Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail


Good morning readers. I’m in beautiful Pittsburgh on a sports media consulting gig.


I’m shutting down my radio podcast subscriptions until September, but will try to keep up with the work from folks  given a shot at making a mark while the heavyweights bunker down in their cottages. As we enter the dead summer season I’ll be writing more abstract “state of the industry” stuff. Sportsnet Radio West is obviously the big story we are all watching, since it brings new jobs and a new forum for TSN and SN to compete.


As always, please continue to send along good and bad articles, interviews, and segments. If you have a radio show or podcast or blog you want me to promote, send me a link. DMs are open, and I read every comment posted here. It’s important to me to be receptive to constructive criticism so feel free to pass on feedback as well.


Save our Beats


The big industry news this week is the first glimpse we saw of what a government bailout for journalism might look like. The largest lobby group for traditional journalism put together a series of proposals for how to spend the not yet determined amount. The outline is here, and the details are here.



The most germane part is this: 35% subsidy for the salary and expenses of the news room, capped at $85,000 per journalist. So someone making $60,000 per year to cover city hall with an additional $10,000 in expenses would cost a newspaper $45,500 instead of $70,000. That’s a huge savings.


The reaction to the concept of a bailout was swift and castigatory from some of the public but also from people in the industry. Consider the following quote, which was repeated widely by many opponents of the plan:


“This is not a case of market failure, but industry failure. Nothing whatever prevents readers from buying what we are selling. There is only our own proven incompetence at providing them with a product worth paying for. As an industry we have made every mistake it is possible to make, sometimes twice. Now we’re going to make you pay for them.” Andrew Coyne (NP)


The Athletic Toronto Editor-in-Chief James Mirtle told me:


“Subsidizing the newspapers will give them an unfair advantage over start-ups like ours, which by design directly support the writers over executives and management. It will be subsidizing the considerable (and unneeded) overhead costs associated with legacy media companies. It will be subsidizing a business model we already know will no longer work, delaying badly needed innovation in the industry. If anything, the government should be supporting ingenuity and the creation of new media entities built by journalists […] The industry has to change. This won’t help that happen.” — James Mirtle (Athletic)

Others with whom I spoke worried about objectivity if the government were to be involved in distributing subsidies to newsrooms. Presumably these people have the same concern about the CBC. Personally, I don’t. I think we have a strong record in Canada of providing high quality relatively neutral public broadcasting.


The interesting question is whether we need more of it, and whether newspapers have proven that they can provide something the CBC cannot or will not.


One of the best comments on what’s ailing legacy journalism is this:


“While the medium in which you consume news continues to evolve, our jobs as journalists remains unchanged at the core. We still must shed light on the truth and tell compelling stories. That’s what you’ve paid us for by reading and subscribing for generations. The only difference now is it’s not as easy in the sports world as it used to be. And we could complain about that, or we could stop being lazy and go back to doing our jobs.” — Matt Stephens, The Coloradan


That’s from a sports writer complaining about local media accepting being denied access by coaches, and getting one-word answers from media-trained athletes. Even if sports writers take his advice and stop blaming everyone else for their problems, there remains the industry wide shift at the editorial level. Employers have changed their priorities and the written word is not at the top of that list. Richard Deitsch (SI) recently asked: “how can ESPN claim to be as committed to journalism today after the elimination of journalists?” (See here for discussion).


Fox and MTV have recently shifted to video stories over written accounts. This further reduces the number of jobs that journalists tend to be better at than the average media member.



And finally, looming large in the background is the fact that the lifeblood of the largest sports media employers continues to dwindle.


“The most recent Nielsen estimates have ESPN in 87 million homes — a loss of 13 million subscribers over six years. With a current affiliate fee of $8 per subscriber per month, that’s more than $1 billion per year in affiliate revenue that ESPN is not getting.”


To summarize: things are looking bad for sports writers. Before delving in to what this means for Toronto, it’s worth noting a few things:


  • The current proposal includes money for digital-only publications, however the lobby body doesn’t allow these outlets to be voting members of their organization. (See here). So there is a significant concern that the subsidy will heavily go to supporting those outlets clinging to the past rather than those who are already part of the future.


  • The publishing industry has an honesty problem. One example: Rogers took subsidies from the government for its magazines and then shuttered or reduced all of them … and kept the money. Another example: at launch we were told Star Touch had lots of operational budget in the bank to grow the product. So, the concern that outlets would take a government subsidy under one guise and spend it on content no one wants written by people whose opinion no one values is very real.


  • In order to be eligible for government subsidy an outlet must be publishing news with a “civic” component.


This last point means that all sports sections would be ineligible for the bailout, and the first point means that digital-only outlets like The Athletic,, and won’t be able to join this organization.


Verdict: sporting hot mess.


Is Sports Journalism Worth Saving?


These are early days and public policy is always a negotiation between various interested groups. So let’s posit, just for the sake of discussion, that sports will become eligible in the fullness of time. On that assumption, here are two questions:


1) What kind of sports journalism should we fight to keep from disappearing?


2) How much of the best kind of journalism is currently being done by newspapers?


Mull those questions and consider some evidence from the last week.


TSN’s Rick Westhead wrote a very long piece about the NHLPA and the three agents who are challenging the leadership of Donal Fehr. The piece is a great example of what real journalists do best: lots of research, lots of interviews, digging up some dirt, putting everything in context, and letting the reader decide what conclusion to draw.


(My conclusion: if the NHLPA chases Fehr away, they will regret it for decades. The 2004 lockout was before his time and escrow is the price the players paid for not being unified during that lockout. Gary keeps his owners on a short leash. In a 700+ member organization there will always be malcontents and people who think they can do it better. Keep that in-house! The only group to benefit from publicity about NHLPA strife is the owners. Let Don do his job.)


When TSN’s story broke on Wednesday the 28th at 7pm I asked people at Sportsnet and elsewhere who would be covering this developing story for them. A few people told me that they expected Sportsnet to assign it to Johnston or Friedman or Shannon.


On June 29th at 7pm a headline popped up in my feed pointing to to read about “Player Agents Respond to Talk of Discontent.” The published story is a summary of Westhead’s article — without attribution or mention of TSN — plus some transcriptions of PTS interviews with Walsh and Thun. The cherry on top is that in addition to doing no original reporting, credits the story to “staff”.


You have a major story, and you employ lots of very skilled journalists. Yet the best you can produce in 24 hours is aggregated content? When I tweeted about this, someone from Sportsnet took umbrage:



If, like me, you have no idea who this is, his bio boasts the title of “managing editor” for This explains the reason he is upset, and I can sympathize. If my editorial vision was to devote resources to Leafs fishing trip controversies instead of genuine journalism I wouldn’t want people drawing attention to that either.


So, instead of chasing down a developing story with major implications for the future of the NHL, Sportsnet leadership are reading the feeds of bloggers they don’t follow, and publicly displaying their struggles with reading comprehension. To compound the embarrassment, if you’re going to deign to admit to reading the basementdwellers you would hope your cunning takedown would get more plaudits from co-workers and fans. At least when Steve Simmons makes sarcastic remarks about me he gets more than one retweet and zero likes.


Bonus: I searched my notes for any records I have of this chap. What popped up was more evidence that Sportsnet’s Managing Editor has some work to do when it comes to the English language before his next promotion.




Back to the issues at hand: who is Westhead’s counterpart at Sportsnet? Or The Star or the Sun or the Globe?


We will see in the days ahead if those outlets are able to add to the public discourse on the NHLPA that TSN has started. This is exactly the kind of story into which I would expect trained journalists to want to sink their teeth. Between the local papers and the digitals there’s around 40-50 real journalists employed by sports outlets in the city. That’s a lot of person-power. What will the industry have to show for itself on this sports story about our national sport?


When you add up the number of bodies and the amount of content produced every week, one question that comes to mind is this: what is the special value that newspaper journalists add to the marketplace?


Here are a few possibilities:


  1. access – arenas credential reputable outlets
  2. credibility – papers have track records to back them up
  3. money – newspapers have travel and research budgets


These criteria are obviously contestable. Many arenas credential bloggers and people who have professional affiliations but don’t work at a paper. Further, how many important stories depend on being at the rink? Next: newspapers do have track records (good and not so good), but how many sports stories depend on the credibility of the outlet? Quick challenge: name some story from the last couple of years where you thought “I don’t really believe this but since it’s Paper XYZ publishing it, I guess it must be true.” Same point about money: name some big sports story that wouldn’t have been written but for the huge research resources of a newspaper?


So I’ll come back to my two questions above and kick it over to you: 1) what’s the kind of sports journalism that needs saving, and 2) how much of that journalism are papers publishing right now?


Media Ethics 101: Giving Credit


I’ll come back to this another week. Thanks to those with whom I spoke this past week.


Insider Free Agency


With the silly season upon us I thought it might be fun to have our own sports media free agency period. Here’s the task: suppose every hockey insider is available for hire and you run a major network that pumps out content on TV, radio, and the web. Who are your top 5 insiders?


The consensus #1 is off the list due to the Gretzky Rule, but everyone else is up for grabs. Pick your top 4 from the randomized list below and we will see whom the market trusts to deliver NHL inside info after The Bobfather. I included everyone I could think of who appears on one of those hockey panel shows. Other options have been crowd-sourced. If I forgot someone important, let me know and I can add him/her in. Names have a Toronto focus, obviously.



Quick Hits


The trend of replacing text news with video stories seems to be driven by bad intel on what younger people want. Is it possible that it’s the 55+ crowd who don’t want to read?


Star Touch is dead and 30 people are out of jobs but management is “justifiably proud” of their accomplishments. That must be comforting to the people who lost their jobs. I loved Star Touch and would pay – a lot – to be able to read all my sports news there. First company that buys the tech from La Presse and offers a Netflix type subscription, perhaps with various tiers, gets my money for a good long while.


Speaking of subscriptions, DK on Sports in Pittsburgh has 40,000 subscribers in a market of 2.3M people, somewhere around  1/3 the size of the greater Toronto market. They are cheaper than The Athletic, but don’t have as large a network of writers. They also offer a lifetime subscription. If The Athletic is thinking of fundraising, this would be a good option to try. I would pay. Email for info on how much I would be willing to pay for a lifetime subscription.


La Presse, whose technology is being used by Star Touch, is on its way to being paper-free.


Pride Week item #1: WEEI-FM in Boston has a podcast hosted by two gay sports media members called Two Outs. For reference, in terms of stature Steve Buckley is a combination of Richard Griffin and Steve Simmons. He was a major player in driving Red Sox opinion for decades. He came out on the Boston equivalent of PTS about 7 years ago.


Pride Week item #2: nothing has been written by the legion of local writers about Kevin Pillar and LGBTQ issues since June 2nd when it was announced he would be donating salary to a related cause. I’m disappointed and surprised no one followed up this past week. American outlets did a better job with this local story.


With all the Vegas celebrations this past week, let’s not forget that Quebec City was lauded by hockey media for biding its time and staying quiet. I wonder how the city and province feel now?


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Eric Smith has been filling in on the FAN morning show and sounding great. Given that it’s off-season for NBA, perhaps they can find him a permanent co-host gig somewhere.


  • A National Post columnist called out someone in the sports media without naming names re: the Ken Pagan story. “The greatest crime in the story of Pagan the beer tosser may have been the chance it gave the cerebral-prone sportswriter to wax indignant, to point out that as one put it, “Aleppo matters. The Blue Jays in the playoffs does not matter.” If you don’t know the reference your life is blessed beyond measure. (I’m just making an educated guess).


  • TSN’s The Reporters (sometimes featuring people who are not actual reporters) is back on Sunday mornings and more importantly is going to be syndicated on TSN radio’s network of 7 stations. I have been a big advocate of TSN radio trying to do more inter-market programming, so this is a promising step.


  • If you needed more proof that sports media is the ultimate locker room and will be the last place to professionalize when it comes to gender equality … Seriously, WTF Howard?



  • Speaking of women in sports, Andrew Walker can tweet about his cats and Eric Smith can tweet about his haircuts, but god forbid Kristen Shilton tweet about rainbows. Who doesn’t like rainbows?



  • (note re: above: if all sports media restricted use of their work verified accounts to tweets about sports, I’d be OK with that. Until they all do, try to make fun of their non-sports tweets without referring to gender. It’s not that hard.)


  • Which highly paid Bell/Rogers employee did a better job stoking tribal loyalties among the rank and file workers this week?


Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:


  • Dean Blundell’s non-compete clause has expired and he is going head to head with Mike Richards this summer. Let’s check in on what he is tweeting for his 81k followers (that’s a few hundred fewer than the number he had 2 years ago, and strangely the same number he had for basically his entire tenure at Sportsnet.)


  • (note: I did not receive compensation for the above promotional mention of Blundell’s new site and its roster of 24 writers. That was a freebie.)


  • Dirk Hayhurst on Osuna (Overdrive June 26, hour 3), paraphrased: “Here you have a key cog saying “I need to take time.”  Think of how empowering that is for everybody else.” 10/10 from Mr. Garfoose. Get this man back to Toronto full-time.


  • No one does a better job of repeating opinions into facts than Gary Bettman. See his 5 minute interview with the Bangbus Crew (Overdrive Friday June 23rd, 3rd hour). None of them were able to handle Gary Houdini’s magic assertion act. Everyone had a good time though, and 1050 got some fun soundbites. Win-win.


  • We now have our homegrown equivalent to the Madden Curse. Since being featured in Stephen Brunt documentaries, Estrada is giving up a hit to roughly every other batter he faces, and Sanchez can’t get off the DL.


  • Happy Canada Day. Thanks to all the Toronto media who put up with the nonsense in this space.


Note: A small website like ours doesn’t drive enough traffic to generate revenue in the current digital economic structure. Maybe in the future there will be a way for us to make a few bucks without resorting to obtrusive ads, subscription fees, or clickbait sponsored content. In the meantime I am going to put a tip jar at the end of my posts. If you like what you read here, consider dropping a few bucks in. Thanks – mike

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thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

photo credit: Fox
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July 1, 2017 1:33 pm

A poll of go to NHL insiders doesn’t include Bob McKenzie as a choice? :/

Paul G.
Paul G.
July 1, 2017 2:27 pm

You beat me to it… Bob McKenzie?

Original Mitch
Original Mitch
July 1, 2017 3:56 pm

How (un) ironic that Sportsnet employs bullies behind the scenes just like they do in front of the mic. I guess it really is a culture of insecurity at Rogers and not just a few like Cox or Walker. Sad really, especially for the good folks who work hard there and are good people. Maybe I’m way off, but I have a hard time ever imagining a tweet like you received coming from a tsn employee.

Great work Mike, one of your best articles

Happy Canada everyone!

July 2, 2017 7:16 am

Mike’s reference to the Gretzky Rule and The Bob father means except for Bob McKenzie who are the top 5. He is acknowledging that he is in a class by himself in this regard.

Steve in Waterloo
Steve in Waterloo
July 2, 2017 10:27 am

I’m 53 and I like to read my sports news. #1 son is 24 and wakes up every morning to watch sports replays and videos. Not sure he has touched a newspaper in months. Guess who’s driving the video craze?

Mike S
Mike S
July 2, 2017 3:04 pm

I am a huge fan of Friedman and would definitely put up him in my top 5 hockey insiders

Having said that, nobody beats himself up more when reporting something incorrect than Friedman……….so he is probably being pretty hard on himself after jumping the gun and saying “Matt Duchene has been traded to Nashville” on yesterday’s Sportsnet hockey free agency show……….he corrected himself a couple of minutes later but you could tell he was not happy that he made that kind of mistake

July 2, 2017 3:36 pm

I have a question for TSM readers:

Why do you think Andrew Stoeten has been unable to find a full-time gig with either Sportsnet or TSN? Considering the popularity of the Jays, shouldn’t it be a pretty obvious move to snap him up? I believe I’m right in saying his podcast is the most popular Jays podcast.

July 2, 2017 6:37 pm

Somebody ask Wilner if it is still too early – The Jays WCE# is 76 – Maybe Cox was right and it is time to ‘blow it up’ and it is a sure bet that McCown was wrong about Liriano winning the Cy Young –

July 2, 2017 9:51 pm

MontFromLondonOnt – Hasn’t Cox now denied ever stating “blow it up” regarding the blue jays? I seem to recall in a few PTS roundtables when he and Shannon started sniping at each other that Damian did the complete backpedal, especially during the Jays winning streak they had going on.

Mike S
Mike S
July 3, 2017 10:35 am

According to the 1050 website it looks like there will be a show on weekdays from 11:00 to 1:00 called “Toronto Today” which will replace Leafs Lunch during the summer

Meanwhile their highest rated show (OverDrive) will basically be in hibernation for the next 9 weeks………they will still call it “OverDrive” but my guess is that it will be a steady diet of Hayes (when he is not on vacation) along with guys like MacArthur, Wheeler, Hogan, Derek Taylor, Jonas Siegel, etc

July 3, 2017 11:12 am

The reason people don’t want to pay for subscriptions or watch ads in order to access content is that the content is not worth very much. Lots of big egos in sports media but the truth is they are getting paid to do something no one really wants.

Sam Irving
Sam Irving
July 3, 2017 12:02 pm

what is the special value that newspaper journalists add to the marketplace?

I’ll take your question and extend it: how much sports media content would you miss if it disappeared? I mean, there’s just so much redundancy. How many identical Kyle Lowry stories were there this week? Imagine if TSN and SPORTSNET and all the papers were to get together and exclusively use Canadian Press. Think of how much money they would save and have to spend on other stuff.

Rick in Barrie
Rick in Barrie
July 4, 2017 2:40 pm

It has already been mentioned but the biggest issue facing sports media is quality content. There is very little I’d be willing to shell out my hard earned dollars for. While some quality writing and journalism exist, it is rare. I’ve been finding the pieces written in the local rags are no where near the quality they use to be (even 10-15 years ago) and the online content is fluffy at best. I’m not saying every piece needs to be an absolute show stopper – but it doesn’t feel like journalist these days aren’t putting their heart and soul into their work. So would I support the government in subsidizing an industry that has yet to get its house in order? No. Not every decision made by an organization/industry is going to be the best choice but when companies continue to make atrocious decisions with little to no consequence…it makes it hard to swallow propping them up. Ex. StarTouch was dead upon arrival – the idea was a step in a direction but the execution and delivery was done by a group who don’t get it.

As for video vs print journalism? I probably split my time between both. I’ll tell you though…and this goes for you @John_Grigg – a website of click bait headlines and 2+ videos before a clip? Hard no. Makes your site a complete pass.

July 4, 2017 6:16 pm


I agree. I’m interested to see where we’ll be even in the next ten years with regards to quality. Used to be you had to work your tail off to climb the ladder in a given profession in order to get seen on a big stage, whether it be writing for a big publication, getting on a major label as a musician, getting called over to the couch on Carson. Obviously there were exceptions, but this was how things worked. Few people (again, there were exceptions) made headlines without having much talent. Thanks to the internet, we have more content but a lot of it is pure shit. From youtube “stars” to basement bloggers to mediocre bands, its everywhere.

Now I’m sure people could argue that it’s better for performers/writers etc… to have the internet as an outlet, but it’s not necessarily better for me the consumer because a) I’d have to wade through the garbage to find something I enjoy and b) as we’re seeing already, why pay talented people when the average consumer will consume just about anything (aka the kardashian model).

I’m a crotchety old 36 so I’d be interested what some of the younger folks think…

July 4, 2017 8:10 pm

Why is this called a government bailout? Call it what is, which is a taxpayer bailout and it should not be done. Let Paul Godfrey for example spare a few hundred thousand dollars either from his salary or from his bonus to fund his journalists.

July 5, 2017 7:34 am

I saw someone on twitter say that Damien Cox has to be fed questions on PTS during non-hockey segments. Anyone know if there is any truth to that? Also, is it common for sportsradio hosts to have to be fed questions by producers?

July 5, 2017 9:19 am

Well said about Godfrey – What a detestable person who somehow always lands on his feet –

July 5, 2017 3:34 pm

I’m guessing it’s not a stretch to be thinking by MiB’s twitter feed today that John Shannon is heading out of the Toronto market (to the cheers of all) and heading to the new station in Vancouver. My question is who would be replacing him at Rogers’ flagship for being the NHL apologist/press agent? Outside of him I can’t think any of the current hockey pucks at sportsnet/590 who are as much of a Pro-NHL/Pro-league as Shannon was.

It also make me ask who would replace him in Bob’s circle of co-hosts? Would this open the door for Bob and Brunt to mend fences and for Steven to sit in every so often? Would it become the worst case scenario and end up being more Ken Reid?

July 5, 2017 8:02 pm

I wonder how many times they’re watching TV, reading Tweets, or listening to radio/pods at the various sports agencies and laughing their asses off saying ‘Can you believe how fast I got that bullshit on the air?’

Granted, Insiders often communicate accurate information, but how often are the Insiders given accurate information in the form of a trade? : ‘Blow-horn this BS in exchange for future considerations’ ‘Include my player as rumoured to be going to the Leafs and I might give you first dibs on the John Doe signing’ ‘Report: “McDavid rumoured to be at 13.25 per year” in advance of July 1st signings to raise all boats a bit’ Rumour? -or direct text message from agent to Insider to manipulate the market? Is it reporting or puppetry?

In other news, is Walker on hiatus? No podcasts July 4,5 as of 8 pm July 5.

Mike S
Mike S
July 5, 2017 9:57 pm


There was no Walker show on July 4 and July 5 because of afternoon Blue Jays games……….PTS was only 2 hours long ( 5 PM to 7 PM) on each of those days for the same reason

Mullah Kintyre
Mullah Kintyre
July 6, 2017 9:27 am

Since I haven’t seen this mentioned here yet, TSN 1050 is now available on the HD FM signal of 104.5 (CHUM-FM), for the few people who have HD-FM radio receivers.

I almost never listen to the station (and barely any terrestrial AM/FM radio anymore), but did check it out for a few minutes this morning during Cauz and Landsberg. The audio quality is noticeably better than on the AM signal. More importantly, I would assume the FM signal broadcast from the CN Tower probably reaches farther than the AM signal which uses “a smaller transmission facility, located along the waterfront” in Mississauga, according to Wikipedia.,_Mississauga

I suppose that would explain the weakness of the 1050 AM reception to the north and east.

(Another) Andrew
(Another) Andrew
July 7, 2017 9:39 am

OT but media related.

TV networks intentionally misspell names of shows to hide poor ratings

Who knows what other corruption goes on? The corporate media can’t die soon enough.

July 7, 2017 11:02 am

Frank Seravalli seems like an obvious omission from your poll. Dude is legit. Craig Custance is another, but he obviously isn’t in TSN or SN, so I get that.

Simulcast in Mississauga
Simulcast in Mississauga
July 7, 2017 12:04 pm

To spend government money on propping up sports journalism jobs in print/ tv/ radio is a kick in the groin for beleaguered taxpayers. Everyone in the media has their hands out it seems while poor Joe and Jane in Scarborough or Mississauga pick up the tab. Old style sports media jobs, especially in the print media, are dying rapidly as sports media transforms into something very different than it was even five years ago. Many years ago there likely was a call from the self interested to government subsidize milkmen, switchboard operators, and typists; demands to pour money into sports media to maintain obsolete,antediluvian jobs fall into the same category. Sports media types should be looking ahead, not back.

July 7, 2017 6:43 pm

Y’all hear what McCown said about NHL players compared to other North American Leagues? “They tend to be nicer kids” “tend be more socially adept”…the overwhelming white league, just a coincidence he praises them that way, right?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x