Competition among networks is one thing, but completely different handling of a similar situation is another. In an unfortunate coincidence, both CBS and Fox Sports have been faced with a reporter putting out a premature death story within 24 hours of the actual occurence. Yet, the aftermath was the opposite for each network.
On Saturday Jan. 21, a report from CBS Sports that Joe Paterno had passed away was denied by the Paterno family. However, Paterno passed away the following morning. The reporter, Adam Jacobi, was dismissed from his position by CBS within the following week because of this. To his credit, Jacobi went on Twitter and (over the course of multiple posts) told his followers "CBS had to let me go for the Paterno story going out the way it did, and I understand completely. I had an awesome 17 months with CBSSports.com. I'm sorry to everyone, most importantly the Paterno family, for how it ended."
In this instance, not even the dismissed employee questioned the move and why CBS had do make it.
We flash back to November 7, 2011, less than 3 months ago. The sports world and especially the boxing world lost Joe Frazier who passed away that day. Yet, the night before (Nov. 6), Fox Sports Radio host Mike North went on the air on his national radio show and reported that Frazier had already passed away. North, realizing his error before the show was over, apologized for going with the then erroneous report. Since that time, North has been promoted to more on-air work on Fox Sports Network, while no word of any disciplinary action was announced, if any was even taken.
Although I have my opinion on how both networks should have handled this situation, what is noteworthy is that these two major networks each took a separate road out of this. North not only remained on the air without any publicly known consequences, while Jacobi lost his job, for the very same infraction.
My hope is that reporters and news and sports directors will learn from these incidents. The idea is not always to be "first" to report a story. Rather, it is to use your sources and check your facts. It's not as though these were local radio station guys reporters fresh out of school. As a sports fan, I would like to think that the likes of CBS and Fox would have and use their vast resources to check the facts before they report anything. Instead, we all continue to get far too many of the "ESPN is reporting that......" going out on other major networks, most of which should be using their internal resources instead of taking the lazy approach of stealing a possible story from another source.
Meanwhile, ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio are among those providing fans around the country with wall-to-wall coverage leading into Sunday's Super Bowl, whether they want it or not. Other than in the participating teams' markets, I can't believe that the casual football fan needs to hear a full-length story about an offensive lineman's personal life, hotel prices in the host city, and other such "stories" that fill up the airwaves in place of the NBA, NHL, and college basketball games and results. The vast majority of sports fans I talk with, both within and outside of the media, don't care what commercials will be shown during the telecast either. That sports specific radio stations and TV networks spend any time on this fluff amazes me (but not in a good way). Most of this material is fine for Entertainment Tonight or shows which are not targeted specifically toward sports fans.
Within the Giants and Patriots markets, the Super Bowl hype all week is a different story. Many fans can't get enough. (Except for things such as actual news reports that Chris Mad Dog Russo "said hello" to WFAN's Mike Francesa on radio row on Monday.)
On the New York side, WFAN has Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason (morning team), Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts (middays), and Mike Francesa (afternoons) all broadcasting for at least some of this week from Indianapolis. Since WFAN is also the Giants' flagship station, the broadcast team of Bob Papa, Carl Banks, and Howard Cross will also appear throughout the week, as well as beat reporters Paul Dottino and Peter Schwartz. Benigno and Roberts will host a local WFAN pre-game show from 2 to 5 PM on Sunday.
In addition, WFAN and sister station WBZ-FM The Sports Hub Boston are doing some sharing and on air "mingling" with the hosts on each station.
WEPN 1050, New York's ESPN station is also on the scene at Indy along with its national coverage from ESPN Radio. This leads up to what WEPN plans as the "world's longest post-game show" with Bill Daughtry hosting for the entire overnight.
In Boston, both WEEI and WBZ-FM will broadcast the game to top off their week of non-stop coverage.
SAN ANTONIO: KZDC 1250 plans to continue with Jason Minnix as the lone host of its afternoon drive show after dismissing Chris Duel, who had been co-host until last week. The station cited ratings as the reason over and above cost-cutting, pointing out that ESPN's Mike & Mike morning show has been drawing higher ratings than the local afternoon show. We shall see if taking off one co-host instead of both makes a difference in the ratings over the next few months.
MINNEAPOLIS: Michelle Tafoya is heading for sidelines. Not just for the Super Bowl coverage on NBC. From her afternoon drive show on WCCO Radio after nearly three years. Tafoya will do occasional fill-ins for the station but is expected to increase her duties with NBC.
HOUSTON: Another big change on the Houston sports landscape. Just before the Astros relocate to the American League at the end of this year, Bob Allen will no longer be handling sports on KTRK Channel 13, or any other station. Allen has been Sports Director since 1975 (having joined Channel 13 in 1974), but announced last week (on Jan. 24th) that he plans to retire toward the end of this year. Allen began in Houston in 1971 at KPRC-AM. He joined KTRK-TV as a weekend anchor, replacing Dan Lovett when he (Lovett) left for WABC New York.
CHICAGO: While the Bulls are off to the best start in the shortened NBA season, the TV ratings are off to just as good of a start this season. Comcast SportsNet has been setting ratings records for the Bulls telecasts this season. Although it did not exist during the Michael Jordan era, last Wednesday's (Jan. 25) against Indiana had the highest regular season ratings for any Comcast SportsNet Chicago telecast (including Blackhawks, White Sox, and Cubs) in its history. Overall, through last week, CSN's Bulls telecasts are up more than 50% over last season's.
LOS ANGELES: Local NBA telecast ratings are also soaring for one of the city's local teams. That isn't the story. That the "team" is the Clippers certainly is. After all these years, it appears people are actually watching the Clippers to see the Clippers. Now Fox Sports West has actually expanded its Clippers pre-game show to a full hour. It's news to a lot of local basketball fans that they actually had a Clippers pre-game show before this season.
NEW YORK: The near future of Kim Jones is still up in the air (but not on the air - yet) after she reportedly has left the YES Network. Although she has appeared with Mike Francesa on occasion, the word is she will go with a national source, possibly NFL Network.Still another loss for the sports media, as Channel 5's Oren Stevens, most recently a contributor on Sunday's "Sports Extra" has passed away from cancer at the age of 73. People around the country might remember Stevens from his acting role in the movie "Downhill Racer" with Robert Redford and Gene Hackman from the late 60's.
NEW ORLEANS: Just as Bob Allen is leaving Houston TV, a similar change in New Orleans where WWL-TV's Sports Director Jim Henderson is retiring this week after 34 years. The good news for Saints fans is that Henderson is not retiring. He plans to continue indefinitely as the radio voice of the Saints, which he has done since 1982. WWL-TV is presenting reflections of Henderson's career with the station on all of its nightly newscasts this week in a fitting tribute.
BOSTON: Former first baseman Matt Stairs has been added as a part-time studio analyst for its Red Sox telecasts. NESN will also add Jenny Dell as its field reporter for Red Sox games. Dell comes from ESPN where she has appeared on the X Games and events on ESPN.com, and replaces Heidi Watney who has moved to Los Angeles.
HARTFORD: WPKX-FM has officially relocated from Enfield CT to Windsor Locks, which is closer to Hartford, and now carries ESPN Radio. The station is reportedly developing a local afternoon drive show. WPOP 1410 already carries ESPN on the AM side out of Hartford.