Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Broadcast Booth - May 12th Update

The past weekend saw still another example of why the "reporting" media should wait until a news story becomes official. This latest incident was above and beyond the "xyz is reporting that....." which has become far too commonplace for this sports fan.

Washington D.C. listeners of WTEM ESPN 980 last weekend heard the story that the University of Maryland was set to name a new basketball coach on Monday, who would replace the retiring Gary Williams. Monday (5/9) came and went, and there was no such announcement. The U. of Maryland may not have even made their selection yet.

And the damage was done. I'm sure that many of WTEM's listeners will now verify for themsevles local stories reported on the station for some time to come. Whether it is by tuning to another station or going to another sports or news related web site to confirm the details, either way this will open opportunities for competing news sources to capture those listeners' attention for the future.

Chuck Sapienza, the Program Director of WTEM, did issue a public apology, citing a "prevoiusly reliable source" for the story. The station also put the apology on its Facebook page, which is good in some ways but not in others. Their seeing the need to correct the story and apologize is admirable, while using social media to communicate it may not be.

Granted, I do not know who this "reliable source" is, and if he or she has any direct connection with the U. of Maryland. My gut feeling is that it was not an "official" source, and that is the issue.

As much as anyone in the media, I appreciate reporters and media outlet wanting to be the first with a story. However, these days it is becoming more of recirculating news stories. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a number of weeks (if not years) know how much I complain about the "xyz sports reports that...." stories which promote competing media.

What does that style of "reporting" (and I mean it with that in quotes) have to do with the error on WTEM? Quite a bit, actually.

In each of these instances, it is a reporter or information source being too lazy to dig for the facts. I can only hope that WTEM will learn an important lesson, which many other radio and TV stations along with online sports news resources also should heed.

Why wasn't this supposed "announcement" verified? Think about it. Every fan of college sports knows how much coverage ESPN provides of ACC sports year after year for the millions of dollars it spends on it. The U. of Maryland, of course, is in the ACC. WTEM is the local ESPN station. If this was not an 'official' source of information that provided this 'story' that didn't happen, why didn't someone at the station verify it before reporting it as fact?

The local ESPN station should have resources available to them to be able to break this story ahead of other media, if it were true. Not making an extra phone call or two on this story severely harms the future credibility of WTEM when it comes to breaking news.

Yet, the same goes for the stories on other stations that begin with (for example) "ESPN is reporting that....". In that instance, the station or web site presenting the story should take it upon themselves to verify or get a denial of the story on their own, or lay off.

By reporting which other source "reports" another story, you either give publicity to another source as breaking a story before you if it is correct, and technically you still "reported" it if it turns out to not be correct. Or, if a radio host or online writer wants to comment on an active rumor, do not put it on a "sports news" update mixed in with other facts. In a separate on-air segment, or in a separate column, start out with "There is a rumor that.......".

No wonder so many people are watching the live games while some sports radio stations and losing listeners. Some fans are thinking they need to see the games in order to have the facts.

CHICAGO: What a sad story and an erie coincidence for WMAQ-TV. For the second time in less than 10 years, a sports reporter in his 30's has passed away suddenly. On Thursday (5/12), sportscaster Daryl Hawks was found dead in an Atlanta hotel room where the 38 year old was to cover the Bulls playoff game that night. Hawks leaves a wife and two children. Back in 2002, then 37 year old sports reporter Darrian Chapman died from a heart condition.

WMVP ESPN 1000 has been selected to host an initial run of "Sports Medicine Weekly", a one hour talk show specific to injuries to athletes ranging from pro to sandlot. Guests are to include surgeons and trainers, with regular segments devoted to pro sports injury reports and athletes who have recovered from various injuries, among others. The show will air in Chicago starting this Saturday (5/14) from 7 to 8 AM and is scheduled to run through July 30th. Look for this show to expand on ESPN Radio with any reasonable positive reaction from its pilot Chicago run.

The May 20th telecast of the interleague game between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox on WGN-TV will be without Cubs analyst Bob Brenley, who is taking the day off to watch his son play in A ball. But that isn't the story. It seems that Bill Buckner will be in Fenway Park for that game. Where exactly? He will be on Cubs' TV filling in for Brenly. Buckner was with the Cubs in the early 80's before going to the Red Sox and eventually being in the situation that makes him being in Fenway for a game such big news.

SAN FRANCISCO: The new SportsRadio 95.7 has hired Jason Barrett as its first Program Director, who joins the station from WXOS St. Louis.

CINCINNATI: Following the NFL Bengals announcing that Dan Hoard becomes the team's radio voice (while analyst Dave Lapham continues into his 26th season in that role) comes word that the same radio stations will continue to broadcast the games when the next season begins.

A fresh 3-year deal keeps the team on ESPN 1530 and WEBN 102.7 for all games. And, as has been case for the past several years, any Bengals games which do not conflict with Reds baseball broadcasts (regular or post-season) will also air on WLW 700.

TAMPA: As of press time, still no contract renewal announcement for the Big Dog, Steve Duemig, for his popular 3 to 7 PM show on WDAE 620. His current contract expires on Sunday (5/15). Duemig has been with WDAE since 1990. Now that WDAE has the killer local play-by-play lineup with the Rays, Bucs, and Lightning, keeping their afternoons in tact would be significant in the battle to dominate rivals WQYK 1010 and WHBO 1040.

OKLAHOMA CITY: We could say that The Sports Animal, WWLS 98.1 and 640, has 'bolted' up in the ratings thanks to the Thunder. With the NBA team strong into the NBA playoffs, the Sports Animal is up 24% in overall audience ratings compared with one year ago, including top 3 rankings during both mornings and afternoons. Not just 25 to 54 males, but overall audience. Sure, the local fans are excited, but it is up to the station to convey that over the air. Impressive.

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