’s more subtle, and happens more organically due to basic belief systems, preferences, culture, upbringing, etc.

    This has been part of the sports landscape forever. ESPN showed highlights of the NHL when it was a rights holder and didn’t when it wasn’t. It’s not a reason to call in the cavalry. It’s a reason to consider the source. None of these rights-holding media outlets should be expected to be unbiased.

    As soon as you have a media outlet providing content and comment, the consumer should be wary of the objectivity. I don’t think it’s a cause for alarm, unless we accept that consumers are simply lemmings running for the cliff.

    If I want CFL coverage, I’ll go to TSN. If I want WJC coverage I’ll go to TSN. If I want NHL coverage I’ll go to Sportsnet. That’s not weird. Nor is it a reason to suggest that unbiased journalism has gone the way of the Dodo bird. I don’t think much has changed . . . except the demise of the newspaper industry.

    Newspapers used to be the bastion of news and opinion. And if you read two or three of them in a day you had a pretty good sense of the unbiased truth. But you still needed to use a personal filter to determine ‘the best set of facts’. If anyone has a solution to the downward spiral of newspapers, I’m interested in hearing it.

    In short, I don’t have a favourite journalist. And I don’t eliminate those who appear to be simply shills. I listen/read those that seem to be smart: Bob, Brunt, Simmons, Friedman, Grange, yes Damian, even Wilner. But not Ben Ennis, Mike Richards, Sammut, Butch Carter or John Shannon. Even the dolts have something to add to my pot pourri.

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    I was surprised that Blair did a segment on the WJC yesterday with Zeisberger. Not surprisingly, when they discussed it on PTS, it was more about the ticket woes than the actual tournament.

    I noticed that Sid slipped back into his “shock jock” persona a couple times during the roundtable, whcih had mostly kept in reserve mostof the week.

    Personally, i only listen to Macko and Cauz based on the guest (usually only Mirtle and Arthur), as i find Cauz’s persona very smug and irritating. But i think that it is true for every show now: pick and choose via podcast.

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    Skip Bayless, Screamin A Smith and Colin Cowherd are examples of everything that should be avoided at all costs. They’re embarrasing. The omdudsperson’s comments are also embarrasing and destroy what little credibility anyone had in the position. It would be interesting to see how long ESPN would defend Bayless if Manziel sued him.

    Warren – I assume you mean you go to SN for live NHL coverage.

    From my perspective SN looks petty in ignoring WJHC, ’cause they beat the drum for junior hockey like a rented mule any other time.

    Credibility – I had no problem with Brunt carrying the Olympic torch.

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    Interesting! If we get away from sports to clarify. My question, Is Peter Mansbridge a journalist?

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    Bang on about sid’s useless time suck trying to be funny with the first question to the former espn ombudsman. Sid has a recurring tendency to think he’s on his own show when he hosts PTS and therefore feels the need to crack a silly joke, a silly voice or other. Grow up a little Sid.

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    @Bob I don’t know if you know how newscasts work, but most of the anchors are the Chief Correspondents (aka head journalists). So yes, Mansbridge is a journalist…a very good one.

  • comment-avatar

    Happy New Year, Mike in Boston and TSM. I found your blog this year and have enjoyed it immensely. It seems a bit rude to read gratuitously without acknowledging or commenting, so first off, great work in covering the sports media scene in Toronto and beyond.

    Regarding real journalism, it’s fair to say that a journal is a daily record, nothing more. It doesn’t have to be fact-based, and in fact is often anecdotal and opinionated, so really, any one who writes or reports on a regular basis can be considered a journalist.

    A reporter, especially an investigative reporter, is a different story. Reports should be as fact-based and objective as possible, and if opinions are included, there should be a 360-degree sampling where all sides have their say. The investigative reporter has to go further in uncovering other facts from other fields or past history and tie them in with the current story to add understanding. And this is what separates the reporters from the journalists. The moment you’re off a regular beat, and no longer have to do the dirty work and heavy lifting, you’re no longer a reporter.

    Brunt is a historian and analyst. Arthur has gone that way, too. I look at them as fact-based journalists, and they have shown themselves to be dligent in their fact-gathering. Brunt is more even-handed if a bit stuffy, while Arthur seems to have a political agenda that seeps into all his reporting, sometimes relevant, but often not. So though I’m fine with Brunt’s approach, and Arthur’s sanctimony frankly turns me off, I’ll bear it and filter out the more egregious commentary to hear what they have to say.

    People like McCown stopped being a reporter a long time ago. McCown is exactly what he presents – a broadcaster and host. Journalist? Somewhat. More like an editor, putting all the stories together, judging which ones will be run and which ones won’t. You could say that for all the sports show hosts i.e. Naylor, Tim and Sid, etc.

    Bob McKenzie (a name I don’t read here often, interestingly) and Steve Simmons are more like true reporters – always seeking out stories and working their sources. Of course, they are allowed to have their opinions. Simmons is pretty even for the most part, but I think McKenzie is exemplary in offering a balanced review of a situation. Elliote Friedman also stands out in his fact-gathering and objectivity in analysis.

    Most of the ex-athletes could be called journalists, but let’s face it, are hired for their insight and opinions, so I really don’t look to them for facts, and therefore hold them to a lower standard, which, btw, doesn’t mean they get a free pass on saying whatever pops into their head. Their value is based on how recent and how successful their experience in active competition was, and how current their sources are. It’s hard to take advice on how to win a championship game from someone who has never won one. And I can look past the ring on an ex-athlete’s finger if I know how much they actually contributed to winning that championship.

    Overall, anyone can have an opinion (as any Comments section can attest to), but it takes skill and professionalism in putting together an objective, fact-based, coherent story (via column, blog, or podcast), and it is these people whom I both hold to a higher standard, and put a lot more trust in.

  • comment-avatar

    […] Toronto Sports Media Blog has a look at some of the things happening in the US and Canada this […]

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    @Warren

    True coverage and journalism is not about who the rights holder is or isn’t it should be about who provides the best information on the event. Although TSN is not the main source for NHL hockey games over the next twelve years, they provide excellent insight into everything hockey, which is why I think TSN will survive the shift in rights. News outlets always put some kind of a slogan to their name making the suggestion that they are the best in the business. In my books, the best can only be achieved with unbiased, broadcast rights should not be tainted with so bias which leads to a lack of information on the nations biggest event. Why should I have to keep changing my stations to find out who is covering a specific sports story. It’s ridiculous if you ask me.

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    I don’t disagree at all, Neil.

    I just don’t think this is a new phenomenon. Nor one invented by the evil empire at Rogers that just got more evil by signing a big deal with the NHL.

    I do think the bias by rights holders is worsening. The first big turn I noticed was a couple of years ago when any story that wasn’t about the CFL or about a Canadian based NHL team was buried or absent in TSN’s coverage.

  • comment-avatar

    Not a TO/CDN story, but RIP Stuart Scott.

  • comment-avatar
    Steve Jones6 years ago

    There are a bunch of negatives in Rogers now owning hockey in Canada. But I would be willing to overlook most of them if they would just use a professional play by play guy on HNIC. Romanuk is deplorable, and worse is a homer who seems to think every Leaf play is amazing. The other team, not so much.

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    Journalists vs talking heads? Pretty simple really:

    1) Do you have training in journalism?
    2) Are you employed to break news or be on the scene to report on things as they happen?

    If yes to both then you’re a journalist. Point 1 eliminates most of the the people on TV and radio. Point 2 eliminates pretty much everyone on radio regardless of their previous training (see Blair … he’s not a journalist anymore).

    Most improved? Gotta go with Richards. The show is really getting better and better. Least improved? Tim&Sid. Time to move on from that format.

  • comment-avatar

    What do people think of Donnovan Bennett when he is on with Tim and Sid is the show better with him on? I think he does bring intelligent and well thought out opinions, Cut or Uncut seems to be a little too rapid fire too often they cut what could be a interesting discussion to get to the next point.

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    Sam in Scarb6 years ago

    Tim & Sid have evolved to where both of them are very good when they are on their own.
    Now,when together they both seem to feel the need to act like teenagers skipping school on a Friday afternoon and getting a drunk uncle to buy them a mickey of Vodka.

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    I usually enjoy Sid when he appears as Bob’s replacement on PTS. However, this week I was able to catch parts of PTS on SN360 thanks to the holidays. Why is Sid constantly looking upwards to his right? I realize someone might be giving him direction which would warrant the occasional glance but most direction would be given through his earpiece. It was so annoying and I’m sure many people noticed it. Am I wrong?

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    dogpounder6 years ago

    Tim and Sid leading with WJC talk.

    What a bunch of shills those 590 guys are.

  • comment-avatar
    Don River6 years ago

    It’s UEFA, not EUFA.

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    Marcus, excellent post!
    Antonio, Sid looks up to his right so he can see himself on the monitor.

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    Rob In Aurora6 years ago

    I have been touting Macko and Cauz here for a while now. Once you’re onto their style, they are interesting and pretty entertaining. Mackowicz is good at keeping the show on the rails and doing the lead-ins and intros, etc. Cauz is the entertainer and needs Macko to keep him in line and provide the laughtrack. The jokes are mostly (quite) funny….Cauz does have a tough time when he’s left alone though. As a team, they are better than anything at the FAN, certainly better than Jeff Blair (that’s not saying much).

    I can’t stand Millard, Kypreos or McLean at all – not for 2 minutes, so Leafs Lunch wins that battle without trying. (I like it a lot anyway, but no accounting for people’s taste and preference)…They obviously have some clout in the industry as they get good guests and can ask intelligent questions.

    Tim and Sid are catering to teenagers, I won’t listen to their shlock. They are to sports radio what Sponge Bob Square Pants is to Comedy. There is an audience, I’m just not part of it – but their audience should be in school when they air…

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    Dogpounder6 years ago

    Agreed on the Macko + Cauz improvement. Slowly but surely, my 1050/590 listening time has crept up to about 40/60, I would guess. But Naylor gets most of the credit for that.

    I’ll say regarding credibility, that people ’round these parts are wayyy too quick to use the shill gambit.

    Give me a guy (or girl) who doesn’t fill the hours with long-winded, contrived BS and predictable cliches and I’ll listen.

    Oh and UFC? That’s the next poker, isn’t it? When is that sideshow back in town? Would it even sell out Richo?

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    Dogpounder6 years ago

    *Ricoh!

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    Thanks for the responses everyone … some really interesting and divergent opinions here on the credibility question. I suspect we will be debating whether Feschuk counts as a real journalist for some time to come. He’s building up quite the portfolio of incidents for himself. I suspect that the radio station that gets Burkie on to comment on Feschuk will get some choice quotes.

  • comment-avatar

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  • comment-avatar
    yellow gold6 years ago

    Neil, the article is published. love to here your thoughts.

  • comment-avatar

    I agree with everything mike in boston wrote about the Robert Lipsyte segment on PTS………..it had potential but ended up being a bit of a train wreck………awkward intro by Sid, bizarre opinions from Lipsyte, and awkward ending when he got cut off………..Lipsyte’s opinions are even more bizarre when you consider that Brunt said he was his “number 1 sports journalistic hero” before they got him on the phone

    When Jeff O’Neill started on radio two years ago I hated him and now I really like him…………I don’t know if that makes him most improved or not but I guess he would get my vote

    Any update from TSM or mike in boston on when we might get some numbers for the Fall 2014 radio ratings period?

  • comment-avatar

    For those of you who enjoy Arthur when he is co-host of Naylor’s show apparently he will be the co-host tomorrow……………usually he is on Mondays but this week I believe he was at the ACC covering the World Juniors gold medal game

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    Anyone else catch Arthur being a complete idiot trying to defend Feschuk on Twitter last night?? Pretty pathetic stuff. This guy is quickly revealing himself to be a total fraud.

  • comment-avatar
    Claire A Fye6 years ago

    @Jake Feschuk was doing his job. He’s not a fan and he’s not supposed to be. Arthur understands that. I think we need more Feschuks, guys who aren’t afraid to ask questions that we all are asking. It’s funny to me that Feschuk is taking heat. He’s not the one who caused the Leafs to implode. For the fourth straight year. I’m not saying Kessel caused Carlyle’s firing (and I don’t think Feschuk was implying that with his question), but Kessel is one of the guys who has been here through every collapse, and if he’s a coaching problem, that’s a story.

  • comment-avatar
    Drumanchor6 years ago

    Well said, Claire.

    I imagine that it must be difficult for a sports reporter to ask the serious questions. I would guess that most of them very much want to, but that they are reluctant to do so due to the fact that they don’t want to be disliked by the athletes that they cover on a daily basis. If they are seen as being difficult, access to information may be denied and information and knowledge are the lifeblood of the media. Let’s not forget, also, that this is an industry where being the first with “Breaking News” is vitally important.

    My assumption is that it is a fine line for many of them to walk successfully.

  • comment-avatar
    Jonathan Giggs6 years ago

    No matter what anyone thought of Feschuk’s question, Kessel handled the situation so poorly that it made the incident even worse. All he had to say is “I try my best, I listen to the coach, and I am working as hard as I can and nothing seems to be working, or going in, at the moment. Can’t catch a break, etc.” If Feschuk persisted, he could have said “No”.