Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail

 

Good morning sports media fans. A good mix of topics this week as we get ready for things to ramp up once all the local teams start playing meaningful games next month. If there are media-related stories you think we should be covering here at TSM, please be in touch. Also, thanks to those in the media who spoke with me this week.

 

FAN590 Completes the Picure

 

With the addition of Ben Ennis to the mid-afternoon slot and the revamped morning show the FAN has now set its line-up for the busy sports calendar ahead. Here is what the full picture looks like:

 

 

The table wasn’t wide enough to fit in the lunchtime shows but here is what they look like:

 

 

 

Notice anything? Let’s leave for another time the fact that in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, sports talk on the FAN includes no visible minorities.

 

There are about 15 people, depending on the day, hosting from 5:30am – 7pm. Zero women. How about evening hosts? Nope: 7-11 is also dominated by dudes.

 

Let’s add some other job categories: game broadcasters, analysts, and beat reports. Leafs? No women on the air there. Raptors? Sausage party. Jays? Same.

 

Maybe the FAN has a problem with the way women sound. Let’s check out how many female producers there are on the regular shows: none. What about minor roles? How long has it been since Barb Wired?

 

 

Moving to the management ranks, the Program Director is a man, and the Assistant Program Director is as well. If you’re keeping score, that’s a clean sweep: top to bottom, there are no women working in any significant roles behind the mic or behind the glass at the FAN590.

 

Every time I make this observation I get the following response: we don’t want a woman just for the sake of having a woman. Only put her on if she’s good!

 

I totally agree with this sentiment. Male or female, we should expect all of the hosts to be trained for radio and selected on the basis of their superior talents. This is Toronto and this is the FAN590, Canada’s heritage brand when it comes to sports radio.

 

However, if that is the standard it’s worth noting two things. First, plenty of the men who have graced the FAN’s airwaves over the last 20 years have been terrible at sports radio. (Some of them still work there). Why has the FAN590 denied women the chance to be as bad at sports radio as the men they routinely employ?

 

Second, the turnover rate at the FAN speaks for itself. They are on their 4th morning show in the last 6 years. The 1-4 slot has featured more hosts than I can remember. Bob has been paired with 6 or so co-hosts over the last 5 years. Amidst this sea of change the only constant is that each and every time the FAN refuses to hire women. Every time there is an opening, management has said no thanks to aspiring female radio voices.

 

It’s important for networks to have a clear brand. To help the FAN out with their marketing here are a few suggestions for alternate tag-lines to try out:

 

 

 

 

Add your suggestions below.

 

Perhaps I am overstating this. Maybe this is all just circumstantial and Sportsnet is a great place for women to work. Or maybe the network reflects the character of its leadership:

 

 

 

“I have never seen a female volleyball player I would consider attractive. I’m not saying they’re all dogs, or butch, but they’re not overwhelming. Women’s hockey, I would never watch because you can’t see them.” — Bob McCown

 

Nothing further.

 

Mendes v. Daddy

 

Ian Mendes of TSN1200 in Ottawa wrote a story about Senator Bobby Ryan “quitting” Twitter. Greg Wyshynski of !Yahoo!Sports! wrote a response pointing out that Mendes’ story omitted some key details about Ryan’s relationship with Twitter.

 

Mendes’ story focuses on fan criticism of Ryan for his on-ice performance this season.

 

“He says there wasn’t one particular thread or interaction that caused him to quit – even though there was a negatively slanted discussion on Sens Twitter happening Monday night about the team’s six-game winning streak in Ryan’s absence.”

 

Wyshynski’s story discusses Ryan’s “political” tweets and favourites over the last several years, which were also a source of backlash.

 

“What didn’t make the TSN story, either because Ryan didn’t address it or because it wasn’t on writer Ian Mendes’s radar, were some questionable decisions by Ryan to support Islamophobic rhetoric and other controversial messages.”

 

TSN is in year 3 of a 12 year deal with the Senators to broadcast their games on radio and TV. Since TSN was locked out of national hockey broadcasts by Gary Bettman, regional rights are an important part of their business plan. In describing Mendes’ piece as having “glossed over” these facts, Greg is saying the story incomplete. In light of TSN’s relationship with the team there is also the possibility that the story was purposely written to be slanted in the player’s favour.

 

Ian replied to Greg’s criticism on Twitter:

 

 

A few things before we get to substance of the debate: 1) lots of people favourite things as bookmarks to come back to later, 2) favouriting by accident happens easily depending on which app you use, 3) retweets are not always endorsements. Some people even retweet things sarcastically.

 

All that said, you can sometimes tell a lot about a person by their Twitter act. When Brett Lawrie likes tweets from Ass Bible I think he really means it. When Curt Schilling retweets someone comparing Islam with Nazis this is consistent with the rest of his timeline.

 

In his reply I don’t think Mendes is saying Ryan’s twitter act is irrelevant. I understand him to be saying that since, unlike the rest of us, he interacts with Ryan on a regular basis he has more evidence at his disposal than just Twitter. That’s reasonable. This is also reasonable:

 

 

You can judge for yourself whether Bobby Ryan is a bigot. Having looked at the tweets in question, they don’t make him look good but it’s also not a terribly large body of evidence. A search of “bobby ryan twitter controversy” doesn’t yield anything of interest. On the basis of that I can’t really blame Mendes for not uncovering the controversial tweets and favourites from 2014 and 2015.

 

After reading both stories and Mendes’ follow-up I think this is a case where both authors are right. There was more to be said than what Mendes reported. Wyshynski reported the additional info. From the audience’s perspective, we were well served by the original and subsequent reporting. Thanks guys!

 

Mendes also quotes Ryan as enjoying trolling his friends on social media:

 

“I got Instagram in the summer. I chirped [Ryan] Dzingel on his account all summer long and he had no clue who it was until he moved into my basement and I told him it was me […] And he told me, ‘Hey, I was losing sleep over those comments.”

 

So the guy who is quitting twitter due to negativity also enjoys harassing other people anonymously just for fun?

 

One other thought: if you say you’re going to quit Twitter, do it. Ryan says that he immediately started a new anonymous account so he could follow people and keep in touch with friends. Does he not know he could have just made his account private? He doesn’t come across as the smartest fellow.

 

Lastly, while researching this story I came across a great read on Bobby Ryan by Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce. Highly recommended. This is the kind of stuff Sportsnet should be prioritizing on its website. (more on that below …)

 

Quick Hits

 

Too much to cover here and I’m over my word limit already:

 

  • USA Hockey is greedy. Is there any more complexity to this story?
  • Sportsnet has a good write-up on the NHL losing in NY district court in the Wideman case. Optics of this aren’t great, but that’s par for the course for the NHL these days.
  • Gary being called “haughty” by ex-mayor Scruggs was a great moment on last week’s episode of It’s Always Sunny in Glendale Arizona. Still hoping for a Redfield T. Baum cameo.
  • Good read on the naked hypocrisy around bat-flips. Some idiots just want to punch people and will use MLB’s conservative unwritten rules as a pretext.

 

Low Hanging Fruit – “Journalism”

 

Journalism is in crisis. Reputable sources are being banned from press conferences. Wire services are being dismissed as fake news. Budgets are as tight as ever. People are expect to produce quality content with very limited resources. There is also a huge pressure to maximize page views, which is leading to the industry-wide problem of outlets trying to go viral and encouraging stories to be written as such.

 

All of this is leading to shortcuts that risk destroying the credibility of the industry.

 

Exhibit A: Go Fish

 

Sportsnet published a piece comparing Leafs players going fishing while in Florida to play the Panthers with New York Giant players flying to Florida to go boating during the playoffs. The premise for the comparison is that both incidents involve athletes, Florida, fishing, and social media.

 

The piece was written by Mike Johnston whose twitter handle includes “MMA”, suggesting this is not his regular beat. Indeed, in the last 6 days he has written about the Leafs, Bruins, Senators, Russell Martin, Odor-Bautista, Bubba Watson, the Lightning, Bobby Ryan, Boras, the Raiders, and Conor McGregor.

 

Here’s a representative quote from the article:

 

“No one is saying a few Leafs fishing qualifies as shenanigans but when you lose like the Leafs did to the Panthers it’s going to be a talking point.”

 

FALSE. It is only a talking point because people in the media choose to talk about it. As we have discussed endlessly, no matter how stupid an opinion is you can find someone fiercely defending it. It is the responsibility of the media not to write articles or conduct interviews talking about how cherry-picked comments represent what “the fans” think. This is basic.

 

This is just the beginning of what is wrong with this article. A  chunk of the piece is made up of quotes from an interview from The Jeff Blair Show. The guest was brought on to talk about whether the fishing trip is a story or not. There is no original interviewing by the author. He didn’t get a quote from the players or the coach in response to the story he was writing. He didn’t interview a sports psychology expert on the effects of fishing on puck presence. Even talking with the guys who do the sponsored fishing show on Sunday mornings would have been better than nothing.

 

Let me spell this all out for you:

 

1) Sportsnet interviews guest based on “gotta ask the question!?!” journalistic approach.

2) Sportsnet publishes follow-up piece making facile comparison to NFL story, citing Sportsnet interview as evidence that people are talking about this.

3) Story includes links to radio interview, as well as ad-supported game highlights and other tangentially related and sponsored content.

4) 360+ people comment on the story, many simply to excoriate the author and the site for publishing garbage.

5) If all goes according to plan, article writer will appear on TV and radio to discuss his article.

6) Profit?

 

The plan is foolproof so long as you don’t care about your credibility as a journalistic outlet.

 

The ultimate responsibility for this embarrassment is the editor. Sportsnet.ca’s organizational structure is labyrinthine so it’s anyone’s guess who approved the story. Given the breadth of the author’s recent work it is highly plausible that he was assigned the premise and told to make it work in a short period of time. Following the decision to shut down the magazine there are lots of voices vying for visibility on the front page of .ca, and no one is in a position to turn down work.

 

This is Sportsnet at its worst. This drags everyone else down. Hope the clicks were worth it.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • Andrew Walker hosted PTS this week after his show was bumped for a spring training Jays game. Plenty of people have been at the station longer than him and have never had a sniff at handling the station’s crown jewels. Flags fly forever. Congratulations Andrew.

 

  • No judgment, but does Kate Beirness travel with a staff photographer? She posts a ton of pictures of herself and many of them are not selfies. Also, it’s hard to believe that #drinkthepink  was what they chose to go with.

 

 

  • TSN seems committed to raising the profile of its Leafs Lunch co-hosts. Unfortunately this is coming at the expense of Scott MacArthur‘s show. His first hour is often just random hockey talk with Poulin or Twitter hot mess Patrick. Not great for establishing your brand with the audience.

 

  • TSN is looking to replace the Jays beat reporter (home games only) position MacArthur vacated. This is great news. With The Athletic also hiring a younger guy, this means we will have some fresh voices to complement the solid veteran crew covering the team.

 

  • Hazel Mae was on PTS (6pm hour March 14) as a baseball guest. This was a pleasant change from the endless cycle of Tabler, Campbell, Zaun, Martinez, Wilner, Siddall, and Barker. She’s super smooth on the ears and interesting. I’d like to hear her more often.

 

  • Nice work by Jeff Blair producer Travis MacKenzie booking back to back Dunedin-area expert guests to talk about the Jays’ future in that city. Aside: does anyone care if they move?

 

  • Jeff Blair continues to be one of the worst radio interviewers. (I’m sure he is great one on one in the clubhouse). He struggles to ask a simple, concise, and direct question. Far too often the question is essentially his … it’s essentially his … I mean, basically … it’s his opinion … you know … with a question mark at the end.

 

  • Brady and Price took some time out from talking sports to make fun of “PC-culture” on university campuses.

 

 

  •  Lastly, since it looks like Vancouver will soon be getting competing all-sports radio stations, I wonder if any Vancouver readers would be interested in doing a scouting report on the talent situation over there. If so, email or DM me.

 


 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

photo credit: Sportsnet/Fashionable Male
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