by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email
I have greatly culled the number of accounts I follow over the last several months so I am probably missing out on all kinds of golden moments. However my new policy is not to give publicity to people who consistently produce low quality work, so that’s a price I am willing to pay. Here’s a recent twitter bout that stood out, and raises some interesting questions about coverage, medium, and standards. Interested in your thoughts.
Arash Madani v TSN
This one makes no sense at all on the surface. A reporter reporting on profanity from the losing locker-room is not the most interesting storyline for the audience at home but it’s also not overreaching for negativity. The whole premise of having reporters in the locker room area is so they can capture the mood and get quotes from players in the heat of the moment. As we have discussed at length, it’s getting harder and harder to justify the need for locker room access when post game press conferences where everyone has their clothes on are very easy and cheap to assemble.
So, Madani tweets that the Stamps are not happy with the loss and Marshall Ferguson (@ play by play, weekdays 6-9am @ @Canadian Football League draft analyst, @.ca contributor) goes after him for being negative. Madani’s retort is to frame the issue in the context of telling the game story, and things devolve from there.
For additional context, Madani was on twitter earlier in the week going after the new commissioner for his Bettman-esque views about concussion science.
As the #CFL continues to deny a link between concussions and brain disease, Ottawa football great Mark Kosmos can't recognize many former teammates coming to visit. Kosmos living with many brain issues, a shell of the man he used to be.
A legend. This is what it has become.
— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) November 24, 2017
“The confusion in the press about CTE – no doubt further fueled by plaintiffs’ counsel in the NHL litigation – relates to the simple and incontrovertible fact that none of the brain studies conducted to date can, as a matter of accepted scientific methodology, prove anything about causation [.]” – GB
The case at hand involves a quick trigger finger, obviously, because of issues that are in the background. Madani has been very vocal about the league’s failures, most notably when he criticized the league and its female executives for not speaking out about the TiCats’ hiring and un-hiring of disgraceful human being Art Briles. This was a much harsher criticism than anything that came from the TSN side that day, and TSN personalities were obviously sensitive about it.
— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) August 29, 2017
Criticizing @Ticats for Art Briles is fair. But hope no one moralizing today paid $100 for Mayweather Sat or earned $$ covering his fight.
— Dave Naylor (@TSNDaveNaylor) August 28, 2017
As an aside, the Ticats’ owner seems to have major issues, and the league should be taking notice. His bizarre and unbelievable comments about the Briles hiring — I didn’t like what I saw when I googled him but people vouched for him — were one example, and shortly after that he publicly attacked a member of the CFL media about a story.
This might be a first: an owner trashing a media member on twitter.
CFL has made more news around these parts this year than normal. pic.twitter.com/MPT8PN0GsM
— mike in boston (@mikeinboston) November 6, 2017
If you want to read Drew Edwards’ reply — carefully written and edited rather than slammed into 140/280 characters — go here. You can tell a lot about a person’s professionalism by how they choose to respond to things they don’t agree with. As a partial aside, I have a general policy to be wary of people who have platforms to express themselves in using full sentences and paragraphs but prefer to do it all on Twitter. It says something about their priorities. More on that another time …
The criticism that Arash only shows up when he has something negative to say about the league has been around for a few years now, and has intensified since Bell bought the Argos. As you’ll recall, TSN personalities were very upset when the league allowed its people to go on the FAN first rather than TSN radio to respond to the Briles story.
“I am getting angrier and angrier with the Ti-Cats as this day goes on […] This is self-serving and I will admit that […] you have a radio station in your town that broadcasts your games and you are intentionally bypassing them to give your people to do interviews in Toronto. And you have a TV radio network in Toronto that broadcasts every game and saved this bleeping league in the 90s. And you’re not giving interviews with your people to them; you’re very intentionally giving those people to the competition. Are you kidding me! Do you know what the CFL owes to TSN? […] They are very intentionally punishing TSN and I don’t get it […] He who pays the piper calls the tunes. You owe it to the people who pay you money.” — Derek Taylor
So that’s where things stand. What does it all mean?
I have a couple of thoughts here.
How do people think about journalists using twitter as a “writing” platform. The reason I ask is that Madani’s argument rests on his tweets being “reporting” in the context of story-telling. The issue is that Arash seems to tell most of his CFL stories on twitter exclusively. His SN.ca profile lists a June 2017 story about Don Matthews as his most recent published writing on the CFL. If you go to the CFL section of SN.ca all of the Grey Cup stories are by Donnovan Bennett or the CP/AP wire service.
Here’s my point: if Arash has lots to say about the league’s concussion policies, hiring failures, and Grey Cup stories, why do none of them make it to the website? I am going to plead complete ignorance about the structure of his contract with Rogers. All I have to go on is his SN bio:
“Arash Madani has been with Sportsnet since 2009, covering a gamut of sports – from Hockey Night In Canada to the Olympics, as well as multiple World Series, NBA Finals and Super Bowls. In addition to his television work, he is a regular radio co-host on Prime Time Sports and is a contributor to the online print content on Sportsnet.ca.”
It’s odd to me that Madani has not taken the time to write up his twitter thoughts into a complete story, edited and fact-checked, on either the Briles stuff or the recent concussion discussions. He clearly has a lot to say. My concern is that tweeting is substituting for writing while claiming the cover of “reporting”. There is a difference between the two. As we know all too well, Twitter doesn’t go through an editor. Some in the media have found this out the hard way by tweeting things that turned out not to be true. More thorough journalistic standards would have caught these errors, but since it’s Twitter it’s hard to know whether those standards even apply. ESPN is reportedly flying all its staff to Bristol to try to explain their new twitter policy. It’s a complex issue.
ESPN is flying in all of its talent to Bristol on Dec. 13 to discuss the company's future and new social media policy. Item No. 1: https://t.co/XSG5m16HUk
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) November 28, 2017
Just to clear, I’m interested in the question of whether tweeting is an adequate substitute for writing when it comes to reporters, and more generally how journalists should think about their own tweets. I’m not sure that tweets that don’t lead to published reporting should be given the same “cover” as tweets that are part of a developing story that will eventually be published. Does it really count as reporting if there are no editorial checks in place? Of course you could look at it the other way and say that all tweets are reporting and each author can live and die on the credibility of his or her record. There are certainly plenty of people who report things but are not taken seriously because of their record.
Anyway, I’ll turn this over to you: should the fact that Madani doesn’t write regularly about the CFL but tweets prolifically about the league matter? Does TSN have a valid complaint here?
The larger issue, of course, is the corporate warfare between Rogers and Bell, with Bell owning both a team and the broadcast rights to the CFL. This mirrors, somewhat, Rogers’ ownership of the Jays and control over their broadcasts.
If you’re Arash you can say: “I’m just covering the stories you’re not able or willing to”. Part of me thinks this is what is in fact going on in this case. The network that is not the league’s partner has the editorial freedom to chase down uncomfortable stories.
If everyone agreed to these terms then I could make my peace with it. That way the audience is well served no matter who owns the rights. I doubt this will ever happen since each network wants to stay in the league’s good books for the next round of negotiations. Does anyone doubt the widely held belief that Bettman gave the rights deal to Rogers in part to screw over TSN for perceived over-negativity about the league? I don’t.
Back to the general idea of criticism of properties you don’t own, this is a place TSN has failed as a network in my opinion. They have mostly adopted the view that the less they talk about the Jays the better. They could have said, “come to TSN for the coverage you aren’t going to get from the network that is owned by the team”. As an example, take the recent Shapiro shuffle to bring the media relations department under the “fan engagement” umbrella. (This reads like an Onion headline.) Did anyone at TSN take this up on behalf of the audience? I searched their website but couldn’t find much on the topic.
My point is that TSN is in a good position to be the anti-Sportsnet when it comes to Jays analysis. They could offer a #RealJaysTalk post game show for fans who don’t enjoy the alternative. In a sense I am sad that no one at TSN has taken up the Madani role when it comes to the Jays.
To sum up, whatever you think about Madani’s style, he’s clearly reporting on issues that are relevant. If he is only checking in when something negative is going on I can see why that would rankle, but that’s not a professional criticism. One way to take the steam out of his sails is to beat him to those stories. That is not the direction TSN has gone over the last couple of years on the CFL.
- The CFL playoffs are once again a ratings bonanza for TSN.
- As Jonah noted, the Jays not being in the playoffs, and the success of the Argos and TFC will tilt the annual ratings totals.
- Tons of great writing from Ottawa. I’m still working my way through it all.
- Steve Simmons reported that the Argos will lose $10M this season. That strikes me as a crazy high number.
That’s all for today. See you in May.
mike (not really in boston)
photo credit: CFL.ca