Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sports Media Update - Sept. 16th

Newspapers are media, too, especially when it comes to sports reporting. Going back more than 30 years, I used to complain about how newspaper sports coverage got way too much respect and how radio got too little.

I remember my friendly "arguments" with writers who would be in a big hurry to get quotes and statistics after night games would end and let everyone in sight know that they were "on deadline". And if I was around, they knew what was coming. I would remind them that "I am going on the radio in 10 minutes with a report on this game to thousands of listeners. What you are about to write won't be seen until tomorrow morning."

This was before we had any all-sports radio stations with their own "beat" reporters and before the internet. I always pointed out how the newspapers were competing for readers of stories which radio and TV usually had broken HOURS before.

In recent months, I have noticed how and have commented on how too much of the media is merely reporting what others are reporting and not taking on a new story. Even the sports radio stations will sometimes go with a story that "ESPN.com is reporting that........". While I realize they need to credit the source of a story, I also wonder why the station doesn't jump on their own sources to confirm or deny rather than credit another media for breaking the news.

But a story on Monday (Sept. 14) brought a new low in my opinion.

A friend was the first to e-mail me the breaking story about Chicago Bears all-pro linebacker Brian Urlacher appearently being out for the season due to a wrist injury suffered in the Sunday Night Football season opening loss at Green Bay. The Chicago Tribune had broken the story, and it is a big story at that. I went online and read the Tribune story.

Just as I did in my radio reporting days, I then wanted to get the slant on the story from another source, so I logged on to the Chicago Sun-Times web site. The biggest, albeit struggling, competitor of the Tribune for all of my life. They had the Urlacher story as a "News Flash" at the top of their home page. I clicked on it, and then was amazed.

Amazed to see that their "report" is that the Chicago Tribune is reporting the injury. Let's get this straight. The Bears are usually the biggest sports story in the Chicago area, and this was huge news, even though it was bad news for Bears fans. But all the 2nd biggest newspaper can do is say its leading competitor broke the story?

The morning show on WSCR "The Score" sports radio Chicago is co-hosted by a Sun-Times columnist. The paper has a Bears beat writer, and had additional writers covering the team's opener in Green Bay the night before.

Do you mean to tell me that not one editor at the Sun-Times could pick up the phone or tweet or do whatever they need to do to get a writer to confirm or deny the story within 5 minutes?

What an embarassment for the Sun-Times. Admitting a scoop by its larger competition. Instead of using its own resources.

I'm sure that the Sun-Times' argument to me would be that if I went to their site and they didn't have the story when the Tribune did I would feel slighted and not go back there. Wrong! If the Sun-Times is going to tell me that the Tribune already had the story before they did, there is now no reason to think of them first when a story breaks. It was one thing years ago when both papers had plenty of time to have their stories and angles ready for the next morning while TV and radio had reports the day and night before. But this is 2009, and a news gathering organization should be ready to pounce on a big story.

Speaking of the Bears' opening game, NBC showed only a 3% increase in audience for the first regular season Sunday Night Football game compared with last year. As expected, Chicago and Milwaukee were the 2 highest rated markets (the participating teams' biggest markets). The #3 market in ratings was Denver. The TV people are probably shaking their heads, since Denver plays in the opposite conference. The sports fans know it is because of former Broncos QB Jay Cutler making his debut for the Bears, and they were curious to see how Cutler would do, especially after winning in Cincinnati with Kyle Orton at QB that afternoon.

Speaking of Chicago, the NBA Chicago Bulls will have half of their home games also broadcast in Spanish starting this season. WRTO 1220 (a Univision station) will carry the broadcasts. The station also airs some White Sox baseball games, some Cubs games, and Chicago Fire soccer games in Spanish. The Bulls broadcasts will have a decided baseball flavor. Omar Ramos, who calls their White Sox broadcasts in Spanish, adds the Bulls to his portfolio. For analysis? Would you believe Ozzie Guillen, Jr?

I didn't either, but the son of the White Sox manager who does color on their Spanish broadcasts, will handle the chores on Bulls broadcasts. Jr. is a student at Columbia College Chicago, so my hunch is that we are not talking about a huge contract here. (I'm trying to be diplomatic.) But if the station is looking to take on a new market, they should get a basketball expert or not have an analyst. They are already cutting back on budget, and haven't even broadcast a game yet. Almost as bad is the marketing gimmick that the Bulls will wear "Los Bulls" uniforms for 2 home games this seasons. What a bunch of crap.

Chicago has the largest Polish population in the U.S. Why haven't they worn Polish uniforms? (I'm not asking for that - I'm pointing out how nuts this is getting.) It is bad enough that we tune in to watch pro teams play and get stuck with different uniforms all the time. Now we will have different languages on them? For a game that is all-American.............

CHICAGO: WSCR and WMVP, the 2 sports stations, continue to battle for ratings. Now the August book shows both stations in the top 10 overall during morning drive for the first time ever. More impressive is the fact that if the ratings totals were combined, the sports talkers would lead the pack.

This is significant because both stations received morning drive ratings among their highest ever, only to be in close competition with the other sports talker. September figures to keep them strong, as the Bears start, the Blackhawks (now a hot item) begin training camp, and fans of the White Sox and Cubs begin the "wait till next year" chant.

NEW YORK: Sports fans around the country probably remember Bonnie Bernstein from ESPN and CBS-TV. Now Bonnie has joined Michael Kay's afternoon show on 1050 ESPN Radio, as well as contributing to the ESPN New York web site starting early next year.

BOSTON: While we await results of the Sports Hub on Boston radio, and this week marks the debut of the Boston local ESPN web site, there are now more questions about the presence of ESPN Radio in the sports-crazy market. WAMG 890 had been carrying ESPN for more than 4 years, but gave up the fight as of this past Monday. Its weak signal, especially at night when it barely made it out of the Boston city limits, along with no local play-by-play, meant no results.

Since the Red Sox broadcasts were moved over to WEEI 850 AM, and the Sports Hub is a CBS station, it remains to be seen (or heard) what ESPN will do to establish a presence in Beantown.

On the TV side, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson has joined NESN as a studio analyst.

LOS ANGELES: The NHL Anaheim Ducks have hired Dan Wood as analyst for their radio broadcasts which will continue on KLAA 830 for this season. Wood will also contribute to the team's web site. This makes sense since Wood has served as a writer for the local Orange County Register since 2000 after several years on the beat of the San Jose Sharks.

The L.A. Clippers will only be on cable this season, starting a long term deal with Fox Sports Prime Ticket. This ends the team's long time relationship with KTLA Channel 5. Money talks on this one, but some teams would consider the future marketing impact of the NBA Champion Lakers being in the same market and having some of their games on over-the-air TV plus multiple national telecasts. The radio side looks better with the team's new deal with KFWB 980. Then again, if this season is like most for the Clippers, there is something to be said for them now being on the same station as Dr. Laura. It's the place to go for hearing about fighting losing battles.

DETROIT: Glad to see that Ernie Harwell will be honored on Wednesday (Sept. 16) night at Comerica Park just days after the announcement that the legendary broadcaster has inoperable cancer. A video tribute will be shown and Harwell will likely watch the game from the owners' suite.

Word is that Harwell will also be honored on Sunday at the NFL Lion's game, which is the home opener against Minnesota. I suppose it gives Lions fans a reason to attend the game. We join in wishing Harwell anything and everything he wants for as long as he has left. Hopefully he will be spared the jokes about sending him to a Lions game under his circumstances.

St. LOUIS: KMOV Channel 4 has now dropped a sportscast from its 5 PM weekday newscasts. This month. The month that has the Cardinals headed to the baseball playoffs and perhaps the World Series, the Rams' season starting, the Blues starting training camp, and college football in full swing. I wonder if they will bring that sportscast back in May.

I have to believe that University of Missouri football fans are outraged about this past and this coming Saturday. None of the networks picked up the telecast last Saturday (Sept. 12) against Bowling Green or this week against Furman. A pair of non-conference games. Yet, fans can see them on TV - if they pay to the tune of $29.95 per game. Sorry, but for what it costs us fans for cable or satellite TV, and with the number of games shown on them each Saturday, fans shouldn't have to pay one more penny. That's too much money for a ticket to either game, let alone to watch it on TV and pay all that.

ROCHESTER: Sports radio 1280 WHTK is now simulcast on 107.3 FM. The schedule remains the same, and now both stations will carry play-by-play of Yankees baseball, University of Buffalo football, and a package of NFL broadcasts.


MLB Network continues to cover the pennant races. This Thursday (Sept. 17) they show K.C. at Detroit in the afternoon and the Angels at Boston at night. On Saturday night they pick up a feed of the Angels at Texas. No word yet on which game they will show next Tuesday (Sept. 22). TBS will show the Angels at Texas on Sunday with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez, and has added a prime time telecast of Red Sox vs. Yankees on Friday Sept. 25.

And, ESPN has announced its college football telecast schedule for the coming weekend:

Thu, Sep 17
7:30 p.m.
No. 14 Georgia Tech at No. 20 Miami - Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer & Erin Andrews - ESPN

7:30 p.m. Howard at Florida A&M, Charlie Neal & Jay Walker, ESPNU

Fri, Sep 18 9 p.m. No. 10 Boise State at Fresno State Joe Tessitore & Rod Gilmore ESPN

Sat, Sep 19
Noon No. 8 California at Minnesota Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman & Bob Griese - ESPN

Noon East Carolina at No. 24 North Carolina Pam Ward & Ray Bentley ESPN

Noon Louisville at Kentucky Clay Matvick & David Diaz-Infante ESPNU

Noon No. 11 Ohio State vs. Toledo (from Cleveland) Michael Reghi & Doug Chapman - ESPN360.com

Noon North Texas at No. 4 Alabama Dave Neal & Andre Ware SEC Network

3:30 p.m. No. 19 Nebraska at No. 13 Virginia Tech * Sean McDonough, Matt Millen & Holly Rowe - ABC

Arizona at Iowa - Mike Patrick, Craig James & Heather Cox ABC or ESPN2

No. 3 USC at Washington Terry Gannon, David Norrie & Quint Kessinich ABC or ESPN2

3:30 p.m. No. 18 Utah at Oregon Ron Franklin & Ed Cunningham ESPN

3:30 p.m. Indiana at Akron Todd Harris & Charles Arbuckle ESPNU

3:30 p.m. Middle Tennessee at Maryland Frank Giardina & Jeremy Bloom - ESPN360.com

6 p.m. Navy at Pittsburgh John Sanders and Drew Haddad ESPN360.com

7 p.m. Louisiana-Lafayette at #9 LSU Eric Collins & Brock Huard ESPNU

7 p.m. Iowa State at Kent State Dave Weekley & Jerod Cherry ESPN360.com

7:45 p.m. No. 23 Georgia at Arkansas Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge & Erin Andrews ESPN

7:45 p.m. West Virginia at Auburn Mark Jones & Bob Davie ESPN2

8 p.m. Texas Tech at No. 2 Texas Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit & Lisa Salters ESPN

10:30 p.m. Hampton at North Carolina A&T Carter Blackburn & Eddie Robinson

CBS Sports has announced its college football game for Saturday, Sept. 26 (3:30-7:00 PM, ET) will feature Arkansas at *No. 4-ranked Alabama. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will call the contest, along with reporter Tracy Wolfson.

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