photo credit: blogto.com
by mike in boston (@mikeinboston) / hatemailaccount at gmail
I am still chasing a couple of interviews and have now heard every excuse in the book, up to and including “the dog ate my phone.” Thankfully a few stories popped up that are worth discussing.
There are literally dozens of hockey writers in Ontario and distinguishing oneself from others in this group is very difficult. The upside is that the appetite for hockey, specifically Leafs hockey, is seemingly limitless. The consequence is that no story is too small to be blown up into water-cooler fodder for days on end.
This is the quandary in which Dave Feschuk of the Star found himself a few years back when he wrote about a conversation he had with James Reimer’s mum at a time when the Leafs were being cagey about the goalie’s injury. Feschuk revealed that Mrs. Reimer used the words concussion and brain-injury.
The fallout came fast and furiously from all corners. The loudest voice (shockingly) was Brian Burke’s, whose job in Toronto included regularly telling the media how to do their jobs, and occasionally hanging up on interviewers. Feschuk received some support from the likes of Howard Berger, but overwhelmingly the consensus was that he had crossed a line by calling a parent. [aside: I don’t agree with this criticism]
Feschuk made news this week by writing a story about how Phil Kessel refused to follow a coach’s direction on a certain play. The story of this incident is delivered through the mouthes of several anonymous sources who are quoted at length in the story. Neither Kessel nor the coach are quoted directly by Feschuk.
The question this story raises is whether it is fair for rely so heavily on anonymous sources to convey negative opinions rather than facts. [If you have not done so, go read this excellent roundtable discussion on anonymity featuring some prominent bloggers.]
This is a borderline case since the facts in question — whether Kessel refused or simply objected — could also be seen as matters of opinion. Damien Cox appeared on the FAN morning show and said that people who take shots at others anonymously are “gutless” and that The Star’s writers shouldn’t be giving people a platform to insult others without attaching a name.
The distinction Cox draws here is a reasonable one, despite his lazy and typically obnoxious choice of words. Some facts are hard to get and people will only share them under the cover of anonymity. There is a place for that in sports reporting, and I think everyone understands that leaks will happen. People in the media intentionally leak things to me and TSM all the time, knowing that we will report it here. It is part of a game in which we all have roles to play.
The hard part of this case is that whether or not Kessel is “uncoachable” is not a factual matter. So Feschuk’s piece needs to counter balance the opinions he is reporting on by talking to other people about Kessel’s relationship with his coaches. (A more thoughtful Cox might have made this point rather than just bashing the competition).
Feschuk is a leading hockey writer at the Star. Judging by the photo that Berger posted on his blog, Feschuk looks reasonably young. But he now has two (maybe more?) journalistically questionable pieces on his mantle. My question for you is whether you consider Feschuk credible as a writer in light of these pieces?
The Star is a Rudderless Ship
After reading Feschuk’s story the immediate question I had was why the story was approved by the sports editor. From what I was told, the answer is simple: there is no sports editor at the Star currently. I am trying to get a comment on the record from someone at that paper about the state of affairs.
At last recollection Mary Ormsby was a sports editor there, but her online profiles now list a jumble of other titles. According to his online bio, Jon Filson left the position of Sports editor at the Star this summer. The Star’s webpage doesn’t list a new person in that position.
The very funny thing about this is that, as you may recall, Damien Cox’s final Star piece was essentially a promotion for hockey on Rogers. I commented at the time that it was a mystery how any self-respecting editor could allow this kind of thing to go to press.
There are some talented people working at that paper and I wish them all the best during this transitional stage. I have never worked at a newspaper so maybe I am overstating the value of a departmental editor. But the proof is in the pudding, as it were. In light of Feschuk’s piece, the optics are terrible.
I have avoided discussing either the Ray Rice story or the Adrian Peterson story until things run their course. I am going to wait a little while longer, partly because people might be a little burnt out on analysis of these issues at the moment. That said, here’s an observation: while almost everyone agrees it is never OK to hit your wife, there is significant disagreement about whether it is OK to hit your kid. Part of the explanation is that many people were raised in the “spare the rod, spoil the child” tradition and turned out to be just fine. But I cannot see how anyone can look at the pictures of Peterson’s kids’ injuries and feel motivated to debate the point. Wherever the line is, this is far far beyond it.
Rob Wong was reporting from Leafs camp this week. This lends support to the thesis that Alter was axed because his position was made redundant by the Rogers/NHL TV deal rather than much to do with his job performance. I’ll ask the question again though: do you care that the FAN won’t have a dedicated Leafs beat reporter anymore? As someone who grew up listening to Howard Berger talk about line combinations every day, this is a real departure. TSN still has Jonas Siegel on the roster.
Low Hanging Fruit
I spent an hour on the train yesterday and had to choose one podcast from this past week to keep me company. After surveying what both afternoon drive shows had on offer I opted to listen to Naylor and Arthur. I have said this before, but it is worth repeating: for my tastes there is no better duo in Toronto sports radio for measured discussion of important issues. No shtick, no hysteria, no sound effects, no simplistic analysis, no platitudes … just well thought out takes, and — this one is tragically under appreciated — the ability to listen and respond to what the other person is actually saying.
According to reader Julian in last week’s discussion, Brady coined the phrase “Gibby’s Gang” to refer to the Toronto media’s love affair with all around good guy John Gibbons. That is both apt and pretty damn funny. The point can be made about Beeston and AA as well. Notice how everyone is excited about next year’s rotation, and giving all kinds of praise to the organization for not trading these guys for short term gains. This is a perfectly fine opinion, but as the Jays crawl to the finish line of another disappointing season, the focus should be on why a team with a top 10 payroll cannot perform better than JP Riccardi’s bottom 10 payroll teams.
as always, thanks for reading and commenting.
until next time …
mike (in boston)