Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Red Sox Reporters Left Red Handed

Sorry, but I found the Terry Francona and Red Sox manager story this past Friday (9/30) setting a new low for sports "reporting" across the board. That morning, reports and rumors were rampant from newspaper, radio, TV, and online sources that Francona was being let go, most likely at a late morning press conference.

Several sources I thought were credible and reliable reported that Francona had met with team officials, and there were multiple reports on Twitter about a time and supposed live coverage of a press conference to announce that Francona would be out as Red Sox manager.

Later that same morning, media reports came out that Francona had left the building, there would not be a press conference, and that "no decision had been announced". That was bad enough, but I left it at that and went on to other things.

Imagine my surprise a couple hours later when a friend told me that Francona had been let go. There I was practically arguing with him because I saw that there was no press conference. Shortly after that, I began hearing and seeing the reports that he really had been dismissed as Red Sox manager.

It's not about what I think of the dismissal or the significance of the story. But it is about how members of the media need to be held accountable. I don't care that some of the biggest names among the media who cover baseball or just the Red Sox were fooled. A lot of people screwed up this story by jumping to conclusions and confusing their putting possibilities together and reporting them as if they were fact. If this continues to happen, it could get to the point where I'll wind up only checking team and league web sites for "official" news. I, for one, no longer care who is first with a sports story. It's more important to wait and get it right - every time.

Looks as though it's too early to tell if the return of the NFL regular season will bring additional listeners back to sports talk radio. Personally, I'm going to be watching the ratings even more between now and the end of the year, and so far it's a mixed bag.

The top 3 markets were without impact from the overall audience on radio ratings from mid-August into mid-September and the start of NFL season play. In New York, both WFAN and WEPN held steady. In Chicago, WSCR and WMVP both showed little change, although both stations did go up in cumes, which means that those listening were tuned in for longer periods of time last month.

In Los Angeles, well, it's still a big mess. Granted, there is no "home" NFL team, but with the Dodgers making so much news due to the ownership controversy, sports is more prominent in the news. Yet, we still need a magnifying glass to find the sports radio stations. Neither KSPN, KLAC, or KLAA, could do any better than a .7. Combined they would barely make the top 25. Yet, the Dodgers radio broadcasts will move to KLAC 570 starting next season. Clearly the station hopes that having the Dodgers will finally bring them an audience. No telling what the Dodgers are thinking by burying their broadcasts. While there is nothing wrong with the 570 AM frequency for broadcasts, I have to wonder why they would not have gone for a station or stations that have enough listeners. The new radio deal is reportedly for 3 seasons, making this a big gamble for the team.

Yet, if you look at the 4,5, and 6 markets for sports radio ratings, the case could be made that the NFL season does have an impact on sports radio ratings. In San Francisco, KNBR 680 continues to be a major force for sports radio, this time coming in tied for 4th in overall audience. Yet, their audience is down from what it was for the July ratings, which was prior to even the NFL pre-season. The audience drop is probably because of the Giants not making it to the post-season to defend their World Series title while the A's continue to fall to oblivion.

In Dallas, the start of Cowboys season always brings a positive impact to sports radio. It's practically the law in Texas. KTCK The Ticket increased .3 overall, doing so impressively for the 2nd month in a row, and came in tied for #10 overall. KESN and KRLD-FM both showed increases. Even though much of this increase is due to Cowboys season, the Rangers being back in the baseball playoffs also plays a part in this.

And in Houston, KILT and KBME have both more than doubled their overall listening audiences since the July ratings period, and that's impressive. Even KFNC-FM was gone up .3 during that time. This is clearly due to the Texans, as this team could contend for the Super Bowl this season. It certainly wasn't due to the Astros disaster of a season.

I mention these markets because I had received several responses earlier this year when I began to question the future with competing sports radio stations in many markets. Some said the lower spring ratings were due the NFL and college football being the big seasons for these stations. We shall see.

The NFL season is already attracting record TV viewing audiences and strong support across the board, especially when less appealing NFL games are holding their own against baseball post-season telecasts.

However, some odd instances have been going on during NFL telecasts of late.

The Detroit vs. Dallas telecast last Sunday (10/2) was down to the final 11 seconds, when Fox's Joe Buck and Troy Aikman acted as if the coming play was 3rd down for Dallas at the same time viewers could see on the screen that it was really 4th down. Buck caught the error while the play unfolded, but didn't correct the mistake until the play was over and it meant the Lions would win the game. Thus, the worst possible time for an error like that, since that was the most important play of the final minutes of the game. I have to wonder where the production crew was that they didn't instantly tell Buck at the time.

Another mystery from Fox took place moments earlier when the Carolina vs. Chicago game ended. Even though the Lions play in the same NFC North as the Bears and the game against Dallas was then in its final 4 minutes, those watching that regional telecast were instead sent to the St. Louis vs. Washington game instead. What made that move even more perplexing is that neither the Rams or Redskins plays in the same division as either the Panthers or the Bears. Yet, that telecast was switched to Bears fans ahead of the division rival Lions, and ahead of the Cowboys at any point in time.

Los Angeles NFL viewers (watching via the local stations) could be innocent victims of CBS's policy about "secondary market" telecasts again this season. CBS continues to include L.A. as a "secondary market" for the San Diego Chargers, which means their telecast have priority. Even over the Oakland Raiders, who called Los Angeles home for a few seasons. This coming Sunday (10/9), the Raiders play in Houston in the early CBS telecast. However, the Chargers are the regional doubleheader game on CBS playing at Denver. As a "secondary market", this means that if the Raiders game is still going or in overtime, CBS is "forced" to leave that game prior to kickoff of the Chargers game. CBS already had this happen on Sept. 18th and it could happen again on November 20th when the Chargers are a late game in Chicago with the Raiders early at Minnesota.

Howard Eskin, now serving as an Eagles reporter for Philadelphia's NBC 10-TV has been having a rough go since leaving his afternoon drive show on WIP Radio earlier this month. Last week, Eskin "reported" that Michael Vick would be out 2 to 4 weeks due to a hand injury, which turned out to not be the case. Then, he went on KNBR San Francisco with Gary Radnich and Larry Krueger, and said on the air that he would ride a bicycle across the country if the Eagles lost to the 49ers last Sunday, which it so happened they did.

Actually, those two scenarios are only related because they are both from Eskin. The bike ride comment may come back to haunt him, but that was clearly in support of a prediction and not misreporting something, like he did with Michael Vick. Luckily, he wasn't on the air when the Terry Francona situation was unfolding last Friday. Although, he couldn't have done any worse than some far more reliable reporters did. It does underline that opinions and facts are two different things, and it's time for the reporting media to step up and realize that.

PITTSBURGH: The Post-Gazette reported that the Pirates will no longer be heard on WPGB 104.7 after 5 seasons. Either The Fan KDKA-FM or KDKA-AM is expected to carry the games starting next season. The Fan currently carries Pitt football. The entire radio and TV announcing crew is employed by the team, so the only thing that will change will be the flagship radio station.

SOUTH BEND: While Notre Dame football season is in full swing, the market has lost its ESPN Radio affiliation. Yet, WDND 1620 didn't switch to Fox Sports or program anything else sports to replace it. Instead, the station began simulcasting a sister FM station's music instead. It will be, ummmmm, interesting to see how many people go to 1620 AM to hear music, won't it?

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