Monday, December 22, 2014

Wait 12 Minutes - Or Promote Your Competitor?

Maybe it's because I began the broadcasting portion of my career during an era when you did anything and everything you could to NEVER so much as mention a competitor over the air. These days, we have some media outlets not only mentioning, but in effect promoting their competition.

The benching of Jay Cutler from his starting QB position for the Chicago Bears last week was a huge story in Chicago, as well as to NFL fans around the nation, as well as being unexpected (since it was not due to injury).

As it happened that afternoon, I was watching CSN Chicago's "Sports Talk Live" show hosted by the hard working David Kaplan with a live panel of media members. In the midst of a live segment, Kaplan interrupted to say something to the effect of "Adam Schefer of ESPN just reported that Jay Cutler is being benched and Jimmy Clausen will start at QB for the Bears on Sunday!".

The panel then began to discuss "if it's true.....". This is not to specifically pick on Kaplan, who does an excellent job of reporting. Unfortunately, "reporting" what someone else is "reporting" has become far too common these days, especially in the sports media.

Reporters still don't understand how damaging this can be.

Of course, I understand the wanting to credit the source of a breaking story in case it needs to be retracted. However, in this instance (like many other situations in which this happens), a few minutes internally can make a huge difference.

Upon hearing this "report", I'm sure I wasn't the only viewer (who CHOSE Kaplan's show) to immediately switch over to ESPN, whether the TV network or the local ESPN 1000 Radio station, which, needless to say, were already all over this major sports story.

It wasn't until about 12 minutes later when Kaplan commented, to the effect of, "It is true. CSN is now reporting that Jay Cutler will not start on Sunday.....", and the discussion continued. We can speculate all we want about how much of the CSN audience may have been lost to ESPN by then.

How should this have been handled?

The fact is that CSN Chicago produced several hours of Bears specific programming as well as originating live pre-game and post-game shows before every Bears game. In addition, CSN is part of the NBC Sports group, which pays the NFL millions of dollars for Sunday Night Football and offers NFL programming on its NBCSN channel as well. CSN has both current and prominent former Bears players on its payroll.

Upon hearing this "report", the "story" could and should have been checked internally for verification. It obviously was, since CSN began "reporting" the story about 12 minutes after the ESPN "report" aired.

My point is that the vast majority (if not the entire) audience watching CSN at that time would not have known what rival ESPN was "reporting" during those few minutes until CSN sources were able to confirm the story. "Sports Talk Live" spends perhaps more of its time each week during football season about the Bears than any other local team or sports story.

They, in effect, told their audience that the biggest story about the Bears in months was first reported by a competitor.

Kaplan and the crew should have waited the 12 minutes, not said a word about the Cutler story, and THEN interrupted and started with "CSN has learned that.......". The viewers would not have known if or that any other media source was first with the story, nor would they have been given a reason to tune to a different channel or station.

Again, this sort of thing happens way too often. These programs, stations, and networks, depend on audience ratings in order to survive. A few minutes spent confirming a story makes a lot more sense than promoting a direct competitor. You read that here first.

SEATTLE: A ton of credit to KRJ Sportsradio and host Dave Mahler, who last week had Kevin Mather, the President of the Mariners, as an in-studio live guest on his show. In addition to taking calls from fans, Mather answered direct questions about the team payroll, the current ownership structure, and free agents not signed by the team.

It also made for an interesting part when host Mahler, who does not have many guests on his show, revealed that he went to school with Mahler's daughter and talked about the connection with the family. This is one area where sports radio stations could thrive, by giving listeners more direct access with team management. A ton more interesting than hearing from "Steve from the west side.....".

HOUSTON: Even though the Astros are finally showing some promise to compete in the American League West in the near future, the game broadcasts will remain on sports radio KBME 790, which now has a 4-year extension of its contract to air the games. KBME also airs the Rockets games, along with (non-conflicting) Texas A & M football and basketball. This announcement even though sister station KTRH 740, which aired the games for years prior, continues to have much higher overall audience ratings.

MIAMI: Down to two jobs now for Joe Rose, who has done his final sportscast, after 22 years, at WTVJ Channel 6. Rose anchored his last "Sports Final" on Sunday (12/21) night. Of course, Rose's other duties will keep him plenty busy, especially his continuing morning gig at WQAM 560. Rose also remains with the Dolphins radio crew.

BANGOR: WEZQ The Ticket 92.9 is changing its afternoon drive show to an even heavier sports focus. Teaming up with SportsNet Maine, Jim Churchill, Jeff Solari, and Wes Hart, will co-host "The Drive", which targets area pro teams, the University of Maine, and local high school sports starting Jan. 5th.

Rich Kimball, the voice of University of Maine football for the past 18 seasons, will have his show, which partially focused on sports, move over to WZON 620 (where Kimball was on the air for years prior) and will run head-to-head against the new show on The Ticket.

Finally, a Merry Christmas to you, yours, and theirs!!

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