Seen & Heard – Weekday Edition

Seen & Heard – Weekday Edition

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail

 

Good morning sports media fans. Apologies for the lack of timely posting. Busy days at the mousetrap factory. Here’s a collection of items that have been collecting in my notes app over the last couple of weeks. Please add your own thoughts below.

 

Hearing Voices

 

The Athletic finally published an article that has been in the works for several weeks. It’s a topic we have covered many many times here at TSM over the last decade. Sean Fitz-Gerald took some time off from asking his friends and colleagues about their favourite cupcakes to tackle the question of why there are so few women on sports radio. You can read the story here. It is good.

 

Fitz-Gerald and Lisa Dillman tell the story of Michelle Sturino who bounced around sports TV and radio, and was most recently with SIRIUSXM’s NHL Network Radio. The piece then delves into a statistic that readers of this site know all too well.

 

“Women accounted for fewer than 5 percent of voices heard on Canadian sports talk radio last year, according to research from Ryerson University, in Toronto. At Sportsnet 590 The FAN, where Sturino auditioned among dozens of men more than a decade ago, no women work as full-time hosts.”

 

The Athletic received the follow quote from Julie Adam, SVP of TV & Radio at Rogers, in response:

 

“[The company has] an aggressive plan to increase that representation through regular contributions from female guests, analysts and sportscasters both internally and externally as well as coaching and mentoring promising talent to take on larger roles across our stations.”

 

Here’s what the same Julie Adam had to say when the station proudly hired Dean Blundell, jettisoning their highly successful Brady & Walker morning show:

 

“We know Dean, we know he’s a big sports fan, he’s very knowledgeable about sports, and we know he likes to talk about sports […] I think he’s a smart broadcaster. […] Rogers has a zero tolerance in regards to discrimination, and our track record speaks to that, and we wouldn’t have him in if we felt there was going to be any risk to our reputation regarding that. The door at Rogers is always open for very talented high-performers and certainly Dean is a very talented on-air person.”

 

You can read more about how the media world responded to the Blundell hiring back in 2015 here.

 

My point is that “the company” has for years been in a position to do all the things Adam mentions and has consistently failed to do them. After dumping Blundell in 2017 this the line-up they went with instead.

 

 

This is also the network that covered for Gregg Zaun for years while colleagues were complaining about his behaviour on the job.

 

 

That being said, there is a new boss in town and Jordan Banks has affirmed his intentions to bring a more progressive culture to Rogers:

 

 

If you are skeptical that a culture shift is needed, consider this:

 

 

One very notable omission in The Athletic piece is the curious case of Ashley Docking. She was the first woman hired to host a show at FAN590 in over a decade. (Was there anyone since Barb DiGiulio? I can’t think of one.) And six months later she was gone with barely any mention from her bosses or colleagues. The Athletic piece would have been a lot stronger with the inclusion of her perspective, or that of the people who hired and fired her.

 

Docking recently appeared on Ryerson’s Pass The Mic series, which you can find here.

 

Listening to Voices

 

The reaction to the Athletic piece was swift, and predictable. The first volley came from Edmonton TSN1260’s Jason Gregor (70k followers):

 

 

The tweet has since been deleted, but not before many women in the industry weighed in:

 

 

 

 

Earlier, a similar predictable dynamic played out when Dean Blundell retweeted an early October blog post he wrote about hockey reporter Hailey Salvian, accusing her of manufacturing claims of gender discrimination. This led to a series of rejoinders from various media types:

 

 

 

 

and also

 

 

Some women who work with/for Dean came to Dean’s defense:

 

 

 

The Gregor tweet and the Blundell blog post provide some insight into how women’s successes and failures are perceived by many in the industry. This sums it up pretty well:

 

 

As I have been writing for many years, a big part of this issue is the absolute and relative tiny number of women working in positions that don’t involve reading off teleprompters, sitting under glass desks, or providing traffic updates. There are too few women writing opinion columns, hosting radio shows, and speaking on debate panels.

 

This underrepresentation makes the bar higher for every woman who eventually gets hired to one of these positions. Maybe Docking wasn’t your cup of tea but was she that much worse at the job than Ben Ennis or JD Bunkis or any of the other white guys who seem to stick around forever? Why is there always room in the schedule for Roger Lajoie but women can’t get a foot in the door, or get longer than 6 months to show their worth?

 

Blundell’s work just underlines how much higher the bar is for women. Their mistakes are a federal case, but his?

 

 

I’ll make one more point here: where are the tweets from hockey’s most influential voices? Ian Mendes (70k followers) stood up for his colleague:

 

 

But where are the tweets from the national insiders with six and seven figure follower counts? Remember that John Shannon claimed he didn’t see any sexism during his time in hockey media:

 

 

You have to try very hard not to see things that are right in front you, and it seems from the silence that many of hockey’s elite men are putting in the work. If you can’t bother to tweet out a simple statement when others are talking about a pressing social issue within your backyard, then what’s the point of having a platform? These are the same people who will eventually claim they can’t comment on something they didn’t see or hear.

 

Maybe all the heavyweights are voicing their support privately. This harkens back to something Kayla Grey said a few weeks ago:

 

 

Update: Jason Gregor has issued an apology.

 

 

Quick Hits

 

Andrew Stoeten was fired from The Athletic last week. Their Jays coverage now lacks someone to provide commentary, with Kaitlyn McGrath largely doing game stories and player features. Their masthead is also slimmer overall than it was a year ago. With $1/month and 40% off subscription offers having been the norm for the last 3 years, cutbacks were not unexpected.

 

There is a lot of talk about ratings these days, with stories coming out of the US showing that MLB regional viewership is up in many places, including Toronto, but ratings are down overall. The issue is much much worse in the NBA and NHL. “Ratings for the N.B.A. finals were down 49 percent, and the N.H.L.’s Stanley Cup finals were down a whopping 61 percent,” per this NY Times story from Kevin Draper.

 

The Hockey Diversity Alliance cut ties with the NHL recently over a failure to make progress, stating “it is clear that the NHL is not prepared to make any measurable commitments to end systemic racism in hockey.” This is on brand for the NHL, sadly, who are run by a commissioner who doubts the science on concussions.

 

The CFL seems to be spinning its tires since canceling the season. Arash Madani has been tweet-reporting about this, while also showing up on non-Sportsnet outlets to discuss it, as summarized here. He has not written a story for Sportsnet at this time. His last byline was from three months ago.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

Madani’s obvious contempt for Ambrosie remains a constant. I’m not sure why Ambrosie would ever take his calls going forward.

 

 

People like to hate on Steve Simmons, yet I found this piece to be a fun and interesting behind the scenes look at his relationship with Brian Burke. The latter has taken many shots at Simmons over the years, and it is nice to read a professional response rather than name calling.

 

That said, there was also this, from his Sunday column: “How can Brian Burke be such a fine father and, at times, such a despicable human being? The way Burke writes about Steve Moore in his recent book, Burke’s Law, is enough to turn your stomach. Not a word of sympathy. It’s 16 years after the horrible incident that cost Moore his career, and Burke piles on him in the book, apparently sad about what happened to Todd Bertuzzi’s career, with not an ounce of empathy for the injured Moore, who he denigrates as a minor leaguer, like that meant it was OK to ruin his life.”

 

Dave Feschuk wrote about the gap between rich and poor on the Leafs’ current roster: “Negotiations around the priciest deals on Toronto’s salary-cap chart, after all, have been notoriously team discount free. Sure, John Tavares can make the case he took less money than the open market would have provided when he accepted a seven-year deal worth $77 million a couple of summers ago. But the story goes that Tavares did grind the Leafs for an extra million a year or so at the tail end of negotiations — an extra million that would come in awfully handy right about now.”

 

I’m not sure I understand his point: he states that Tavares took less to come here. Doesn’t that undermine the premise that the priciest deals didn’t involve discounts? It would also have been nice for a citation on that “story” he mentions.

 

Ryerson and TSN have teamed up on a BIPOC internship program. This is great and much needed. The internship is linked with the network’s signature desk show, Jay & Dan, the latter of whom recently returned from a personal leave. One of the major complaints we hear around here is that internships at TSN and Sportsnet largely involve grunt work and getting people coffee rather than learning a craft. It’s also a place for network stars to place their kids. It will be interesting to see what this program leads to in terms of meaningful work for these interns.

 

TSN and Bell were partners with the recently killed Quibi streaming service. TSN hosted something called Sports AM. The show and the partnership were celebrated on the network’s viral vertical Bardown. The story is credited to Bardown Staff and is just marketing copy masquerading as news. The “story” somehow manages to get the explanation for the name Quibi wrong.

 

Best wishes to John Lott in retirement. He was a much needed voice on the Jays beat over the last several years.

 


 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

IMAGE CREDIT: Ryerson University

Editors note:

Added after original post:

by TSM

Several years back I was waiting for my son to finish a skating lesson in Toronto when I got a tap on my shoulder. “Are you the Toronto Sports Media guy?” a familiar voice asked me. I had never been asked that before so it took me a second to answer yes and recognize that the familiar voice was that of former Toronto Maple Leaf player turned broadcaster Nick Kypreos. What I learned from that day forward which is echoed in his new book, “Undrafted: Hockey, Family, and What it Takes to Be a Pro.” Nick Kypreos is a good guy with strong family roots and a genuine appreciation for hard work and a recognition for where he came from and who he is. The book is full of great stories that will make any hockey fan of a certain age smile and wince at the same time. What really resonates though is the impact his parents, coaches, teammates, and his wife have all had on Kypreos as he has moved through his journey from tyke hockey player to a peddler of pineapple booze and podcaster. Nick talks about growing up, appreciating what he has, making it to the NHL, and then the challenges of being a non- NHL star thrown into a super competitive role as a broadcaster. Great stories for all to listen to.

Here’s Nick on all of this and more:

Brought to you by Bleav, Betonline.ag and our friends at Jiffy on Demand – use the word SAVE at checkout for $25 off your first Jiffy job 🙂

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COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 15
  • comment-avatar

    Wonderfully written article, but it feels like there are still too many folks with a “problem, what problem?” attitude towards women and other marginalized groups in sports reporting.

    Why does it take an actual incident (for example Gregg Zaun) before someone goes “yeah, there’s a problem here, let’s do something”
    I mean if you walk outside your workplace and notice that it looks really diverse outside as opposed to inside, doesn’t that raise at least some concern? Then again as a person with a visible disability, I shouldn’t surprised either. The last mainstream news reporter with a visible disability I can remember was David Onley.

  • comment-avatar

    Women in radio… I remember when the Fan would broadcast The Fabulous Sports Babe show and I often listened. She knew sports. She was credible. She was funny. And her voice wasn’t annoying. It worked. I live in Toronto. There are not many women on sports radio here. Andi Petrillo is really the only prominent voice — and she’s terrible. On a show with Dave Poulin last Christmas I listened to her talk about her parents for 10 minutes before I changed content. On another Leafs Lunch show she opened with five minutes about her watch. I find her voice, at times, difficult to listen to and her questions often miss the mark. I don’t have an issue with her as a woman on the radio. I have an issue with her as a broadcaster. That said, I don’t like Roe when he fills in and the only guy that worked was Hayes (and he’s on another show). It seems like you can’t criticize someone because of their gender and that’s wrong. I would not mind if J. Hedger were given a try on Leafs Lunch. She’s bright. Has a great voice and asks relevant questions.
    I think the comments from Blundell speak to what he is all about. I didn’t like him on the Edge and could not believe the Fan hired him. He is despicable. This blog gives him too much attention.
    I don’t know why there aren’t more women on sports radio. But the recipe for success is close to the following: You must have a voice that doesn’t make people cringe. You have to have credible sports knowledge across a few sports. You have to have valid opinions and be able to defend them without getting upset. You have to be at least somewhat funny (but it can’t be forced). You have to be able to improvise. Easily generate conversation. And you can’t take yourself too seriously. If you have these qualities, you could be a sports radio broadcaster. Man or woman.

  • comment-avatar

    Good post! I think the lack of women (and people of colour) in local sports radio is really ridiculous at this point. Even granting that sports radio is likely to always be more male focussed, it shouldn’t be to this degree. I think part of the problem in this market is that hockey culture is inherently conservative, and the hockey media in Canada treats the sport with total reverence and as though its immune from criticism (one of the reasons why I was always a Bobcat fan – he was a rare one who didn’t do that). So you end up having a lot of commentators and analysts who sound the same and look the same because that’s how it’s always been done. I think it needs a bit of a shakeup.

    In terms of sports radio, The Fan and TSN 1050 have no excuse for how non diverse their lineups are. Both stations are basically bottoming out right now, ratings wise. Maybe each station has one show worth saving on it (Overdrive and Writers Bloc imo). So why wouldn’t they try something different in mid mornings or afternoons, try to diversify their talent base and maybe their audience? I always think of the massive crowds we’d see at Jurassic Park, and how you’d have no idea Toronto was remotely this diverse if you based it on the sports radio.

    I actually get the sense that both sports radio stations have almost given up to a degree. Both lineups are so weak, using the exact same formulas for their morning shows and lunch shows. As podcasts grow more and more popular, I wonder if 590 and 1050 will become irrelevant in the near future. Maybe they already are!

  • comment-avatar

    I honestly don’t know what the solution is when it comes to women on radio.

    For one, if you’re an aspiring female broadcaster, would you rather be faceless being a voice behind a microphone on the radio, or be front and centre on TV? Is it bad to say? Maybe. Is it the truth however? Yes. Your beauty gets wasted on radio. I think there’s a reason why Kate Beirness, Danielle Michaud and Kayla Grey are doing additional work as sideline reporters for the Raptors than asking to host a 2-hour TV show.

    I also think the pool to draw from is small. It’s one thing to be able to read off a teleprompter, it’s another to carry a show for a couple hours. Again, it may be bad to say, but that too is true. But it does not apply to just women — it most definitely applies to men too. Someone like Kate Beirness has wide enough sports knowledge that she’d be able to carry on her own show. Kristen Shilton can fill in for Andi Petrillo. Beyond that though, who really is out there? (Don’t get me wrong though…the male talent on both stations has declined rapidly the last couple years)

    Lastly, let’s say either of the stations (TSN would most likely be the one to actually do it) decided to have an all female radio show. Two co-hosts, with a third wheel chiming in and doing updates — similar set up to what we see now. From a business perspective, would there be a huge market for it to justify the costs and salaries, enough to let it grow organically over a 1/3/5/10-year period? Forget about misogynistic men who couldn’t be bothered listening to two “chicks” talking on the radio about sports (you know they’re out there). Would there be enough of a female audience to make it worth their while to take their lumps in the short term for future successes? I think that is the key.

  • comment-avatar
    Chance Vought 1 month ago

    “Andrew Stoeten was fired from The Athletic last week.”

    Going to work drunk does tend to lead to that result, yeah.

  • comment-avatar
    Slim Whitman 1 month ago

    Well written and interesting..Only wish your thoughts were on here more often !!

  • comment-avatar
    Bingo Bango Bongo 1 month ago

    It’s not an issue of diversity in my opinion. Talk radio is different from hosting a TV show or even hosting a music show on radio. On the TV highlights shows, it’s the highlights that people are watching, much more than the presenter. On a music show, it’s the music. On talk, it’s about knowing your subject as well or better than your audience. Why? Because the audience is actively listening. It’s a conversation that the listener is (hopefully) engaged in. Andi Petrillo will talk about her girly stuff and the problem with that is, it’s not what the audience is there for. I know there are men who do similar things but for some reason it doesn’t illicit the same response. Jeff McDonald would do well to get Andi to cut out the cutesy stuff. I don’t mind listening to her but I understand where some might. To me, this shows why it’s not about diversity; it’s about the content. There are many women who could do the job and do it well. Kara Wagland and Caroline Cameron come to mind. Here’s the question: why have no better options been found? I guarantee both TSN and Sportsnet are looking. Both The Fan and TSN1050 have plenty of room for new talent. They have to give people a chance, male or female, black or white. It’s long past time for it, but remember, if people aren’t listening, they won’t last long. It’s really rare to see a fully fledged talent fare well right out of the gate. 

  • comment-avatar

    It could be that it mirrors society. This is anecdotal on my part, ladies enjoy sports, but not in great numbers, and of the ladies that enjoy sports, many don’t watch until playoffs, and not many have a big depth of knowledge on the players, teams, etc. For the segment of women that know a lot about sports and are in broadcasting and are good, they should be given a chance! You cite some male talent you aren’t a fan of on Sportsnet, I also think a lot of the best sports radio personalities with the most sports knowledge aren’t on TSN and Sportsnet, the best are usually on gambling/fantasy/youtube shows and podcasts.

  • comment-avatar
    Original Mitch 1 month ago

    This topic is a joke. No one is allowed to speak their minds or opinions without being bombarded by sanctimonious fellow sports people who do absolutely nothing for the cause, but when they have a chance to send a tweet, do they ever! Hypocrisy at its finest. Ian Mendes défends a female reporter? Shocking! 
    A below average female reporter cries foul of the industry? Let’s all run to her defence without ever actually hearing her skills and making a judgement based on that. Pathetic. Women don’t like to talk sports as much as men. Period. It’s not an insult and it’s not exclusive. It’s percentages. So the female talent pool will be shallower simply based on math. The Calgary guy is right, he gets 100 applicants, 2 are females. So there’s a 98 percent chance the one hired will be a male. 
    I for one am happy neither tsn or Sportsnet radio stations are giving in. Radio is hard. Damn hard. And it’s a shame that every person (male or female) think they can walk in and do a 3 hour show. 
    Ashley Docking? She sucked. Simple. No chemistry and bad attitude off air. Bye bye. I’m glad Sportsnet let her go without the need to succumb to the holier than though keyboard warriors demanding an explanation! 
    Keep in my mind my post is about radio. Anybody can read a prompter and it’s been proven time and time again. 
    You have to be nuts about sports to be on radio. No soundbite will do, no overt homerism will suffice. Are there women who can do it? Probably. But until it’s a 50-50 male/female application ratio, I don’t want to hear anything about gender discrimination. 
    Race? Now that’s a legit issue that could be discussed. But again, percentage and probability. Can’t lose sight of those 

  • comment-avatar

    I don’t get the Andi Petrillo haters, hardly ever miss a show! Kristen Shilton is real good at her job! TSN at least tries to have women talk about sports, don’t remember the last time I listened to the FAN. All the hosts are the same and have moved on. And i still shake my head at the John Shannon comment, so glad he is a has been and gone from radio!

  • comment-avatar
    Lee (Oakville) 1 month ago

    This is an important topic to discuss but I’m not sure it’s being approached with enough breadth and depth. It is too easy to simply do a headcount and wax eloquently about the inherent unfairness of the lack of gender diversification. Important questions need to be asked. Are women applying for the jobs? If yes, what are the numbers. Are women entering sports media schools? If not, why not? What specifically is wrong with the corporate cultures at media companies? What are the demographics of listeners? Does the lack of attention to women’s sports influence listenership? If I’m a person that follows women’s hockey, The WNBA, or amateur athletics you will never find even one minute of programming that covers these elements. Maybe by providing a platform to these sports you can bring along female journalists and commentators as radio hosts. Again, just counting numbers and making assumptions rather than conducting a deeper analysis will not do a lot of good. Just my thoughts. 

  • comment-avatar

    I love the argument that women aren’t qualified for sports radio, it’s a meritocracy, etc. 

    Half the guys on local sports radio love to weigh in with pithy takes on pizza toppings, winter tires, Netflix, and a Springsteen concert they attended in 1992. Outside of their local NHL team, who they implore to get “more sandpaper guys, lunch pails” their sports knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep. Golf is Tiger Woods, the NBA is the Raptors and LeBron.  

    A male jock can drone on about how he doubled 18 to shoot an 84 but the pulled pork he made took the sting off.  Yet if a woman mentions anything personal she is unqualified and needs to stick to sports and stop cluttering the airwaves. 

  • comment-avatar
    Leroy 4 weeks ago

    The only thing clear is that Original Mitch is a pathetic angry INSEL.  Like, jeez dude, call your mom, work things out.  And keep in mind when it comes to your troubles with women; It’s not them, it’s YOU

  • comment-avatar
    Cirroc 4 weeks ago

    @zebb  I would think it boils down to the majority of the audience being men.  

  • comment-avatar
    Jimoh 3 weeks ago

    What do you think.