Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Call The Games, Not The Names

Since when is on-air "name calling" a more punishable offense than inaccurate reporting or using profanity? It appears since recently based on the most recent media developments.

Earlier this week WDAE 620 Tampa listeners now have Rock Riley as a fill-in host on the sports talk station's morning drive show, following the dismissal of Dan Sileo. Station management would not comment about the sudden departure of Sileo, which happened to come the day after he referred to three NFL players as "monkeys" on the air. Sileo was suspended by the station back in 2009 due to comments he made about the family that owns the Buccaneers, but without any further comment, we can't say for sure if the "monkeys" incident is considered a second offense or not.

Obviously, Sileo's use of the term was not a proper action. Just like Rush Limbaugh's poor judgement in calling a young lady slang names which has resulted in some advertisers dropping the show.

KMOX St. Louis has been temporarily spared a decision about continuing with the Limbaugh show, since it is carrying the majority of Cardinals exhibition game broadcasts this year, including an average of 2 weekday afternoon games which pre-empt most of the Limbaugh show.

This is not to say that Sileo, Limbaugh, and other broadcasters who have seen their on-air gigs end or be jeopardized due to name calling, should be allowed to continue as if nothing happened. It is, however, to raise the question of why the name-calling is so much more punishable than inaccurate reporting and use of "unacceptable" language according to the FCC.

Last year, viewers heard Bob Knight use the 's-word' during an ESPN basketball telecast before he laughed it off on the air and was not the one to issue an apology on behalf of the network. Last fall, Fox Sports Radio listeners heard Mike North "report" the death of boxer Joe Frazier before it really happened. (At least he apologized and corrected the "report" later in the same show.) Since those incidents, Knight continues in his same role, and North has actually been promoted into a bigger role with Fox Sports Radio. Regular readers of The Broadcast Booth know how much I do not appreciate "reporters" merely telling their audience that "such and such is reporting that......" instead of investigating and providing their own take on a developing story.

I would like to think that the vast majority of sports fans who are listeners or viewers of these hosts and analysts can make the distinction between fact and opinion/comments. If I were to have been listening when Limbaugh made his insensitive comments, I would have had the choice to voice my disagreement with his name-calling or turn off his show and not return. If I were listening when Sileo used the possible racial slur, I would have been upset at his usage and opinion, and also had the option of tuning out forever. If and as these hosts (and others who make this mistake) lose their audience, they will then lose their show because of it.

Simply put, I see much more justification for terminating a "reporter" who doesn't get the facts right than I do because of name-calling.

DENVER: Speculation was a huge part of the "reporting" last Friday (3/9) when QB Peyton Manning visited the city to talk with the Broncos now that he is a free agent. Sure, it will be huge news wherever Manning goes. But it's not as if Manning was coming to town to make a final decision. But tell that to the local media.

On ESPN 102.3, Les Shapiro and JoJo were "reporting" about Manning leaving the local airport and heading for the Broncos offices. (Frankly, it would only be news if Manning did not get there.) On The Fan 104.3, Drew Goodman and Scott Hastings were also discussing the arrival of Manning. Dave Logan devoted much of the early portion of his KOA 850 afternoon show to this possibility.

Yet, the "coverage" was not limited to the sports shows and stations. Even KUSA-TV 9 reportedly spent more than eight minutes (eight minutes?) of its 10 PM newscast on this "story".

As of press time five days later, there is no official announcement of where Manning will play. Not even a decision that the Broncos are or are not in the mix. Unless Manning or a high ranking Broncos official was speaking about this specific possibility, it's tough to fathom this "story" taking up more than one minute of airtime during "reports". The sports talk stations could, of course, speculate with callers to their hearts' content, for those who find that interesting listening. I guess as long as the "reporters" don't call Manning or anyone else any slang or obscene names, this is the "reporting" we as sports fans will continue to be expected to live with.

St. LOUIS: The Broadcast Booth salutes Randy Karraker, who has returned to his WXOS 101.1 afternoon show within just four weeks of undergoing a quadruple bypass.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Doc Walker has a new three-year extension to continue hosting at WTEM-AM 980. While Walker has been with the station since the late 90's, this extension is significant since Walker no longer will co-host with coaching legend John Thompson. Instead, Walker will be featured in the 2 to 4 PM weekdays spot, starting on March 26th. In addition, he will continue on the Redskins' broadcast crew.

HARTFORD: The 97.9 and 1410 Sports AM and FM combo are ending their simulcast, providing area listeners with more sports choices. 97.9 has changed call letters to WUCS and continues with ESPN programming, along with Mike Bower hosting a local afternoon sports show from 3 to 7. WPOP 1410 now carries Fox Radio Sports and will air a local show with Paul Nanos (also heard on New Haven's ESPN WAVZ 1300) on weekdays. Area listeners can usually also pick up WFAN 660 out of New York, providing them with additional regional choices and play-by-play, making Hartford a well served sports radio market.

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