#10 Media Free Agency

This is #10 in our list of top 10 Boston sports media stories this decade…

One thing that is lamented in the world of sports is that players hardly ever spend their entire careers with one team any more. Two teams is even fairly rare, it seems that players change uniforms via trade or free agency several times throughout the course of their careers.

It sort of used to be the same with sports writers and media people. They were identified with their employers. You knew that if you tuned into channel four, you’d see Bob Lobel doing sports, or if you opened The Boston Globe you’d read a Bob Ryan column.

This decade has seen high-profile sports media figures jump from outlet to outlet with increasing frequency. In some ways, this is a reflection of the job market as a whole. People hardly ever spend their entire careers with a single firm any more, usually trying out a number of jobs throughout the course of their working life.

People moved from job to job in the past, or course, usually from a local job to a national gig, such as Peter Gammons moving from the Globe to Sports Illustrated, and the Globe to ESPN, or Gerry Callahan going from the Herald to SI. The legendary Globe sports staff of the 1970′s almost all moved onto national gigs. But it was fairly rare for someone to move from one local outlet to another.

This decade, especially in the latter half, we’ve seen a lot of movement across local platforms.  As an example, Mike Reiss has gone from Patriots Football Weekly to the Metrowest Daily News to the Boston Globe to ESPNBoston. Sean McAdam has gone from the Providence Journal (A paper he was strongly identified with) to the Boston Herald, to Comcast SportsNet. Rob Bradford has gone from the Lowell Sun to the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune to the Boston Herald, to WEEI.com.

This decade also probably saw the zenith in sports media figures appearing on multiple outlets during the same day or week. I think we may actually see a bit of a decline in this going forward, if only because several of the employers now have multiple outlets of their own. ESPN set the example with this earlier this decade when they declared their “talent” pretty much off-limits to other non-ESPN outlets (the exception being if they’re promoting a book or charity). Locally, this could work this way – Comcast SportsNet has all sorts of local media guests on their Sports Tonight and SportsNet Central programs. If they wanted, they could now limit those slots to their own writers – Sean McAdam, Tom E Curran, A. Sherrod Blakely, Joe Haggerty and others – saving themselves having to pay an appearance fee to other media figures. NESN could do the same thing.

With the future of the newspaper industry still shaky, it’s possible we’ll see still more movement in the years to come. I’ve always seen a future with outlets like what CSN is building, with multiple outlets, and I think newspapers need to embrace the internet and its opportunities for audio, video and chat even more in order to survive, rather than attacking it with hostility as Rupert Murdoch seems determined to do. Until they figure out the right balance, you can expect more movement as writers continually look for a more secure position.