RSN.net Interview with BSMW

This interview was originally published on Nov 25th over on the RedSoxNation.net page.

RSN: What is the history behind Boston Sports Media Watch, and how has it evolved since April 2002?

BA: I started the site basically to practice writing about sports media. I wanted to do something different and didn’t know where to start. I had looked at guys like Bill Griffith and Jim Baker and felt that they had the best jobs in the world. They were getting paid to watch, listen to and read sports! They didn’t even have to go to the games most of the time; it was something they could do at home. I had no idea how to get into that, and started just writing my thoughts down on a blog and hoping that some day I’d have a little body of work to show a small newspaper or something. Somehow though, people started finding the site, and the traffic began to grow. I started incorporating daily links from the newspapers into the site, and it grew more. A lot of people had gotten used to reading Bill Simmons daily links on his old site and missed them when he moved to ESPN. I’ve been able to slowly add more features to the site, such as an occasional column here and there, then a message board, then a secondary media column (Scott’s Shots) and another (Media Blitz) and then started adding blogs for the local teams. Eventually I’d like to make the site a full time gig, but I think that’s still at least a few years away.

RSN: Reports have long-time Boston Globe sports media critic Bill Griffith stepping aside. With that happening, how will the Globe replace the coverage he provides?

BA: Too early to tell. Its possible Bill might still contribute a weekly freelance article to the paper. If not, they would likely not replace that coverage in a specific column but might instead incorporate some of that information into various team notebooks, blogs or into the main TV and Radio reports that the paper has. Bill does a great job at going behind the scenes and letting us know what happens on the set, or out in the production truck, that sort of thing. Those types of features likely won’t be replaced.

RSN: How would you compare your own coverage of the Boston sports media with that of the Globe, and of the Herald?

BA: Well, other than Griffith, there isn’t really much sports media coverage out there. I would say that I have the advantage in not being tied to an entity that I can’t criticize. It’s hard to write for a paper and have the freedom to say when one of your own is out of line or has done a poor job. Conversely, when praise is given to your own, there is the suspicion about whether it is really merited or not. I don’t have to worry about those things.

RSN: What was your role in breaking the Ken Powers story, and what did it mean for BSMW?

BA: An alert reader brought to my attention a story on an online news media site (The Editor & Publisher) which just made a brief mention of the situation. I brought that news to the local area by putting that link on BSMW. Then with the help of a couple friends of the site, we were able to use LexisNexis to pull up Powers’ recent articles and compare them with others out there. We could then get them on the site side by side, so that people could see the audacity of the plagiarism. For the site, it meant a huge bump in visits, as the site was mentioned on many other sites around the country and in newspapers such as the New York Times. A lot of the people who found the site at that time have remained loyal readers.

RSN: What is your opinion of the Boston Globe’s relationship with the Red Sox?

BA: It’s a no-win situation for them. They get a scoop, it was handed to them – at least that is the public perception. They write a positive article, they’re just serving as the PR branch of the Red Sox. Even if none of these things are true, the perception is still there. In the case of Dan Shaughnessy, you go further; he used Tom Werner to get his kid an internship at Werner’s production company in California. Then Shaughnessy writes the infamous article that Sunday that contained information that could have only been passed to him from within the immediate circle of Larry Lucchino. The red flags are raised. Shaughnessy’s credibility, already shaky, has basically become non-existent. The Globe’s relationship with the Globe is more of a detriment than a plus when it comes to their coverage of the team and the public’s perception.

RSN: In a very short time, at a young age, Chris Snow has developed an outstanding reputation covering the Red Sox. Has anyone in the local print media ever come so far, so fast?

BA: Sure. Michael Smith came in just a couple years ago as an intern, was hired when he finished school, and became the beat writer for the New England Patriots. He then quickly moved to ESPN.com to become a senior writer there, while still in his early 20′s. Chris has done a great job covering the Red Sox however, and was a welcome addition to a staff in need of some youth and fresh thinking.

RSN: Howard Bryant recently traded in his job at the Boston Herald for one at the Washington Post. What does his departure mean for the Herald, and what does it mean for the Boston market?

BA: Howard had a voice that needed to be heard in Boston. The city is now without an African-American columnist, but more importantly has lost a guy who brought thought, intelligence and perspective to his columns, qualities that are lacking among many of his colleagues. Bryant was also unusual in that he wasn’t a huge self-promoter. After he left, WEEI took many shots at him and suggested that they never wanted him on their airwaves. The truth was that Bryant wasn’t interested in making all sorts of extra media appearances and chose the ones he did take carefully. The fact that his book Juicing the Game was ignored by the radio station was ridiculous, as it was one of the top books on the subject out there, and his knowledge on the subject was never utilized by the shows, despite their spending countless hours on the topic. In addition the Herald is now down to two sports columnists, and unlikely to replace the slot. He will be missed.

RSN: What is the overall health of the Boston Herald, and save for free dailies like the Boston Metro, do you see Boston ever becoming a one-newspaper town?

BA: I sure hope not. But even if the city of Boston was down to one major newspaper, the advent of the internet has given readers and sports fans more choices for local coverage. Sports sections in the Providence Journal and Hartford Courant are geared towards the Boston fan. The area that would suffer the most would be the news side. Like I said, I hope it doesn’t happen. The Herald has been in full cost cutting mode this year, dropping veterans off its pages who had been there for decades. Their situation certainly bears watching.

RSN: Much like Chris Snow in the print media, Ryen Russillo has developed a good reputation for his work on sports radio. Despite that, he has remained unemployed since 1510 discontinued local programming. Where do you see him landing, and is WEEI a possibility?

BA: WEEI is a stretch, mostly because they don’t have any openings. It would be interesting to see if they would bring him in as a guest on the Big Show, or as a fill in on the weekends. A regular gig at the station isn’t likely to develop just yet. He made an appearance with Mike Felger on ESPN radio recently and is a semi-regular guest on FSN’s New England Sports Tonight. He might be looking to do more television work, though earlier on, his goal was to get into a sports franchise front office and eventually become a general manager. It’s probably a stretch, but maybe he’ll pursue that.

RSN: Do either 1510 or ESPN Radio have a future here, and what do they have to do to make inroads against WEEI and their market dominance?

BA: 1510, no. ESPN radio is basically here so they can tell sponsors that they have a “presence” in the Boston area market. No other sports radio station in Boston is going to compete with WEEI until they have a suitable signal. In my mind that is the number one factor – signal strength. You put up a sports radio station with a good signal and even mediocre talent; it’s going to take listeners from WEEI.

RSN: If either were to take measurable market share away from them, what would WEEI’s reaction likely be — more of the same, more sports content, or more entertainment?

BA: More of the same. They feel they invented the wheel over there. Based on their success using their formula, who can really blame them for feeling that way?

RSN: What was your opinion of WEEI pulling the plug on Ted Sarandis and “Ted Nation?”

BA: They didn’t technically pull the plug on the show, Sarandis resigned, but it was likely under duress. Jim Baker had printed a few months ago in the Nashua Telegraph that Sarandis was basically being pushed out at the station, his colleagues on the station mocked him openly on the airwaves and it pretty much became an unbearable working situation for Sarandis. Now, I wasn’t a big fan of his sometimes abrupt style and show, but he did bring on a lot of guests from the suburban papers, exposing them to a larger audience and attempted to lead a thoughtful and intelligent show – again something that is not looked kindly upon by the sports media powers that be in this city. My thoughts on the matter are basically that WEEI handled the entire situation in a classless manner and that Sarandis is likely much happier right now.

RSN: In your opinion, which is/was the better show: Dale and Neumie, or Dale and Holley?

BA: When Michael Holley was announced as the replacement for Bob Neumeier, I had high hopes for the program. I had openly advocated Holley for the job, and still feel he does a fairly decent job. However, I think he’s been a slight disappointment. He hasn’t brought as much “inside” information about the Patriots as I thought he might, and hasn’t been as knowledgeable on other topics as I thought he would be. Neumeier grew on me as time went by, and I appreciated his habit of looking at statistics and trying to get another viewpoint on a certain topic. Plus, the “voice of Bob Neumeier” is my all time favorite whiner line character. I guess I would say that the Dale & Neumie show was better, but the current Dale & Holley is still okay.

RSN: Have we seen the last of Eddie Andelman, and do you feel he should call it a career or remain a presence on Boston radio?

BA: I think we’ve seen the last of Eddie as a daily radio host. I could see him getting a weekly radio or TV slot somewhere, or doing more with the Phantom Gourmet. I think he’s had his run; it’s probably time for Eddie to hang it up and enjoy his retirement.

RSN: Someone who has been around nearly as long as Andelman is Bob Lobel. What is Lobel’s future at Channel 4, and how much luster has he lost in the past few years?

BA: Bob should be around for a little while longer. He’s working without a contract at CBS4 as far as I know, but I don’t expect him to go anywhere. His rep has taken a bit of a hit in recent years because of the incident with the girlfriend as well as the cartoonist who portrayed him as being drunk on the air. Those incidents have certainly taken some of the shine off of his luster, but he is a television icon around these parts, and will continue to be a presence in our living rooms for major sporting events.

RSN: Do you think NESN is happy with all of their on-air personalities, or do you see them looking to make a few upgrades?

BA: NESN, like any other station is always looking to make upgrades I think they’re reasonably happy with who they have at the present, but they will continue to add and switch studio analysts in and out and experiment with various hosts and guests. I don’t really know who they might add, but I could see Bob Neumeier taking a bigger role with the station, getting more involved in the Bruins and Red Sox telecasts.

RSN: Do you see Hazel Mae as being more, or less, popular than she was a year ago? Also, is she more likely a supernova or someone that will be a part of the Boston sports scene for years to come?

BA: Id say she’s more popular now, probably because she’s allowed us to see more of herself. That of course can be taken several different ways, and they’re probably all applicable. She’s gotten a little more comfortable with her role and expressing her personality, and has even looked to expand her exposure a little bit with call-ins to WEEI and making headlines outside of the NESN studios. For the long term -I really don’t know. She might be someone who could aspire to a more national level and what she’s doing now could just be a stepping stone to a bigger platform.

RSN: The popularity of blogs, and other websites that cover the local teams, has grown exponentially in recent years. How much impact are they having, and which among them do you consider the best locally?

BA: Blogs are huge right now, not just locally and not just involving sports. The blogging phenomenon is everywhere, and it has had an effect of almost all areas of life. There are news blogs, media blogs, political blogs, food blogs, sports blogs, entertainment blogs, personal blogs, blogs on blogs and on and on. They’ve caused quite a bit of consternation among main stream media who find themselves being second guessed and ridiculed in a very public forum. Of course, many media outlets themselves are starting blogs, and we’ve seen that in the local area as well, the local papers and TV stations are creating their own blogs on various topics. I’m not really sure if I consider them “real” blogs however. In my mind, a pure blog is one created by an individual or private group and not a huge media conglomerate. Of course, that’s just my own opinion.

The best local sports blogs out there? (Excluding my own blogs) Here’s my short list:

Chad Finn’s Touching All the Bases – Boston.com has been creating all sorts of blogs in conjunction with the Boston Globe, and the most talented blogger in the whole building doesn’t even get one of those. Finn works for the sports copy desk and maintains his own private blog which is a terrific mix of writing, insight and humor.

Celtics Blog – A great mix of news, links, commentary and opinion on the NBA’s greatest franchise.

Reiss’ Pieces- Ok, so I just got finished saying that corporate owned blogs weren’t “real.” This one is the exception. Reiss started this blog over at the MetroWest Daily News and brought it with him over to the Globe. It is simply the best media run blog I have ever seen. He updates it constantly with tidbits and information as soon as it happens, without having to wait for the next day’s paper. You also get a ton of information that doesn’t make it into the paper.

Firebrand of the American League – A great Red Sox blog. They update almost daily with more in depth entries than you see at a lot of blogs out there.

Ok, just one of my own, just because I don’t think there are many others out there on this team:

Bruins Power Play – These guys have had a difficult task this year with the awful play of the team, but they’ve also developed and used some statistical analysis that I haven’t seen used in hockey before.

RSN: What is John Molori’s relationship with BSMW, and who the heck is David Scott?

BA: John allows BSMW to post his weekly Media Blitz column on the site. Other than that, there is no formal association with the site, though we’ve tossed the idea around in the past about trying to do something together. As for David, some of his background can be found here:

RSN: Last one: Do you think you help keep the Boston sports media honest, or is that even possible?

BA: Honestly, the majority of them don’t need to be kept “honest.” Most of them are hardworking people who go out and do their jobs and don’t need to be “watched.” It’s the few that use their positions as a bully pulpit or to further their own agendas, or that consistently get their facts wrong that need to be called on it. When I get feedback from these very ones about how “unfair” I’m being to them, or that I have an “agenda” against them, then I know the site is having its desired effect.

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