This is a very challenging week for the sports reporting media. At least, it should be. I spend a lot of time commenting and fielding questions about what I call "the separation of fact and rumor" when it comes to on air (or online) reporting.
Specifically, there is the matter of handling "reporting" on the current NFL and NBA lockouts, in effect as of press time. It is one thing for the sports talk show hosts to share the rumors about upcoming votes, settlements, and what would happen if and when regarding getting training camps open and starting the games. That part is speculation and opinion, and that's what sports talk is all about when it involves the fans.
Where I take exception is seemingly every sports media outlet having somebody "reporting" that an end to the NFL lockout is coming any minute now. If I were reporting a sportcast today on radio or TV (and I'm sure a few of my critics gleefully point out that I'm not), I would report that there is "nothing yet" regarding an end to the lockout. If I were hosting a talk show, I would then be speculating about if these meetings that are supposed to happen will happen, and what they mean. It's the difference between reporting and speculating.
Instead, too many "reporters" are predicting times and days the NFL lockout will end. They want to have been right in their prediction. It seems nobody keeps track of predictions that don't happen. That's the problem here. In a way, it is (or should be) like how a play-by-play announcer is taught never to speculate when a player is injured on the field or court during a live broadcast about the nature of the injury. You say "It appears to be the right knee", and leave it at that. And the announcers wait until they are given an official update from a team official.
A true reporter should wait until there is definite "news" about the lockout before reporting it.
The other challenge for the media this week is the NBA schedule announcements, despite a lockout also in progress of NBA players. On one hand, I can understand the NBA wanting to get their 2011-12 season schedule in place. Tickets need to be printed and sold, teams need to make their travel plans, sponsors need to plan game promotions, and on it goes.
It is "news" to local NBA team fans as to when their team's opener and a couple of other key games will be played. However, I can't help but wonder if announcing this so soon is good or bad for NBA publicity. The local headlines around the country I heard and saw were, understandably, focused on the "if there is a season" and "if the lockout settled in time.....".
In this instance, the reporters are not "reporting" rumors or predicting whether or not these games will be played in the way they seem to be this week regarding the NFL's situation. While handling the NBA schedule news with more true reporting, it looks as though the NBA put out millions of dollars worth of publicity which isn't necessarily favorable. Learning that the champion Dallas Mavericks are scheduled to open their season against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls would normally be an exciting and favorable announcement for the NBA. Having every sports outlet "reporting" that this and other such games may not even be played does nothing to increase the enthusiasm of the NBA fans.
Then it stunned me when within the same afternoon of the schedule announcement, ESPN/ABC, TNT, and NBA-TV began pumping out their planned national schedules. These telecasts, as of this writing, are not yet factual due to the lockout. Never mind that they announced games they plan to show in 2012 before many teams have come anywhere near finalizing their roster and representing a threat to contend.
Seems like wasted publicity to me. These networks would have been better off to hold back their announcements until or unless the lockout is settled. They would have done better to wait until hours after the lockout is over and then start hyping those telecasts they know for certain they'll have. A "We might be able to show you these games....." announcement is really speculation and not factual.
Meanwhile, it is factual that Versus, or hopefully a more memorable name for the network by the end of the summer, is enhancing its expanded NHL coverage for the coming season. The network has, to its credit, managed to secure the full-time services of play-by-play voices Mike "Doc" Emrick and Dave Strader to handle the vast majority of the NHL telecast workload. Emrick leaves the New Jersey Devils TV booth after 21 seasons, while Strader leaves the Phoenix Coyotes play-by-play job. Strader has also previously called Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings games, as well as calling NHL games on ESPN between 1996 and 2004.
If the NHL avoids a labor action and gets its season started as scheduled, we know its national telecasts will be all the better for it.
ATLANTA: The Fan 680 has decided to do an afternoon lineup swap. Buck Belue and John Kincade will have their "Buck & Kincade Show" shortened from 4 to 3 hours and move up to the Noon to 3 PM slot. The "Chuck & Chernoff Show" with Chuck Oliver and Matt Chernoff moves from the Noon spot into the 3 to 7 PM position. This move makes sense, at least for the short term. Chuck & Chernoff have done very well with their early afternoon ratings, and can also focus more on the Braves contending and the coming SEC Football season during afternoon drive, in the event the Falcons' pre-season doesn't get started.
DENVER: KOA certainly thinks there will be a full Broncos season, or they could find themselves risking a powerful position in Denver afternoon drive. KOA 850 has increased the sports presence on "The Dave Logan Show" from 3 to 7 PM. The Broncos play-by-play voice will be talking sports, with a co-host very likely to be added. Former NBA player Scott Hastings used to co-host with Logan during that time. KOA continues with newscasts and traffic reports during Logan's show. The significance is that Denver already has The Fan 104.3, ESPN 1600, The Ticket 102.3, and Mile High Sports 1510 + 93.7 with sports shows at the same time. But if the NFL lockout doesn't end soon, one has to wonder how long this will be the case on KOA.
BOSTON: Another of those "if there is an NFL season" media stories. If and when, WEEI 850 and 103.7 will again carry the Westwood One NFL package of both Sunday and Monday NFL broadcasts. One change in the Westwood One package for the coming season is that the NFC and AFC Championship Games and Super Bowl broadcasts can air in every market without home team blackout. Thus, if there is a season and if the Patriots get to the AFC Championship Game, WEEI could air the national broadcast against the Pats' local call of the game.
NEW YORK: Len Berman is reducing his schedule once again. Berman has given up his Monday and Friday morning sports anchor spot on John Gambling's WOR Radio. Ironically, replacing Berman is Bruce Beck of WNBC-TV. Beck had replaced Berman at WNBC-TV a few years back. Even if only the 2 mornings per week, Berman's segments continued to be popular among NYC sports fans.
LOUISVILLE: I guess we'd be surprised about the interest in University of Louisville basketball. U of L has a couple of exhibition games (yes, college basketball exhibition games) coming up in the Bahamas. The team will play against the likes of the "Commonwealth Giants" and the "Real Deal Shockers". Yet, plans have been unveiled for those games to be televised live back to Louisville, and for those games to be broadcast live on WHAS 840 Radio. For those who are not aware, WHAS is not one of those 500 watt stations with nothing to put on all day. It is a 50,000 watt powerhouse. I'm sure that transplanted fans of the "Real Deal Shockers" are just as delighted they'll be able to hear and see these games live. No wonder there is so much speculation about ending the NFL and NBA lockouts!