Today guest column during Bruce’s vacation comes from former Channel 7 sportscaster Roy Reiss
By Roy Reiss
Technology and innovation have spawned some incredible changes in the media landscape over the last several years.
Witness the tremendous expansion of internet sites and the many new opportunities created by their existence. See the great impact of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and how they feed into the insatiable 24/7 “want to know” culture that has evolved. Realize the endless hours that have to be filled on talk radio means you need plenty of sizzle and unfortunately less substance. Understand how all of this has affected the once proud newspaper industry that tries to stay competitive in today’s much different world.
What does all this mean to the avid sports fan who follows their favorite team with a passion? I like to break it down into 3 categories. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.
Jobs, jobs and more jobs. There are now more opportunities than ever for sportswriters, sportscasters and support personnel to be involved. Young talent that had a difficult time breaking through in the pre internet era now have become prominent players in today’s media. Joe Haggerty on CSNNE, Chris Forsberg on ESPNBoston, Ian Rapoport of the Herald, and Peter Abraham of the Globe are a few of the so-called “new” guns making an impression in the new environment. The common thread for these individuals is a passion for their respective sport. They fully understand what’s required and they deliver for their followers with plenty of copy, some insight, and a love for the sport they cover that is evident to a sports fan. Those are the necessary ingredients for any wannabe to be successful and ultimately to be accepted by the public.
What’s happened to the art of reporting and to accountability? Anything goes in today’s media and most of what’s anything is not worthy. Twitter has created a monster as everyone seems to follow everyone else. You have people pointing out what others are writing instead of developing their own stories. The heck with checking the facts or authenticity of the report, simply get it out there and be first. Who cares if the facts are incorrect since no one is held accountable for what they report. And to think this is what new media people are taught as they learn the ropes which all serves as a preview of what to expect in future years.
I’d love to see some of these so-called reporters go two weeks without any locker room access that seldom results in meaningful quotes or insight. No longer would they have the crutch of players droning on and now they’d face a real challenge of developing story lines outside their comfort zone.
Just like in professional sports, expansion has watered down the product. So too in the media. Many are simply not prepared to play in the “big time’. They’re rushed into roles that they’re not ready to fill since they haven’t had the proper training or experience. Hurt the most has been the newspaper industry that loses their talented young writers they’ve developed to new websites that simply offer more money and opportunities. As a result the papers need to fill key roles with many “not ready for prime time talent”. It’s a trend that will be hard to reverse in the future.
With so many people covering teams now, the question becomes “how do you stand out?’
The quick and easy path is you become the story rather than covering the story. Sadly many of the young journalists follow this path. They insert themselves into stories and try to be controversial in the hopes of attracting attention to their work. In the short-term it may work, but long-term Boston sports fans are too smart. Sooner or later these type of reporters lose their credibility which is the one ingredient anyone in the media should cling to.
Remember the Patriots 2010 draft when they selected Devin McCourty with their first selection. There was the reporter from a major paper who suddenly knew more than the scouts and blasted the team for their selection the next day. He projected himself as an expert and implied to readers that he knew more than everyone. Maybe it pleased his bosses who could point out how this was different and would attract readers or viewers on the internet. Now, a year later, wonder how that worked out for him?
Truth be told no one knows how any draft pick is going to work out so why travel this route. Intelligent fans realize this, yet we constantly have management shoving draft grades down our throats the day after. How ludicrous!
Just recently midway thru the Stanley Cup playoffs, we had a prominent radio talk show host discussing the possibility of trading Tim Thomas after the playoffs end. It’s the shock technique. Say something outrageous, get people involved, generate telephone calls and ratings. Rather than intelligently discuss sports issues, we rely on this method to draw attention to our show and ourselves. Sizzle over substance.
And we haven’t even gotten to those journalists who have agendas and push their agendas at every opportunity. You know who they are and what those agendas are. Yes they’re different and they do stand out. Unfortunately they stand out for the wrong reason.
Roy Reiss, who started his career working for Curt Gowdy Broadcasting, was a former sportscaster on Channel 7. His son Mike now covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.