The Times They Are A Changing & Blue Jays Beat Writer Rob Longley #inthepressrow Tim & Sid, Jay & Dan both broken up as media landscape across Canada implodes

<span class="entry-title-primary">The Times They Are A Changing & Blue Jays Beat Writer Rob Longley #inthepressrow</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Tim & Sid, Jay & Dan both broken up as media landscape across Canada implodes</span>


Deep and wide.

The cuts by Bell Media this week were definitely that. Not just in sports media, but media, in general, contributed bigly to the ever-growing number of unemployed during the pandemic.

From coast to coast there was decimation. Entire newsrooms gutted as behemoth media companies utilized a once in a 100-year worldwide catastrophe to try to evolve their tired businesses.

In Montreal, the entire CJAD newsroom was gutted.

“The changes reflect Bell Media’s streamlined operating structure and our focus on making it easier and more efficient to do business with us at every level,”

Down the 401 in Toronto, the same story as CFRB staffers suffered the same fate.

Like wildfire moving from east to west the news was consistent, cut after cut in small towns and big cities.

Then the changes landed at TSN via Bell’s Agincourt operation. On-air folks that all of us have watched over the year dismissed.

Let’s be clear before this most recent cutting at Rogers and Bell changes in the landscape were overdue. Prior to the pandemic, it was clear that the business of producing media had to evolve. The change was inevitable.

In my career in technology, I have to do the same and in many ways, I liken it to the awful experience I once had building a house. The crew that dug the foundation was not the same crew that poured the concrete, did the framing, or the finish work.

Different people have different skillsets and the tools, skills, and technology required are constantly evolving. Furthermore, this pandemic did happen and customer behavior changed dramatically and at a pace never seen before. In my world, retail technology and sales, e-commerce advanced 5-10 years in the past 9 months. Features, functionality that was on roadmaps for years down the road have become table stakes. Change is not only inevitable it brings opportunity and in the end, but it will also be more tailored to all of us.

There is no good way to fire someone.

Other than someone’s health there is nothing more personal than their work.

How the companies, especially Bell have handled the changes is regrettable, and I think I am being kind in my description.

The best leaders have not only exceptional business sense but also a high EQ.

Communication is key.

By all accounts, the new regime at Bell Media has decided against that.

From almost every employee I’ve heard from (and it’s been a very good week for T-mobile) the only common complaint is how tone-deaf and muted things have been.

Bell Let’s talk was wildly successful.

“The campaign yesterday across talk, text, and social media generated 159,173,435 interactions, an increase of 3.1% compared to last year. The donation total was $7,958,671.75, up $239,300.50 compared to 2020.”

@electricellieashton #bellletstalk is such a joke. #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealth #letstalk #letsactuallytalk

♬ original sound – Ellie Bellie 🎀

What sucks, is that many people opened up their personal lives in support of Let’s Talk, which I can only imagine is not easy for them to do, and here the entire initiative is getting the crap kicked out of it due to corporate “tone-deafedness”.

It’s hard for me to believe someone didn’t raise their hand and say, perhaps the timing of this isn’t right.

Clearly, the scale is different, but it’s akin to when Vladdy didn’t play at home on Canada Day. How do corporations not know how to behave better when it’s really so simple.

What’s worse?

Bell throwing out to employees last night their upcoming investment and past success:

unprecedented spending of $1-1.2 BIL over the next two years to boost, fibre and 5G networks.

Or how they ‘generated $3.35 billion in free cash flow’ and achieved 96% of 2019 revenue in 2020.

I wonder if those numbers include the labor subsidy they helped themselves to:

“Along with several other big telecom companies in 2020, Bell availed itself of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, a federal program that covers a portion of employees’ salaries in order to keep those workers from being laid off. The company also raised quarterly dividends throughout the year and is expected to again increase its fourth-quarter payout.”

Timing, they say is everything.

Oh, and by the way….

“Independent news site downUP uncovered those numbers, including the $122 million Bell received, as well as at least $82 million by Rogers and $38.5 million for Telus. Bell’s $122 million is more than any company on the Post’s list, topping Imperial Oil’s $120 million. (Disclosure: TekSavvy has not received any CEWS subsidies.)”

those two clips from here.

So, it seems that now, as of Friday it’s relatively quiet and hopefully done until the next round.

Multiple sources have told me that Bell is touting a piece of technology, ironically called OverDrive in an attempt to reduce the number of heads required to produce live tv shows. If this technology does what Bell has been promised it can do, in another 16 weeks, we could see a further reduction in production headcount.

Here is what concerns me. Typically, executives brought in to execute headcount reductions are only proficient at doing just that. So if this is the case here, what hope we do have for the ship to be righted moving forward? I am not throwing anyone under the bus, I don’t know what they are capable of. However, henchpeople are typically really good cutters and not great managers or builders.

From the sports side of things, the landscape has changed.

First Tim and Sid got split up, and I am led to believe there will be more changes on the Sportnet side of things.

Now Jay and Dan are split up too. I have to admit the Twitter episode of the past summer played some role in the change.

How they picked Natasha Staniszewski out of all the desk people thus far is a mystery to me. Same with Brent Wallace. As with Kristin Jack. Why producer Tim was identified is not well known either. I am not making light of it, but those on the “talent” side let go were much fewer than I was led to believe were going to be cut a few weeks ago. Many of the names I had heard were spared. For now, I would have to think.

What were your thoughts on the cuts and resulting moves? Anything you are looking forward to?

Back to CFRB btw, many of you know some of the folks cut there too,so while they are no longer in sports I thought I’d specifically identify them here too:

“Among the staffers confirming their exits on TWITTER were CFRB and Hot AC CHUM-F News Dir. KYM GEDDES, who told a tweeter asking for a restoration of the 6p (ET) news that, “I’m no longer with the station”; SATURDAY midday host and station veteran TED WOLOSHYN, who wrote, “Due to BELL MEDIA restructuring I and many colleagues have lost our jobs”; “NIGHTSIDE” host BARB DIGIULIO, who confirmed that she is “no longer with @NEWSTALK1010”; and reporter/anchors HAYLEY COOPER (“I was part of yesterday’s layoffs”), LUCAS MEYER (“No regrets. Thank you all. -30-“), and CLAUDE FEIG (“I was one of the many radio and TV people let go in #Toronto”). A report in BROADCAST DIALOGUE adds host JIM RICHARDS and news anchor DAVID MCKEE to the layoff list, as well as VANCOUVER-based BELL MEDIA National Sales Coordinator — Radio KIM KATAYAMA.”

A couple of other things…

The Yes Guy Show on TSN radio reached episode 10 last week. Perry and Jim are vets with good experience and a good stable of guests. It’s worth streaming if that’s your cup of tea.

Similarly, Barry Davis and his crew are inviting their insiders to take part in the Zoom chats they do with players:

It sounds like the Jim Hughson strictly doing Vancouver Canucks home games on HNIC thing will continue.

Many of you are asking why Rick Ball, who does Flames games, is not getting a bigger stage? I have not heard his work, your thoughts?

The MLBPA rejected the league’s proposal to delay spring training. As a result, spring training is upon us. I suspect there is still some dust to settle as it relates to Blue Jays broadcasts on radio and tv. If you could name the dream tv and radio press boxes, who you got doing what?

Finally, I had the good fortune of speaking with long time writer Rob Longley. Longley has covered the Toronto Maple Leafs, the NFL, and now the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball. Rob has a unique perspective on media both from a longevity perspective and from someone now covering the Jays. Topics include: Whether Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins deserve a pass on the first few years of their stint with the Jays, why they may have been unprepared for the market when they joined, Richard Griffin as a beat reporter vs. now as a PR guy with the team, John Gibbons, the Blue Jays offseason, where the Jays may call home this season and finally the big Super Bowl game.

Listen on all your favorite podcasts or listening services..


  • comment-avatar

    Here’s an interesting tidbit to consider: the news about Tim & Sid drew more than twice as much traffic to our site than the news about Jay & Dan. I’m surprised.

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    Wetcoast 4 months ago

    I would rate Ball above all Sportsnet PBP people except Cuthbert. I think Scott Moore really liked him so he may have lost some juice.

    I thought TSN might take a run at him as he is good at football, but who knows if there eve is a CFL again.

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    “The big two” Bell and Rogers have shown an innate ability to “shoot themselves in the foot” without pausing to reload. This latest round of cuts by Bell Media is simply more of the same. The fact that this round included on-air talent that actually had their own show (Dan O’Toole) only shows the depths that Bell corporate is willing to sink to in order to please their shareholder masters.

    One can only hope that the talent both in front of and behind the scenes can find work that is a satisfying to them as their now previous employment was.

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    Jay & Dan seemed like lifers, so I’m quite surprised. Although I do think his “stunt” from the summer likely was his downfall. He likely should have been given his walking papers then.

    Natasha…beautiful Natasha. No clue why she of all the people was the one let go. She’d be last on my list of wanting to get rid of. Well spoken, delivers the good, no aura of smugness or ego to her like many others, easy on the eyes. Poor decision.

    Brent Wallace was good. Loyalty means squat these days.

    Tom Brown and Anwar Knight on CTV — no issues with them either.

    Any word on these cuts affecting anyone at CP24?

    Bell can take its Let’s Talk day and shove it. I knew that promotion was more of a bullshit self-serving, free advertising platform than anything else. Get bent assholes.

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    Between advances in AI and holography, it’s only a matter of time until someone puts a “human-free” news/sports broadcast on the air. I don’t look forward to this, but I’m not optimistic.

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    Mike (in Boston), I think it’s only the fact the Sid news was surprising, as no one really saw it coming, there’s no contingency for the Fan 590, and Tim and Sid were always a little more controversial. Jay & Dan were always a warm feeling of home, and it’s not at all shocking he’d be the first to be chopped by Bell after what happened last year.

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    TSN cutting Kristian Jack is outrageous. He is by far the best soccer broadcaster in Canada (maybe that we’ve ever had?), he’s still young, and TSN has a lot of product – MLS, WITH 3 CANADIAN TEAMS, Euros, etc.

    Somehow they can have 10 hockey insiders on the payroll for a sport they have no national rights to, but they don’t have a dime for anything else

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    Poker Guy 4 months ago

    It’s a sad day, whenever anyone loses their job. Regardless of what you may think of them personally. O’Toole’s release, we may have seen coming, given why he was in the news last year.

    @Mike-You bring up an interesting point. The NHL insiders abound aplenty in the TSN hallways, with only regional rights. Yet, Kristian Jack is the person who gets the axe. Why?

    Natasha, was a head scratcher as well. To Pete’s point, solid sportscaster. Never came off with any arrogance, or agenda.

    Hopefully, they all will find greener pastures elsewhere in the very near future.

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    Lee (Oakville) 4 months ago

    I am likely in the minority here, but I see no issue whatsoever in Bell (or any other company for that matter) reallocating resources from a declining sector (traditional media) to their growth and bread-and-butter sector (wireless communication). I have no love for, nor do I have any financial stake in Bell. However, the laying off of ~200 employees (out of 50,000 total employees) is hardly the cause of the hand-wringing and emotional collapse that seems to be so prevalent on this site. Yes it sucks for the employees involved and I hope that they quickly find new employment. However, the pandemic has caused the layoffs of literally millions of workers and I see no sympathy for these individuals. The collapse of traditional media is inevitable and we are simply seeing the ramifications of a consumer shift. I do not see this as the collapse of democracy (as so many endlessly and tirelessly point out when even one media member is laid off). There are a multitude of information sources available and it is up to the individual to find the right ones that are unbiased and factual. As for Bell donating $5 million+ annually for mental health? We can only hope that other corporations do the same thing.

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    EX_TV_GUY 4 months ago

    About “Overdrive”. It is a technology that automates most of the roles in the control room and studio.

    A typical studio show like Jay and Dan or Sports Centre will have about 6-8 people in the control room and another 4 or 5 in the studio. You have camera operators, maybe a floor director and a lighting operator. In the control room you have someone running the switcher, a director, an audio operator, graphics, assistant director, play back operator etc

    . Overdrive allows you to automate most of their roles and use templates to have the show run by as little as 2 or 3 people. You can probably even scale it down to 1 person if you wanted.

    It works well for every scripted and templated shows like the news, many news stations in the US use Overdrive extensively.

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    It’s so laughable that days after the #BellLetsTalk campaign, and after receiving over 100 million from the government, Bell fires hundreds of people in a pandemic. Just goes to show you – corporations are not looking out for you. Not that I wish anyone would lose their job, but with the number of ex NHL players and executives working at TSN, you think they might have found a redundancy there rather than firing KJ, Dan or Natasha.
    With all the high priced talent now unemployed, Rogers and Bell have really shown in the past couple years that they don’t seem intent on providing the best content they can. I actually think now would be a great time for someone with deep pockets to start an independent sports media entity. The talent is available and between podcasts, twitch and youtube you have the platforms you need.

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    Bingo Bingo Bongo 4 months ago

    @ Lee (Oakville) I understand what you are saying but I have to wonder, do you not see the problem with a company taking $122M in CEWS and then turning around and firing 210 employees? All the while trumpeting their increased profit? Just so you understand, that’s 210 families floundering during a worldwide pandemic. Yes the business is evolving and yes Bell can do whatever they feel is necessary for their business. The fact that they took that money and did this right after the Bell Let’s Talk campaign is at the very least tone deaf. I suspect it’s better example of the kind of corporate citizens they are than that campaign will ever be. And that’s a shame, because it’s a subject that needs to be talked about for a lot more than one day a year.

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    Wetcoast 4 months ago

    @BBB it’s all very time deaf, I agree.

    Two questions for people who may know:

    1) has all the CEWS money cleared, or is some of it subject to a payback? I know there were deeming provisions in the legislation

    2) does Bell have a duty to it’s shareholders to solicit the CEWS money? My instinct is that you can’t turn down the opportunity, but public company governance isn’t my thing.