Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: here


by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail


Good morning sports media watchers. Busy time in the sports world with everyone hard at work covering the playoffs and getting ready for the summer sports. Accordingly there is a surfeit of newsworthy items to cover and I am invariably going to leave plenty of things out. Please add whatever you saw or heard in the comments below.


Suggested Soundtrack: Nirvana – You Know You're Right


Programming note: I'm on assignment for the next few weeks so Jonah will be holding down the fort for a while. Follow me on Twitter for occasional sports media observations. Retweets are sometimes sincere.


Sports Radio Polls


The fine folks over at Platinum Seat Ghosts ran a series of twitter polls evaluating the current sports radio line-ups. Numeris doesn't publicly reveal the composition of their PPM pool nor its size but I have been told by people in the industry that the number of PPMs worn by males 25-54 in Toronto in 2015 was 287. That number covers all genres of radio: talk, traffic, music, etc. The actual number of PPMs worn by sports radio listeners is unknown, but a reasonable guess would be that at least 50% of people listen exclusively to music. Among those that listen to talk radio, many probably listen to 1010/640/CBC rather than sports. So you're probably down to 30-60 PPMs devoted to sports radio. A laughably small sample size.


By comparison 250 actual sports fans participated in the PSG poll. Obviously the data is going to be skewed in two ways: 1) it's a Twitter poll and that means the older demo likely is underrepresented, 2) it's a hockey blog so shows that are strong on other sports may do less well. With that out of the way, let's have a look at the results.







The obvious thing that jumps out is how different these results are from the Numeris ratings, where TSN1050 is getting trounced along most dimensions. Recent numbers show the Fan590 with 2 to 3 times the overall market share of TSN1050, and huge leads in each time slot. Here are a few take-aways from the above:


  • Dean Blundell is very unpopular. I have no idea how much of his score is based on the quality of the show versus his reputation as the guy who doesn't see anything homophobic about rape jokes involving gay men, or whose last show was sanctioned several times for being misogynistic. Regardless, as a morning show they have a large budget and should be able to get big guests as a way to compensate for Blundell's baggage.


  • Landsberg and Naylor have to feel good about beating Dean 8-2. I suspect things will be a little different when Numeris releases the spring book. But this is a good start for a show that has only been on the air for a little over 2 months.


  • The split between the two mid-morning show seems about right to me. Blair/Ennis/Madani/Brunt is good radio most days. Cauz + Wheeler is a good alternative option if Blair doesn't float your boat. A little something for everyone there.


  • Walker v Richards: I'm surprised this one isn't closer to 50-50 given Mike's more established brand as a solo host. Walker's show is much more well-rounded though, and given that hockey is on the back burner in this market until October, the results seem plausible.


  • The afternoon drive time results are surprising but clearly a reflection of Bob's stature among younger hockey fans. I suspect if a Jays blog ran the same poll, PTS would have fared much better. Still, TSN has to feel good that its signature afternoon show is popular.


Polls are fun. Let's try one:



Jonah and I are planning to do a spring "report card" post around the time the new ratings book comes out. In preparation, we are both trying to listen to a lot of radio.


Help us do our homework: What are some things we should listen for? What drives you crazy on either station? How do you interpret the above results?


Colabello Wrap Up


The big story of last weekend was Jays' first baseman Chris Colabello testing positive for a banned substance and being suspended for 80 games. Many people wrote about it in the papers. Here is Steve Buffery with a good analysis of why his denials ring hollow, and a good follow up article after Colabello spoke publicly (more on that in a second).


The Jays are owned by Rogers. Sportsnet is owned by Rogers. Sportsnet employs lots of reporters, journalists, and broadcasters to cover the Jays. The obvious question was: how they would treat the issue. Would they attack the story with the same tenacity as they would if they weren't owned by a common employer?


The results were a little mixed but basically positive. There was clearly no "soft journalism" mandate. Many at Sportsnet were highly critical of the player, as well as his public statements. This piece by Arden Zwelling, for example, is excellent. The one suspect decision was the following:


First, can we put the bar a little higher on using the word "exclusive"? Giving yourself a reacharound for having a fellow employee appear on your station is not a journalistic accomplishment. It trivializes the hard work that leads to real exclusive stories. Good for the people at Sportsnet who refrained from tweeting about their big "exclusive". I noticed.


Ok, with that out of the way I want to discuss the merits of using the perpetually youthful Jamie Campbell. Jamie did a great job and asked all the tough questions. That's not my issue. Rather, the question is why give this assignment to Jamie rather than someone else? As mentioned above, Zwelling has done exemplary work as a journalist over the last few years. So has Shi Davidi. Oh, and by the way, you also have Stephen Brunt on the roster.


They went with someone who is part of the Jays broadcast team instead of someone with a little more independence from the team. By using Campbell the network opens itself up to the criticism that the team is calling the shots. Why open that door if you have other options? As I have mentioned before, Brunt seems to be tragically mis-used at Sportsnet. This would have been perfect for him. He's a long time critic of baseball's arbitrary (his words, not mine) stance on PEDs. He's also the most journalistically credible person at the network. Would Colabello have appeared with Brunt? Maybe Colabello would only do it with Jamie. Who knows. But the audience was not as well served by Sportsnet as it could have been in this instance.


The best thing to come out of this was Campbell's appearance with Brunt and Jeff Blair on the Jeff Blair Show (April 27, Hour 2), now featuring Jeff Blair and his sensitive new voice. It was a great discussion by all three. Jamie reported several anecdotes about seeing Colabello inspect ingredient labels while in the food court, and turning down smoothies even though they looked delicious. The other two rightly jumped all over this talking point. Cheaters all look clean until they get caught, and then the plethora of drug tests they passed with flying colours don't mean anything. All you are left with at that stage are technicalities and half-truths about never "knowingly" taking anything banned.


It is possible that Colabello took a tainted approved supplement or that someone slipped something into his protein shake. It's just not very likely. I'm not sure I care very much. This is baseball. Cheating is part of the game's legacy. Marcus Stroman was suspended for a PED violation. Does anyone refuse to root for him on account of that? Colabello will likely re-emerge and take some more swings for the Jays this season. If the team does well and he contributes, no one will hold this against him. If he flunks out of the league it will be because he can't hit anymore, and then people will chalk up his brief success to the PEDs.


Over to you: how did Sportsnet handle the Colabello story? 


Quick Hits


While people are excited about the new dirt infield at the Dome, the grass discussions have died down significantly. Here's a CBC report with the lead researcher. Doesn't sound promising, and Shapiro has never said anything unequivocally positive about the idea. This was more of a Beeston labour of love.


Curt Schilling isn't taking his termination lying down. He is doing some interviews where he discusses "the 'nosedive' the United States is in as a result of the Obama Administration, and the hypocrisy of people like rock star Bruce Springsteen."


Curtis Rush retired/was offered a buyout from the Star this week as the paper goes in another direction. He's very proud of his versatility as a journalist. In case you have forgotten his body of work, his sports highlights include this.


Another National Post casualty succumbs to Vice. Congrats to Kaitlyn McGrath on her first story with that outlet.


In a Seen & Heard first, here is a link to a Government of Ontario press release. Apparently 50% of companies are breaking the law when it comes to unpaid internships. I am working on a story on unpaid internships in sports media. If you have insights, drop me a line.


The #MoreThanMean video is almost too hard to watch. I cannot imagine what it is like to be on the receiving end of that kind of harassment. If you or someone you know has ever threatened someone with rape on Twitter, please seek out help. You probably don't think of yourself as a monster, but you are. This is not normal behaviour. It's not too late to change.


Speaking of the video, it would have been nice to hear from Hazel Mae on this issue. With no offence intended to Jackie Redmond, who discussed the video with Dean Blundell, Hazel is a veteran of the industry, goes back to the days before Twitter, and has a wide range of experience in multiple cities. (Sorry if I missed someone interviewing her). Lastly, in light of this video, I am slightly more sympathetic to Matt Cauz's radical proposal that people on twitter should be microchipped so they can be zapped remotely when they tweet stupid things.


Steve Simmons appeared on Toronto Mike's podcast this week. I only found time to listen to a snippet but it sounds like a pretty candid interview. They refer to Brunt's Shapiro documentary (read my thoughts here) as an "infomercial" and "embarrassing", and speculate that this was something he "swallowed for the team".


Low Hanging Fruit


  • On a week when Dean Blundell tried to convince us he cares about misogyny, he also tweeted some more lighthearted fun about sports deaths.


  • Not surprised to see Damien Cox and Steve Simmons defend Larry Brooks after NYR Dan Boyle cussed him out. I think there is definitely value in asking tough questions but as we learned from the Feschuk fiasco, scrums are probably the lowest form of journalistic interaction. No one does their best work there.



  • Awkward moments on television: Eric Smith twice referring to "Martine" during a hit from Indiana while throwing back to Evanka Osmak in the studio


  • Awkward moments on radio: Michael Grange speaking from Indiana with a bad cell connection. Grange has a pretty gravelly voice to begin with. When you combine that with a bad phone line, he sounded like he was calling from the bottom of a quarry this week.


  • What makes less sense?: 1) having Tim & Sid host random quick hits from somewhere inside the ACC during the game or 2) having the Overdrive bang bus crew broadcasting from Jurassic Park.


  • The confusing world we live in: is Bell sad that Sportsnet gets Game 7 for the Raps or happy that MLSE gets another home playoff date?


  • Phrases that need to be expunged if you have a radio show: "I threw this out in Twitter." We don't care. Just make your point.


  • Age and gravity destroy us all in the end. Mercifully none of us have to go through that process in stunning HD where every crease and crevasse is on full display for the audience at home.


  • Sportsnet's iOs app is only available on the Canadian iTunes store. This is annoying for those of us with US accounts who cannot download from the Canadian store. TSN GO is available on both.


  • Sportsnet should have tapped Gregg Zaun to interview Chris Colabello. Zaun could have dispensed some fatherly advice about how to move forward after you get mixed up in a steroids scandal.


  • Let's do this:





thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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