Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jimmy Johnson Out-Foxed The Competition

Here we have the new CBS and NBC Sports Radio networks in start-up mode this month, along with NBC Sports Network (TV) now getting ready for a load of NHL telecasts starting next week. Yet, we also have Fox Sports with a major coup thanks to its analyst Jimmy Johnson.

Johnson either correctly predicted or reported, depending upon your perspective, on Friday (1/11) that Marc Trestman would be named to the Chicago Bears' coaching staff. At that time, Trestman was not one of the names being, well, speculated upon by the media as a candidate for the team's head coaching position. In an oddly timed announcement, the Bears sent out the announcement that Trestman would indeed be named the team's Head Coach on Wednesday Jan. 16th - at 4:00 AM Chicago time. The press conference to make the announcement official wasn't until the morning of January 17th.

Back on the afternoon of January 11th, Trestman was quoted by media sources as having denied Jimmy Johnson's comment via Twitter regarding the Bears position. While that is understandable, since it appears there was no contract for Trestman in place yet, the official announcement gave Jimmy Johnson and Fox Sports a major coup by being the first (if not only) source to provide what could be termed accurate speculation.

What does this all have to do with the new CBS and NBC Sports (radio) networks? When you think about it, plenty. Here we have two networks, especially CBS, on a major push to acquire an audience for their "new" national service. And NBC Sports Network on TV now gaining one of the very few programs which actually gets decent ratings while they promote their daily TV news and information shows.

When Jimmy Johnson's Twitter comment about Trestman came out last Friday, much of the national (as well as the Chicago) media went with Johnson's information. That included WSCR 670 The Score, which is the CBS sports radio station in Chicago. Once the announcement was made that Trestman was hired by the Bears as the new Head Coach, most football fans realized that Jimmy Johnson was correct with his "report". The majority of the media stories from last Friday say "Jimmy Johnson of Fox Sports".

It means that the significant media "boost" of the radio and TV stations as well as the print and online media gave to Johnson's comment on Twitter now means that Fox Sports picked up signficiant credibility among football fans. Again, Trestman was "off the radar" when it came to speculation about a new Bears head coach, so Johnson's "report" was not an obvious one, or "still another" of the same prediction. He (Johnson) clearly knew something was up.

This also means that the "speculation" by CBS, NBC, and a lot of other media sources wound up being incorrect about who would wind up as the new Bears' coach. Not only were these sources not correct, but those which "reported" on the Johnson tweet just gave their competition a huge positive promotion.

I've said it for years in this column, to my students, and to broadcast, print, and online colleagues. You are not supposed to promote your competition. This (the Johnson tweet) is a solid example of how you can get burned. This is even worse than how often outside media sources quote the likes of Charles Barkley or Terry Bradshaw, who are now best known as analysts for a specific network.

Those who "report" on sports need to go back to actual reporting and stop speculating. There is no counting how many "reporters" carried or aired the Jimmy Johnson "tweet story" last Friday, and helped Johnson and Fox Sports gain a ton of additional publicity for being the one source which was accurate.

Think about it. Any source other than a Fox Sports radio, TV, or online affiliate should have ignored the Johnson tweet until or unless they had factual information about the Bears' head coaching situation. If they all had done so, only Fox Sports would have been touting its having been first with the information. Because Fox Sports Radio is not a strong ratings grabber at this point (despite being months ahead of CBS' and NBC's radio sports networks), not as many football fans would have ever known. After all, these speculation lists from other reporters, the vast majority of which did not include Trestman's name until last Friday, were proven wrong.

These media outlets could have merely reported the "surprise announcement" in the middle of the night by the Chicago Bears, and presented information about Trestman. That was "real" sports news. Would have been a nice change of pace.

Along the same lines is the Manti Te'o "story". Once again, the media got caught "reporting" what other media was reporting. We still (as of press time) don't know what really happened with his so-called girlfriend. For whatever reason, a ton of media time and space is being taken up with questions about this. Questions, but not answers. Then again, do we really need "answers"?

Sorry, but whatever the true story is or was, this is not a football or NCAA matter at all. Fans generally don't care about the significant other (or even lack thereof) of athletes and team officials. Whether this "story" was a hoax or not has no impact on Notre Dame's 12-0 regular season and bowl game loss. Why is this a time consuming news story outside of South Bend? (If even there?)

Let's recap. Within the past few days, a tweet "report" by Jimmy Johnson of Fox Sports proved accurate ahead of its time, despite a ton of media speculation resulting in favorable publicity for Fox Sports. And one player on a college football team may or may not have invented or been hoaxed into a story regarding a girlfriend. Yet, these two stories have taken up the bulk of sports "reports", especially in the midwest, over the past couple of days. Not "Entertainment Tonight" or TMZ, but the sportscasts.

Oh, for the days of reporting on the day's games and the players in them. One would think that with all of these new SPORTS networks coming along, someone would be able to do that.

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