Guest Column: The State Of The Media – 2011

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.

The Good

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.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    I just wonder when people will get tired of it. I mean, when you get right down to it today's sports media is all about throwing CRAP against the wall. Anything goes. As you said, "sizzle over substance". It's all noise pollution and white noise. Today's sports media doesn't care if they look foolish, they don't care if they are right or wrong. They hide under the phrase, "we are here to INSPIRE DEBATE"……….I have no answers, I guess it is all about ENTERTAINMENT these days, not discussing the subject intelligently and rationally. It's just the culture we live in now.

  • tl;dr

    "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."

    Then why does Dan Shaughnessy still have a job?

    • latetodinner

      or John Tomasse?

      • Tony

        Beat me to it on Tomase.

        His "LOOK AT WHAT I WROTE THIS MORNING!!!" ploy on the morning of Super Bowl XLII was a disgrace–a completey unsourced accusation that had been traveling through the media "grapevine" as an unsubstantiated rumor for six years; and yet he decided to pull that nonsense on the morning of one of the most important games in NE Patriots history. That nonsense ruined the entire day for me, long before the Pats lost the game that night–because "red light" Goodell simply couldn't help himself and ended up going on radio that afternoon threatening to suspend Belichick if the story turned out to be true. And, of course, the national (and Spygate-obsessed) media made it the lead story on their pre-Super Bowl coverage that day.

        And I still wonder if it was a distraction to the team, or at least for the coaching staff who stood to be "punished" by "red light" if Matt Walsh had decided to lie instead of telling the truth months later.

        Tomase should have been fired, no questions asked.

  • Winning_

    I think I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again. Todays media market is a ratio between information and entertainment. In the past, talk shows, segments, articles were about information with the writer or host coverying the message in an entertaining manner. Now, I feel, the scale has tipped, becoming lop-sided. The main focus now is to be entertaining, with some information (whether it be accurate or not does not seem to matter) sprinkled on top. This is the world created by internet, twitter, and iphone apps where information can be had instantly by the reader. What they want, is to hear information, whether it be right or wrong, in a way that they had not heard it before. Why do you think ESPN has lost its luster? It's because they repeat the same stories every hour, just switch up the host (insert hannah storm, remove Linda cohn) and theres your show. I think its a sad day when we (readers) care more about how the information is presented, rather than if there has actually been any reporting, research, or fact checking before spewing out fact based opinions.

    • latetodinner

      Gone are the days when an editorial policy was TWO sources before something is reported as fact. Call this the tabloidification of sports. If Deadspin reports something then it is okay for a "reputable" publication like the Globe to report that "Deadspin is reporting…" thereby allowing themselves cover in case the report is fiction". The advent of twitter makes this even worse. In 140 characters genies are let out of bottles 24/7. People then comment on "facts" because they always fall back on saying "so and so tweeted it". The constant repetition of something does not make it fact.

      • latetodinner

        I had been thinking about this thread when I read the following posted on Ian Rapport's Blog:

        "Patriots outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain has been informed that he’s been released, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. The former draft pick who came back to New England for two more years in 2009, is now a free agent."

        I read the whole blog posting and there is no confirmation of the report (as an aside Mike Reiss did confirm it so it is true but that is not the point). How hard would it have been for Rap to call Stacey James and confirm the release? Why is he allowed to report a story that he did not confirm is true? In essence what he did was report on Adam Shefter's story. This isn't news. What if it turns out the Pats did not release Banta Cain? Why not spend the few minutes needed to confirm the story? So many of these bloggers do this. It drives me nuts.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    . Somewhere along the line "Sports Anchors" started becoming WISE ASS'S….I'm not sure when (ESPN?) but when you watch anything to do with sports now. The host, anchor,writer, (WHATEVER) always seems to be an "Eddie Haskel" type (apologies to people who don't know Eddie Haskel)…….almost all of them (with a few exceptions) try to be a smart ass or a comedian. I find that kind of act old and tiring. Not saying they have to deliver sports like a robot, but still. It's like all of them have the SAME ACT.

    • latetodinner

      Blame Keith Olbermann and Stuart Scott.

  • latetodinner

    On this site we debate the points Angry Old Bastard and Winning are making frequently. I think both of them made one part of the argument very intelligently. That is sports REPORTING has definitely become more STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE. However reporting is only 1/2 of what happens in the media. The other half is analysis or commentary or opinion pieces or an on-air sports talker. They all have the same role that is to explain what the reported facts mean. In the sports viewing public's insatiable need for more "information" we have somehow allowed opinion to substitute for fact. We allow non experts to shape the conversation because we think we do not have a choice…we can always change the station or read a different paper/website/blog. The problem I see is that we don't demand excellence any more. Not only do we not demand excellence but the people who can and do effect change no longer demand it.

    The line between commentator and reporter is so blurred no one knows where one ends and the other starts. Look what we put up with on the radio as so called "experts"…Steve Buckley talking football, Jermaine Wiggins talking hockey, Sean McAdam talking basketball, Butch Sterns talking anything, and the list goes on and on. The same thing happens on TV on the local round table shows. The national shows because of resources can usually keep guests on who are sport specific but then again we never know credentials. We end up getting locally a lot of confusion. We get parroting of "groupspeak" because the work to find out what the truth is wasn't done on purpose in the name of generating conversation. When you are an opinion giver you get to hide behind not having to do the work to uncover the facts. You get to say things like "alleged", "in my opinion", "if". I get hammered on this site because I frequently say "so and so is not adding to the conversation" or "so and so does not tell me something new". If they are commenting on something then they need to be a better expert than me. They certainly have better access than I do, so therefore their insight should be better than mine. Yet for some reason we allow for the lazy to continue driving the conversation because we do not demand excellence.

    • Winning_

      I agree completely with the premise, just disagree on some of the media types we each like. But thats not the point here. You hit the nail on the head with the style over substance, which is what my first post was about. The style is what sells nowadays, not substance. And due to the nature of twitter, "reporters" or personalities are able to pass blame in circles when facts or reports are incorrect. I feel they are bailed out by the line "well my sources told me…" and when they are wrong, they blame this source.

      • Winning_

        While I find Felger entertaining (wheter in a good ro bad way) he often examples my theory above. Just because he says "fact not opinion" doesn't mean his statement is just that. Example, he would often say "zdeno chara cannot win the big game, he never has. He's not Pronger, Lidstrom, Keith…" I'm sure everyone remembers this topic. But my problem is that he would use this logic to say "zdeno can't win" rather than he hasn't. He would take his opinion (Chara/Bruins can't win), wrap a fact before and after it (saying Chara hasn't won) and used that to tell us "fans" that this is FACT, NOT OPINION. That my biggest problem with him.

        • Nutcracker

          Another Felger-ism after game 2 of the Montreal series: "A goalie cannot steal a game for you – Thomas will NEVER WIN a game for you: Fact not Fiction!"

          Gong!!!

      • latetodinner

        Who we like is a personal preference. The fact we disagree is what makes horse racing. I thought your initial post was excellent. I only summarized it to style over substance because I thought between you and AOB you guys "nailed it!". I remember years ago a Wall Street Journal Editorial lamblasting the NY Times because the times reported "a published report in the National Enquirer named Paula Corbin Jones as the woman having had an affair with Bill Clinton". The Times did not do the footwork and could not verify the story, so they reported on the Enquirers story". That was the beginning of what we have now.

        What I don't get is why there seem to be no rules about opinion pieces. Its like the wild west. Nor do I understand why program directors and editors don't hold staff accountable. I understand opining. I understand stirring the pot to generate conversation. What I don't understand is using fiction as your jumping off point.

        • Winning_

          Thats the main problem nowadays, half the time I don't know whether I'm being fed facts, opinions, or opinions disguised as facts. There is a distinct blur between the two. Fact-forming opinions is somewhat dead. Opinions are shaping facts.
          Fact: The Patriots haven't won since 2004
          Opinion: Belichick is past his prime (Not my opinion BTW)

          Fact: The Patriots lost the Superbowl to the Giants
          Fact: the Giants Defense made Bradys game a nightmare
          Opinion: Because the Patriots sold their soul and acquired Randy Moss, they lost. They were good enough to go 18-0, have the lead with under 2 mins to go but have their defense come up short. Yet we are fed the fact that because Moss was on the team, they would bound to lose. Just like the Bruins couldn't win with Chara, Claude, Chiarelli.

        • latetodinner

          Again you are right on…will this love fest ever stop…enquiring minds want to know. We just want discussion, information and analysis that is better than we can come up with. I frequently slam Michael Holley not because I have anything personal against him but because he has access that the rest of us can only dream about to the Patriots, yet he does nothing with it on his daily talk show. Tell me a fact Michael. Explain why such and such a player is a better x's and o's fit for Bill belichick, because Bill Belichick showed you. Then from those facts form an opinion that will make me say…damn I wish I had thought of that. Do what Tom Curran does almost every time he is on the radio.Lastly my biggest fact v opinion farse:Fact: 2001 Patriots beat the Rams in the SBPresented as fact later to be proved false but still widely held as a true opinion today: It only happened because the Patriots video taped the rams walkthroughFact: in 2007 the Patriots did video tape NY Jets coaches flashing signalsFalse Supposition used to make a bad Opinion: This was then cut during half time and used to give the team an in game advantage. Hence the Patriots cheated.

  • Fred_West_Lynn

    One of the most important developments is one that is often ignored in these discussions: that "respectable" or mainstream media regularly use the blind attribution of "reports are …" or "sources say…" to rip and read the more sensationalistic Twitter/blogosphere nonsense and get it on their radio and TV screechfests. Then they use the "I didn't say it

  • latetodinner

    One more thing…for some reason civility has been replaced by anger, reason by shouting, conversation by debate. I understand that differing opinions make better sports radio. That does not mean you can't intelligently discuss without talking down to the listener. Dale Arnold, Chuck Wilson, and Damon Amendolara are all examples of people who run sucessful shows intelligently. The same is true in print. Bob Ryan, Sean McAdam and Mike Reiss either report or opine without bombastic prose and inflammatory extremes to their ideas. I understand that for years the Big Show's successful model had guests playing roles and all arguments being given equal merits. Moral relevancy does not work anywhere…especially not in sports…there can be right and wrong. We do not need to be insulted by the likes of Lou Merloni getting 2 hours of air time to say the Clemens trial was a governmental conspiracy.

  • Fred_West_Lynn

    Oops! Cut off earlier. Basically I can just say I agree with latetodinner et al about how these Twitter speculations leach themselves into the main media and decry the crumbling professional standards of the "journalists" at Chl. 4, 5, 7, and 25 who pass along those speculations as a way to avoid doing actual reporting.

  • NutCracker

    Add to Ugly column: Ian Rapoport tweeting from INSIDE the temple DURING Myra Kraft's service. That's ugly, classless and I'm not impressed. Someone ought to break his fingers for that ignorant idiotic act. It's all about 'look at me, Ian Rapoport, I'm important and aren't I the nuts?!!' What a fool!

    • Winning_

      It has been cited through sources (Felger, Gasper) and Rappaport himself that he never tweeted from Inside the temple or during the service. Rappaport admitted that he tweeted before entering and after leaving on who was attening and what not. Gasper debated that he would not have done this, but speculated if this is what media coverage has become. Say what you will about tweeting at all during this event (For the record, I wouldn't nor do I approve or tweeting at all, before after or during a service) but let it be known that Rappaport did not actually do what you said.

      • Nutcracker

        Yea I know what Rapoport said and that Casper and Felger defended him but at 9:57am he tweeted he was inside the temple. About 10 minutes later someone tweeted him asking that he not tweet from inside the temple. Several tweets later, and I'm assuming after people jumped down his throat for being so irreverent he then tweeted that it's his job to cover newsworthy people and that's what he was doing. He was tweeting real-time what people were saying at the service. Just read the timeline of his tweets. (http://twitter.com/#!/rapsheet). Irregardless of what you or I believe and I do respect your opinion @winning, I just feel that it was a case of Rapoport wanting to be exclusive. There were 100's of people with twitter accounts attending inside the temple but they weren't tweeting every speech, detail, who was there etc., etc. Rapoport didn't break any laws but the tone of Roy Reiss' article was the State of Media and the good, bad and ugly and I found Rapoport's actions ugly. JMHO

  • itt

    A shot at Albert Breer's Mccourty coverage? APPROVE.

  • mandb97

    Terrific article Mr. Reiss. I think the bad and the ugly will unfortunately continue until newspaper editors and radio and television management realize that we do not want look at me writers, anchors and hosts and instead demand accuracy. I will call out Michael Felger who may only be behind Butch Stearns in being wrong about everything that comes out of his mouth. Think about it, no one has been more wrong about the Boston Bruins then the supposed hockey expert Felger. From Chara, to Thomas, to the fourth line. Just because Felger speaks about hockey should not excuse him from being wrong time after time and he needs to be held accountable.

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