Boston Herald

Sports Media Weekly No. 158- Chad Finn, The Boston Globe & Peter King, Sports Illustrated

Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites and I are back for another edition of Sports Media Weekly.

We are joined for our news segment this week by Chad Finn, sports media columnist for The Boston Globe.

We begin the program by looking at the announcement this week that NBC Sports and Yahoo! Sports will be collaborating on two new TV and online sports video projects, one of which debuts tomorrow.  The inclusion of rich media content is becoming more and more prevalent online and we agree that we’ll likely see more being produced by broadcast and web partners.

On a related note we look at the move by media outlets to create exclusive online content featuring their sports writing superstars.  Bill Simmons and ESPN began the trend with Grantland and now Peter King at Sports Illustrated and Peter Gammons are creating fresh content marketed around their personal brands.

We move to Boston sports media next, looking at how the Boston media handled the Aaron Hernandez arrest and the response by the Patriots.  We then delve into news of the launch next Monday of an online radio venture produced by the Boston Herald.

We finish the segment reflecting on the trail blazing career of Steve Bornstein, who pioneered television coverage of the NFL and will be retiring as head of the NFL Network next year.

We head back to the NFL and Ken’s interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.  Ken talks to King about what it took to pull together his new NFL website on SI, MMQB.


Sports Media Weekly No. 155- Ed Sherman, The Sherman Report

We’ve been away for the past two weeks but Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites and I are back for a new edition of Sports Media Weekly.

We are pleased to be joined for the entire show by our good friend Ed Sherman of The Sherman Report.

We begin the news portion of the show by looking back at reports that viewership over at ESPN for the second quarter was at its lowest for that quarter in seven years.

We then look ahead to next week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Fox, not to the action that will be taking place on the field but to the planned 90 second promo Fox is set to debut touting next month’s launch of Fox Sports 1.

With the start of NFL training camps on the doorstep comes news from CBS Sports that it will produce a weekly four hour pre-game show this fall on the CBS Sports Network (CBSSN).  We all agree that as long as NFL is king and you have broadcast rights, adding NFL programming may be better than what is already available on CBSSN.

We then move to Ken’s piece in Awful Announcing on plans by two newspapers to get into the electronic media business on their websites.

We wrap by looking at the uproar in Chicago over Justin Bieber standing on the Blackhawks’ logo in the United Center locker room.

Skewed Priorities Will Doom Sports Media

I have lamented many times on this site about some of the idiodic editorial decisions sports media organizations make.  I have two more examples from yesterday…

Those of us who follow sports know that Boston is arguably the hottest market in the country.  The success of the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics makes Beantown the envy of the sports nation.

The Red Sox receive more press coverage than any other sport in Boston.  The Boston sports media is always looking for an edge when covering the Sox.  Getting the scoop on a trade rumor or injury is big business.  But yesterday’s coverage of an off-the field event by the Boston Herald has to take the cake.

Last week Sox pitcher Curt Schilling announced that he was having season-ending surgery to repair damage to his right shoulder and arm.  The news may have also signaled the end of Schilling’s career.  The surgery was held yesterday in Wilmington, DE.

So what does the Herald do?  They send Sox beat reporter Rob Bradford to Wilmington to report, first-hand, on the surgery.  Not only was Bradford the only Boston beat reporter in Wilmington, but he also provided blog posts throughout the day.

Are you kidding me?  When newspapers are bleeding away revenue the Herald spends money to send a reporter to cover a surgical procedure on a potentially washed-up, 40-something pitcher.  Brilliant move.

Bradford took plenty of heat from readers in response to his boss’ decision to send him to Delaware.  His final blog post included this nugget…

…for those others who deemed it silly to be hunkered down, also understand that this could be the most talked/debated/analyzed surgery in Red Sox history. Don’t forget that for two months we talked about the merits of this exact surgery, and not only that, but the outcome was going to determine the opportunity for a potential Hall of Famer to continue his career.

I admit I cannot think of the most talked/debated/analyzed surgery in Red Sox history, but as a fan of the team I can say that this wasn’t even the most important surgery in Schilling’s Red Sox career.  That took place in 2005 when he was sidelined after surgery on that famous ankle that helped bring Boston the 2004 title.  I doubt the Red Sox had much hope of him contributing in 2008.  He was definitely in their plans for 2005.

Case study number two happened this morning while I was watching the Mike & Mike in the Morning show on ESPN2.  What was one of their top SPORTS stories of the morning?  The Shaquille O’Neal freestyle rap on Kobe Bryant.

Is this what now makes sports news?  What does Shaq’s rap have to do with sports?  Absolutely nothing.  When I first saw the video and noticed the “” bug, I knew this would be a meaningless story.

These types of editorial decisions are also prevalent on the news side of things.  Why cover higher gas prices or the war in Iraq when Lindsay Lohan is drunk again?  Don’t get me started on Don Imus’ latest mess.  We are most definitely doomed.

The Herald’s John Tomase Responds

Another chapter in the erroneous report that the Patriots videotaped the Rams walkthrough at Super Bowl XXXVI came about today from the Boston Herald beat writer who penned the  story, John Tomase.

In my post earlier this week I questioned the reality that some reporters rush to judgement on stories in this 24/7 news cycle we all live in.  Tomase revealed as much when he wrote:

The confirmed presence of a member of the team’s video staff at the walkthrough reinforced my belief that it was filmed. Secondhand sourcing took on added weight. When I got word that other reporters had picked up the scent, it only steeled my resolve not to get beat.

In the piece Tomase gave readers a general overview of how the story developed.  He then admitted where, in hindsight, the story all went awry:

I already had been able to verify that a member of the team’s video staff had been setting up a camera at the walkthrough, but on the final, crucial point of whether the camera was actually rolling, I made a devastating leap of logic and assumed that’s what I was being told rather than confirming it explicitly. I considered the fact that it was taped unassailable.

And this is the exact point at which the story broke down.

Despite other media reports, Tomase said he did not rely on only one source for the story.  Outside this blog, I have wanted Tomase to revel his sources, especially if they had deliberately misled him in any way.  This guy’s reputation is on the line if if I had been purposely misled, my internal defense mechanism would have kicked in.  But it appears these sources did not intentionally mislead Tomase.  You can sense this in his tone:

There has been a clamoring for me to identify the sources used in my story. This I cannot do. When a reporter promises anonymity, he can’t break that promise simply because he comes under fire. I gave my word, and the day I break that word is the day sources stop talking to me.

I accept that explanation.  I would have liked to have seen more details as to the specific evidence Tomase amassed in developing the story.  Those did not come.

Although he did sound contrite, I am sure some will not be forgiving after reading Tomase’s piece.  New England fans are really steamed over the media coverage of this story, this one included.

Let’s hope all of us in the sports media have learned something from this episode.  Although I doubt we did.

Is Being First Really Worth It?

No one wants to admit when they’re wrong.  Especially members of the media.

But that’s what happened yesterday following NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s meeting with former Patriots’ videographer Matt Walsh in the Spygate case.

The Boston Herald did admit it erred in its report two days before the Super Bowl that the Pats had taped the Rams walk-through prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans back in 2002.  We now know through Goodell that as far as the NFL’s investigation and Walsh’s comments are concerned, no taping ever took place.

There is some great local commentary on the Herald’s error by Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media Watch and David Scott at Scott’s Shots.  Both are a must read.

The Herald will be facing much more deserved scrutiny in the days and weeks ahead over its apparent shoddy work.  What bothers me is that the practice of throwing out innuendo to see if it sticks is becoming more and more prevalent across all sports media platforms.

We are all to blame.  In the world of the 24/7 news cycle no one wants to be left behind.  The pressures are enormous.  The money involved more so.  There are more journalists (including bloggers) digging for stories for print, television, radio, and online sources. 

All of this leads to the mentality that any news, no matter the source or circumstances, must be reported, for fear that not doing so will result in less readers and loss in revenue.  I have never subscribed to this.  I guess that’s why I don’t get as many readers as others. (Check my BallHype rating in the right sidebar)  I pride myself in first attempting to be right, not necessarily first.  Heaven knows I am far from perfect.

We in the blogosphere should take some responsibility for this.  The Deadspins of the world have created this reality.  Ethics be damned.  It is what it is.  I still believe their content has an audience and should not be restricted.   But some of their work does not pass the credibility test, in my opinion. 

When those sources gain credibility, others in the media feel the need to match it.  That may have been the case with the Herald story.  The practice lessens the general quality of reporting.  Thankfully a good deal of those in the media still take their journalistic integrity seriously.  As that generation passes on, I fear the craft will suffer. 

Maybe Buzz Bissinger was right after all..

Why Live Blog?

I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to trends in technology and the sharing of information.  Heck, I started a blog, didn’t I?

But there is one aspect of blogging that I cannot entirely embrace…the practice of live blogging.

First of all, let’s all agree that live blogging is a misnomer.  Live blogging is by no means live.  I refuse to use the term any further.  Let’s call it what it is…event blogging or, in the world of sports, in-game blogging.   By the time a blogger pens an in-game post and it’s sent to the blog, appropriate time has passed to classify the information as old news. 

I’m not saying that event blogging doesn’t have its place.  If you’re a blogger at an exclusive event, or one that is not well attended,  providing insight from that event adds some exclusivity for the blogger.  The inside scoop if you will.

Much was made last spring when the NCAA came down on Brian Bennett of the Louisville Courier-Journal for providing in-game blogging of an NCAA Regional Baseball game involving the Louisville Cardinals.  Bennett had his credential revoked, with the NCAA claiming he violated a rule of providing “live” updates of an event to which he did not have the rights. 

What I find puzzling is in-game blogging of a sporting event like the World Series.  What information can one blogging from the event provide readers that they aren’t getting from the nationally televised broadcast of the game?  It makes no sense to me.

Looking at the four major newspapers that cover the Red Sox and the Rockies in Game 1, three of the four have blogs for the teams.  Both Boston papers, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, provided in-game blogging of the Sox’ 13-1 rout of Colorado.  In Denver, only the Denver Post provides a sports blog on the Rockies, but there was no in-game coverage of Game 1.

Back to Boston, Rob Bradford’s Herald Blog provided more than just what was happening on the field.  Bradford mixed in statistics and notes that was probably not noted by Joe Buck or Tim McCarver on Fox.  That’s great, but how many people were glued to their computer monitor waiting for these tidbits?  Bradford could have easily assembled those facts and posted them as part of the Herald’s online post game coverage.

The most disappointing in-game blogging came from the Boston Globe.  In its Extra Bases Blog, reporter Amalie Benjamin used the space to rehash what happened after each inning.  I’m sorry, that’s a waste of good bandwidth. 

The Herald, Globe, and Denver Post do a good job of using their blogs to provide the pre-game flavor at Fenway Park.  That’s cool.  You won’t get that information in too many places.  That has a purpose. 

The newspapers are not alone in providing this useless in-game blogging.  Many independent blogs also attempt the practice.  At least the reporters at the game can provide some insight into the action.  Independent bloggers often provide nothing in terms of pertinent information.  The independent bloggers often use this in-game blogging as a way to criticize and mock either the players, announcers, or both.  Again, why can’t they assemble this material for a comprehensive post-game post?  Why is the in-game aspect a draw?

As much as I don’t think in-game blogging is effective I would never say a blogger shouldn’t partake in the process.  I’m sure if there wasn’t an audience they wouldn’t do it.  It’s just not for me.