Bringing Out Friday Megalinks

The last few Fridays, I haven’t been able to provide you with the megalinks. I have to do some today otherwise you’ll stop visiting me.

We begin as always with the Weekend Viewing Picks and there are quite a few for this snowy weekend in Southern New England.

Now to your links.

National

Michael Hiestand of USA Today talks with Fox Sports’ Terry Bradshaw about Tim Tebow and the upcoming NFC Championship.

Jason Fry, part of the ESPN Poynter Review Project hears sideline reporter Holly Rowe’s side of the story regarding about her now-infamous incident where she shoved a Sugar Bowl staffer away to get an interview with Michigan coach Brady Hoke.

Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter looks at HBO’s new unscripted series on boxing trainer Freddie Roach.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Eric Deggans has a review of the Freddie Roach series in the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Center.

John Eggerton at Broadcasting & Cable says Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has written a letter to the FCC asking the agency to get involved in the Sunbeam-DirecTV dispute which could affect how viewers in Boston see the Super Bowl.

John says Comcast is seeking a reversal of a Federal decision that ruled in favor of Tennis Channel in their dispute.

Mike Reynolds from Multichannel News says DirecTV has signed a rights deal to distribute Big Sky football and basketball games.

Anthony Crupi of Adweek says History Channel has purchased a longer ad to promote its series, “Swamp People” during Super Bowl XLVI.

Brian Steinberg from Advertising Age tells us who’s buying what in Super Bowl XLVI.

AdAge looks at the 12 ads that changed Super Bowl marketing forever. Three guesses on number one and the first two don’t count.

Brian says marketers are going longer with their Super Bowl ads this year in an attempt to stand out.

Finally, Brian writes that even though we’re not thinking about next year’s Super Bowl XLVII, CBS already is and has been working on getting an early start on ad sales for that Big Game.

Inside Radio says all of Cumulus’ Bay Area radio stations will simulcast Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

From across the pond, Amy Lawrence of The Guardian in the UK says Fox airing an English Premier League game live over the air is a big deal.

Kevin Iole of Yahoo looks into NBC Sports Network’s first foray into boxing.

Dan Levy at the Bleacher Report wonders which network can muster enough former NFL talent to drum up a flag football game.

Mac Nwulu of ESPN’s Front Row PR blog has an inside look at the preparation of Sunday NFL Countdown.

Matt Yoder at Awful Announcing chronicles this week’s Twitter feud between Sports Illusrated’s Richard Deitsch and CNBC’s Darren Rovell.

Speaking of feuds, The Big Lead looks at an internal ESPN squabble between college basketball analyst Jay Bilas and insider Andy Katz.

Sports Media Watch notes that ESPN is making a major scheduling change for the WNBA this year.

SMW has a look at some local NBA and NHL ratings.

Tennis Channel laments not being picked up by Cablevision.

Ken Kerschbaumer of Sports Video Group takes a look at CBS’ and Fox’s preparation for the NFL Conference Championship Games.

Sports TV Jobs has an interesting graphic of sample camera positions at various stadia and arenas.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn from the Boston Globe talks with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Mike Flynn.

Bill Doyle at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette interviews legendary Patriots radio voice Gil Santos.

Newsday’s Neil Best says local TV is gearing up for the NFC Championship.

Neil talks with former New York Giants running back and NBC analyst Tiki Barber who makes his return to TV this weekend.

George Vescey at the New York Times looks forward to seeing Sunday’s English Premier League game live on Fox.

The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick is not a fan of the NFL replay review process.

Justin Terranova of the Post has five questions for CBS Sports’ and WFAN’s Boomer Esiason.

The Albany Times Union’s Pete Dougherty has some NFL TV analysts break down the four quarterbacks still playing for a shot in the Super Bowl.

Ken McMillan from the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record has Fox’s Troy Aikman talking about the NFC Championship.

Ken has more from Troy in his blog.

Dave Hughes from DCRTV.com notes in Press Box that last week’s Texans-Ravens game set a local ratings record.

David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun attempts to get answers from CBS on having Subway endorser Ndamukong Suh on last week’s NFL Today postgame show.

And David has former Ravens QB and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer opining on Ed Reed’s comments on current QB Joe Flacco.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post says the Nationals are hoping to get more money from MASN as the sides negotiate a new contract.

Jim Williams from the Washington Examiner talks with the radio voice of the Wizards about his busy schedule.

South

Keith Jarrett at the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times says the Big South may have to move its Conference Championship Game venue which could effect ESPN’s scheduling.

Jon Solomon of the Birmingham (AL) News says SEC partners CBS and ESPN want better scheduling for next football season.

Jerry Tipton of the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader writes that the SEC’s basketball coaches aren’t happy over the scheduling-for-TV moves this season.

David Barron of the Houston Chronicle says the Texans’ flagship radio station hopes to build on the team’s momentum when their new contract kicks in next season.

David has some news and notes that didn’t make his column.

Nancy Sarnoff of the Chronicle says NBC Sports Group is looking for a new facility to house the Comcast SportsNet Houston regional sports network which launches later this year.

Mel Bracht from the Daily Oklahoman notes that the Texas Rangers will have multiple appearances on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Midwest

Michael Zuidema of the Grand Rapids (MI) Press says HBO continues its string of acclaimed sports documentaries.

Bob Wolfley from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says don’t expect NFL Conference Championship Sunday to change its format for the foreseeable future.

Ed Sherman in Crain’s Chicago Business has his winners and losers in sports business and media.

Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune feels Fox Sports North just cheerleads for Minnesota teams and won’t criticize them.

Paul Christian from the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin looks at Fox Sports North’s Hockey Day in Minnesota schedule.

Dan Caesar at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has CBS Sports President Sean McManus wanting to keep the status quo for NFL Conference Championship Sunday.

West

John Maffei of the North County Times looks at MLB Network’s first-ever game show which premieres next week.

Jim Carlisle from the Ventura County Star says CBS was hoping to get Tim Tebow for its NFL Today pregame show on Sunday, but he declined.

At the Los Angeles Daily News, Tom Hoffarth profiles Fox Sports West host Patrick O’Neal and has his list of best and worst local sports anchors.

Tom has a bit more on O’Neal.

Canada

Bob Weeks in the Toronto Globe and Mail notes that CBC has gotten out of the curling business, a sport it has televised since 1962.

Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail says the Raptors may be suffering on the court, but not on TV.

The Canadian Sports Media Blog looks at the International Olympic Committee throwing out CTV/CBC’s joint bid to air the 2014/2016 Games.

And that is it. Glad to be able to provide the Megalinkage for you.

From The PFW Archives – An Interview With Jason La Canfora of NFL Network

This column originally appeared in the July 29, 2009 edition of Patriots Football Weekly. 

La Canfora Hits The Ground Running At NFL Network

By Bruce Allen

Since the NFL Network was launched in 2003, viewers have become accustomed to seeing and hearing from the well-connected and enthusiastic Adam Schefter, who seemed synonymous with the network. Schefter however, was unable to come to terms with the network on a new contract this offseason, and ended up joining ESPN.

His replacement at NFL Network is 35-year-old Jason La Canfora, who spent the last several years covering the tumultuous Redskins beat for the Washington Post. La Canfora started at the network in June of this year, and has had to hit the ground running, stepping into the role vacated by Schefter. Gracious enough to speak with Patriots Football Weekly recently, La Canfora says he was “humbled and thrilled” when he found out that the NFL Network was even considering him for the position, which he describes as a “life-changing opportunity.” With the newspaper industry facing very difficult times at the moment, the decision to jump to NFL Network was an easy one, though he notes that the move made so much sense for he and his family that he would’ve made the same choice “in any economic climate, regardless of the issues facing newspapers.”

When asked how the transition from the newspaper to world to the world of network television is going, La Canfora answers: “I’m getting a better feel for what my schedule is going to be like, what an average work day feels like, etc, but once camps open and then the regular season begins, well, everything will change. It’s just incredibly exciting to be doing something new, working on a schedule outside of what a typical newspaper NFL beat feels like, getting to exercise new muscles in terms of information delivery.” The reception he has gotten from his new co-workers has been so welcoming that he says that “it really feels like being part of a family.”

A native of Baltimore, La Canfora will continue to make that his home base, even as he jets around the country in his new job. Despite growing up in Baltimore, he is a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. How does a kid from Baltimore end up part of Red Sox nation? “It’s kind of lame, I agree, but I promise I am not a bandwagon, jumper.” He explains: “I was sitting out at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in the mid-80s with my Roger Clemens jersey on. Sadly, The Rocket’s ascent was a big part of why I was drawn to Red Sox nation, and since he’s left I’ve never been able to stomach the man. But his 20 strikeout game was a big deal for me – I was 12 at the time – and the Sox obviously went on an amazing run that season and I shed many a tear during the ’86 ALCS – my dad ran upstairs, while I was crying into a pillow – to tell me about Hendu’s homer. And then Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, well, I still can’t watch highlights of Ray Knight and Mookie Wilson and Jesse Orosco throwing his glove in the air without feeling ill.”

His cheery, bespectacled exterior belies a competitive, sometimes combative nature. While covering the Redskins, La Canfora drew the ire of team owner Daniel Snyder and GM Vinny Cerrato for his candid reporting on how the Redskins franchise was being run. Cerrato blasted La Canfora on his radio show, and La Canfora shot back at the organization. According to DCProSportsReport.com, the incident “led some Redskins fans to regard LaCanfora as hostile to the team.” The site notes though, that La Canfora was, in reality, “only hostile to the incompetent and hyper-sensitive team management.” Ironically, now that he is with the NFL Network, 1/32 of his paycheck will be coming from the Redskins. La Canfora says he doesn’t view it that, way, but rather approaches this job as he would any other reporting job. He says “Eric Weinberger, the executive producer of the NFL Network – and someone I am very grateful to for giving me this opportunity – told me that he was interested in me because of the kind of journalism I have produced, and that the expectation would be that I continue to dig deep and look for the best information possible to serve our readers and viewers at NFL Network and NFL.com. He adds: “As with everything else, fairness and accuracy must carry the day, and my goal is always to provide all sides of an issue, inform as best I can, and fans will form their own opinions.”

Finally, asked for his thoughts on what to expect from the Patriots this season, he responded: “I think they are the team to beat. I have so much respect for that organization, the way they build a team, how shrewd they are, how they value draft picks, the overall sense that no individual is bigger than the collective – save for Bill Belichick, perhaps, as it should be.” Any potential weaknesses fans should be concerned about? “I don’t see much glaring in terms of what they lack. The running game will be under scrutiny as will some additions to the secondary, but I thought that Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs were two of the best values out there as veteran corners, and both ended up with the Pats. The passing attack could be as explosive as it was two years ago, and I love how the defense has transitioned, especially with Mayo now in the middle. To me they go into the season as favorites.”

Guest Column – Why Write? Why Not?

I’m glad to once again welcome back former Boston Herald columnist Michael Gee, who presents another guest column.

Why Write? Why Not?

By Michael Gee

Almost 400 years ago Dr. Samuel Johnson said that no man but a blockhead wrote except for money. I’ve been writing for nothing for going on six years, so what does that make me?

A happy blockhead. It’s not as exciting writing about sports from a distance rather than from the excellent seat I had at the Herald, but it has its own satisfactions. Much to my surprise, I have found I enjoy quiet satisfactions as much or more than noisy ones. I still experience wistful longing when a big game comes on TV and I realize I’m not in the press box, but the longing has faded to a momentary twinge. I think about having to catch the 7 a.m. flight out of town the day after the game, and the twinge passes.

As a business, even a nonprofit one, my blog is a bust. I lack the entrepreneurial gene. The amount of work I know Bruce does every day for this site fills me with awe. Every expert says that to draw an audience, a blogger must post daily – at least. But doing that would defeat the purpose of my blog, and in fact, remove the primary satisfaction I get from writing it.

The first principle and joy of my nonjournalism noncareer in sports commentary is to only write when I feel I have something to say, when a topic either amuses, enrages or fascinates me enough that I believe I can contribute to the sum of knowledge and opinion on the subject. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, to learn what a low percentage of sports columns, and radio and TV opinion blather stems from that principle. As a rule, in fact, the louder the opinion (and print can be as loud as any medium), the less likely the person expressing the opinion is to actually give a damn about what they’re saying.

Media space and time allotted to sports must be filled. Filling it is a job, and like any job, there are days when getting the job done is the only thing the worker cares about. There are many more games or other types of sports news that don’t lend themselves to engaged commentary than those that do. To take an example that still gives me night sweats, I was often one of three Herald columnists assigned to preseason Patriots games. There’s as close as nothing to say in that situation as can be, and I had to and did say it anyway.

I don’t have to do that anymore. I have the enormous luxury of picking my spots. That improves a person’s performance in any field. I also find writing something that hasn’t been said (or not said as I feel it should be) in the paid sports media is a bracing intellectual challenge. And, of course, I have the freedom to talk about what I read and hear in said media. When I was a member of that club, it wouldn’t have been proper. Loyalty matters.

It’s a new year, and I intend to write more. But not too much more. No more than I feel I should say. No more than I feel I want to say. No more than I feel have to say.

Back in the Terry Francona mess, a commenter on the message board here asked why my blog writing was so different than my Herald writing. It was a good question, and this piece is my answer. I honestly don’t believe my writing is that different. It’s just that the writing that was my job has been erased, and what’s left is the writing that was and is my pleasure.

Guest Column – L.A. To Boston And Everything In Between: A Sports Reporter’s Tale

Today’s guest colum is from former CSNNE anchor and reporter Jackie Pepper.

L.A. To Boston And Everything In Between: A Sports Reporter’s Tale

By Jackie Pepper

Nearly every television broadcaster travels the same course:
You start in a small market, living and working in a tiny town nobody has ever heard of. While you dreamed of a luxurious life on camera, you soon realize that being on air is often the last thing you think of in your first job as a “one-man-band.” Shooting, editing, producing, and writing all of your own stories comes first while powdering your face and stepping in front of the camera as “the talent” is a mere afterthought.

Jackie Pepper

After a few years of life as a big fish in a small pond, you get a new job in a mid-size market and repeat the aforementioned steps. You travel the country going from job to job as you work your way up the career ladder until you reach the top; “The top” being the perfect combination of status, location, money and overall happiness; an occupational unicorn of sorts.

Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, I moved back home after graduating from the University of Arizona and continued to work as a freelance production runner for ABC Sports and ESPN, a gig that I landed by chance in the fall of my senior year of college. I traveled the country working on location at various sporting events from college football to NBA games to the X Games and sports awards shows. I went on Starbucks runs, picked up lunch for the crew, made copies, drove on air talent and executives to and from the airport, wrote thousands of shipping labels, mopped floors, stapled papers, packed equipment, took out the trash, cleaned TV trucks, and performed every other random task you can imagine. Being immersed in a business I craved made it all worth it.

At the same time, I was taking classes at a local junior college to give me any possible edge once I decided to pursue my dream of being an on air sports reporter. I took Sports Broadcasting, Football Coaching and Sports Marketing, just to name a few. After two years of classes and working freelance for the holy grail of sports television, I landed a staff position at NFL Network as a production assistant at the Culver City studio. For nearly two years, I learned the ins and outs of television production, working with editors inside dark edit bays, cutting game highlights and writing scripts (aka shot sheets), sitting alongside producers in the newsroom, building graphics in the control room, typing the ticker content that scrolls on the bottom of your screen and watching professional on air talent doing my dream job every single day.

Although I loved my coworkers and the perks that came along with working for the NFL (like watching a good looking man’s eyes light up after telling him the name of my employer, which never got old), I finally got my act together and made a demo tape of myself doing fake sports reports, an anchor segment, highlights, etc. After a few months of sending my DVD to small towns across the country, one news director took the bait and hired me.

My first on air job was as the weekday sports reporter and weekend anchor at KIDK, the CBS affiliate in Pocatello, Idaho. And to think while in college, I considered Tucson a small town! Tucson was like Vegas compared to Southeastern Idaho. I could write a book about the 14 months I spent in Pocatello (I actually plan on doing so eventually), but to get to the point, it was an utter culture shock. I had never spent time in a true small town where everybody really does know everybody. Each person I met seemed to be connected to my job. The mailman served as an assistant coach of a high school team, or a local business owner was a former Idaho State player, etc.

To give you an idea of where I lived, one of the schools I covered was Preston High School, where the movie Napoleon Dynamite was filmed. One school I covered in a farming community moved its daily afternoon football practices to 10p.m. for an entire month each winter so its players could assist their families in harvesting potatoes in the daylight hours after school. Southeastern Idaho borders Utah and is primarily Mormon, which is vastly different from multi-cultural life in Los Angeles.

Going from good weather year-round and the glitz and glam of L.A. to driving long distances in blizzards, scraping ice off my car and seeing snow in June, all for the first time, felt like an impossible adjustment at times. Tears were shed and home was sorely missed, but it was all part of the journey. A journey which, thankfully, I wasn’t alone in taking.

Almost all of the other reporters and anchors in my area were also in their early to mid 20′s, many of whom were California natives. It was like a do-over of college, moving to a strange place, knowing not a soul. The social destitution of the situation bonded all of us transplants, forming a TV news fraternity of sorts. Members were not only co-workers at my station, but those at the two other local affiliates as well. We were one big team and while we competed against each other in the ratings books, we were friends who often times helped each other professionally.

If one person’s camera malfunctioned (which happened all the time since most of us used ancient equipment) you could always count on a reporter from another station to secretly share their footage with you. In fact, even managers and executives of competing stations would call each other for favors once in a while. There was an unspoken, yet palpable camaraderie between us all.

That was small town life. Hard working, friendly and simple.

The only professional sports team I covered in person was the Utah Jazz. Once a month or so, I would make the three hour drive (each way) to Salt Lake City in the news car, work the game, get back in the car and arrive home in Pocatello around 2 a.m. Sometimes I would carpool with the sports reporters from the other stations which always made the trip more fun, and walking into an NBA locker room less intimidating.

Once I got to know the players and staff, working the Jazz locker room before and after games felt natural, and me and my fellow small market pals were often the only television cameras around. Yes, I was that girl holding my camera with one hand, the microphone in the other, and praying that the mic was close enough to get the sound while the camera was far enough away to get all of the player’s head in the shot, all while looking him in the eye as he answered my questions instead of looking through the lens. Many times, I would return to media work room, roll the tape back, and see I had cut off the top of Carlos Boozer’s head. Apparently, that’s an occupational hazard that comes along with being a “one-man-band.”

The lack of sports media in Salt Lake City gave me a chance to get to know guys with the cameras turned off. There was never a fight for 1-on-1 interviews, or the pushing and shoving you experience in bigger markets, so after I asked my questions on camera, I could take the time to know the man behind the basketball player.

I learned that the best way to get your job done was to be trusted, and a stranger only trusts you when you are no longer a stranger in his eyes. Harvesting a relationship based on genuine interest in the person and knowledge of their craft yields the best interviews, quotes, sources, etc. It would have been hard to learn that lesson in a place like L.A. or Boston.

Just when I felt like I had finally figured out my job, I got a new one! I went from Pocatello, market 168 to Boston, market 7.

Aside from then-head coach Jerry Sloan, the most high profile sports figure I interviewed regularly was a high school football player named Taysom Hill, a man-child of an athlete who played quarterback (as well as defensive end, kicker, power forward, long jump and relay) and won the state championship for Highland High School. Hill had accepted a deferred athletic scholarship to Stanford, but while on a religious mission, he bolted for BYU once Jim Harbaugh left Stanford for the 49ers. Keep an eye out for Hill as he will be a super star, believe me. Okay, I digress…

I went from high school sports, rodeo and the monster truck show to Bill Belichick, 17 NBA championships, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and No. 4 Bobby Orr.

I was in the midst of yet another culture shock. One day I was a small-town television reporter, the next, I was beamed into four million households. I went from rookie ball to the big leagues in one fell swoop. Within weeks of arriving in Boston, I met Dan Shaughnessy, Jackie MacMullan, Steve Buckley and Bob Ryan, all living legends in the field of sports journalism whom I had long since admired. The journey took me from Hollywood, to potatoes to the Ivy League. Three different parts of the country, three different lifestyles and three different work environments.

I was prepared for the worst as the Boston media is notoriously tough, its intimidating reputation perhaps second only to New York City.

Yes, the Boston media is hypercritical when it comes to sports, and I sure as hell didn’t envy any of the players I interviewed after a loss. But I was surprised to find that much like in L.A. and Idaho, there is a fierce connection between competitors, even in a town as feisty and scrappy as Boston.

The press corps in L.A. is very laid back, warm and welcoming. In Boston, smiles, conversation and recognition must be earned, but once you’re in, you’re in for good. Perhaps the contrast in dispositions is correlated to the weather, who knows. Fans might not want to hear it, but members of each city’s sports media even like each other. Blasphemous, I know.

Even though we started in different places, we all took the same road that got us to where we are today. Despite diverse accents and attitudes, the goal is uniform; do the work, make the deadline and tell your story the best damn way you know how.

Check out Jackie’s Blog, Pepper On Sports, where she regularly weighs in on the current events in the world of sports. Her demo reel can be viewed here.

Patriots Reaction/Look Ahead

With the Patriots demolishing the Denver Broncos last night, it puts an end to several storylines:

The streak of one-and-done is over at two.

Tom Brady can still play in the postseason.

The defense can actually make some plays.

Gregg Easterbrook and company can quit with the “Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since Spygate” crap, even though it was incorrect to begin with. (He claims Spygate “started” with the Tomase article, which the Herald later apologized for.)

But we get a whole new set of sports radio storylines this week:

Ochocinco only played one snap!!

Why was Hernandez playing late in the game – he might have a concussion!

Patriots still haven’t beaten a team that finished the season with a winning record!

They’re in trouble when they face a real quarterback!

Good times.

Check all the Patriots stories over at PatriotsLinks.com.

Comment section is open for your reactions, though if you’re not a registered commenter, you may see a delay for your comment to be posted.

Guest Column – The State of Network TV Sports News

This is a guest column from Frank H Shorr - a senior lecturer and the Director of the Sports Institute at Boston University. He worked at both Channels 5 and 7 in Boston, most recently being the Executive Sports Producer at WHDH-TV for twenty one years.

It’s called “Local Sports” but you know what? It’s not, really.

If the network affiliates in Boston want to get an audience back, I think they’d better change the approach – and that goes all the way up to the television station GM’s and the owners.

This isn’t meant to be the rant of a “dinosaur” but let’s be honest, the sports fans of today aren’t tuning into the six and eleven o’clock news to find out what’s going on – no revelation there, right? So how can they change that? Well, how about following a few simple rules, three to be exact

1) Advance The Story.

2) Tell Them Something They Don’t Already Know.

3) Tell The Story of the Game Through the Pictures You Use.

That last one is done pretty effectively in this market, BUT when news directors and producers, (who mis-time) keep the reins on the local sports departments, fans get short-changed.

How can you possibly tell the story of a game that lasts two to three hours in 30 seconds? Yeah, you can try, and believe me I did it for years, but while I’m not advocating the return of the eight-minute sportscast, circa 1985, let’s be honest here, if you’re presenting an hour and a half or two hours of news in the early evening, you oughta be able to give the sports guys a block of time to both attract an audience and exhibit their own capabilities (good writing, better storytelling).

Just an aside here, notice I said “guys” – with the exception of Kristine Leahy at FOX25, there’s nary a woman on a local network affiliates! Which begs the question, what does NESN and CSSNE know that channels 4,5 and 7 don’t?

So yes, time is an issue but so is formatting.

That brings us to cardinal rule number one, advancing the story. It’s the most important factor in any news story, be it sports, politics, weather, business.

Let’s examine – If you start a story “The (Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox, Celtics) beat the (name your opponent) last night”, as virtually every sportscast in this market does, you’ve lost before even getting started. Why? Because viewers already know the result. By six o’clock the next day and many times by eleven that same night, they’ve watched recap upon recap on their portable devices, on ESPN, on NFL Network, NBATV, MLB Network, and NHL Network and all the websites. When viewers hear that opening line the first thing they say is “nothing new has happened, I don’t have to watch this guy(this station) – click! – as in, click, I’m changing the channel.

Conversely, this is exactly why beginning sports journalists flourish in the smaller markets. Unlike Boston, and other professional markets, ESPN isn’t covering Tyler, Texas and Panama City, Florida and Walla Walla, Washington so the local stations there have a captive audience. If you live there, it’s your only outlet. Sports will always be king. But for the Boston network affiliates to concentrate on only “The Big Four” is simply a waste of time. Having a reporter put together a Patriots package for Monday at 6:00, shortchanges the viewer. You’re NOT advancing the story.

And that brings us to rule number two, “tell ‘em something they don’t already know.” Repeating yesterday’s(last night’s) score in the lead in just doesn’t qualify. Viewers are thirsty for something new, something they can share, and are you ready – something they can tweet! Sure, news doesn’t break every day but it’s your job to keep the audience coming back for more and it can be done with a little elbow grease. The Boston sports landscape has completely changed when it comes to disseminating information. Tom Curran, Rob Bradford, Mike Reiss, Ian Rapoport, Paul Flannery, Shalise Manza Young to name a few, have burst onto the scene with instant up-to-the minute coverage. Recap sportscasts don’t bring ‘em into the tent.

The late night Sunday shows do very well in Boston. Why? For a couple of reasons, certainly a half an hour helps but the approach is vastly different – Live guests, commentary, longer form story telling – it’s more interesting. So here’s the question – why can’t they do that EVERY DAY? The sixty-four thousand dollar question.

Which brings us back full circle to the station GM’s and owners. Anytime fans debate the fortunes (and demises) of a team, they always eventually say “it starts at the top,” so which owner, which GM, which News Director is willing to surrender thirty minutes (say 5:30-6) for a daily sports show? Who’s the pioneer? Certainly there’s an audience there and what better way for a department to showcase the truly “local” stories, the high schools (thank you, Mike Lynch) the NCAA women’s teams in this market that get virtually no coverage, i.e. BU, BC, Harvard soccer teams to name a few, the casual sports even. It would show a real commitment both in resources and time. The Newsies would still have the 5 and 6 o’clock half hours for their “off the satellite” reports from parts unknown. And what do you think the response from the news producers and writers would be if they knew they had a thirty minute break between shows? Guess what, their product would be fresher, better written, better presented. A win-win all around.

It’s time for something different in local network affiliate sports coverage. The cable outlets are running twenty-four hours a day and producing their own local shows, many wrapped around the games that draw big numbers. It’s time to compete again – take a chance!

Frank H. Shorr is a senior lecturer and the Director of the Sports Institute at Boston University. He worked at both Channels 5 and 7 in Boston, most recently being the Executive Sports Producer at WHDH-TV for twenty one years.

From The PFW Archives – An Interview With Fran Charles, NFL Network

This column originally appeared in the December 22nd 2010 issue of Patriots Football Weekly.

Charles Admiring Pats From Afar

By Bruce Allen

On Sunday evenings, when you flip over to the NFL Network for a recap of the day’s games around the NFL, you’re greeted by a panel of former players Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, who weigh in on each game and on how things are developing in the standings.

Leading this trio through the program is Fran Charles, a veteran TV anchor with ties to Boston. Back from 1995 to 1998, Charles was the weekend sports anchor at WHDH-TV, and was also active on local sports radio programs as well.

After moving on from WHDH, Charles has covered boxing for HBO, Golf for USA Network and the NBA on NBC. However, when he arrived at the NFL Network in 2006, he knew he had found a home. “Football has always been my first love, so NFL Network is the perfect place for me” he says.

Part of what makes his job enjoyable is being immersed in football every day, and being able to learn from some who have accomplished so much in the game. “I thought I really knew football before I arrived at NFL Network, but quickly realized once I started showing up for work day in and day out, I still had plenty to learn.” Citing some of the former players he works with on a regular basis, Charles says: “To have the opportunity to be around players like Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson, Sterling Sharpe, Kurt Warner, Michael Irvin, Marshall Faulk, and Warren Sapp on a daily basis is invaluable.”

Working with former stars with the stature of those mentioned does present some challenges. Charles cites the need to sometimes push the analysts “to make sure all the great stuff I learn from them makes it on air so the fans can soak up that knowledge as well.”

Showing an awareness of something that viewers often complain about when it comes to sports recap shows featuring former players, Charles notes another challenge noting that sometimes he has to “push these players to do more than just laugh and joke on camera – but talk intelligently and educate viewers about the most popular game in the country.”

Working at the NFL Network has other fringe benefits. Because of his position, he is included in EA Sports Madden NFL 10/11 as himself. Charles originally thought his role would be animated, and was surprised to learn it was actually in HD quality video. He notes that his kids long ago got over their dad being on television, but being a part of Madden is “scoring me big points with 10-and-under crowd in the Charles household!”

Charles touches on why the NFL is so popular right now, noting “it’s a great time to be so close to the game because literally, teams can go from worst to first in back to back years, giving fans hope they won’t have to wait an eternity for a chance to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. If you just look at what the Cardinals, Saints and Bears have accomplished in recent years, these are all teams that have had recent struggles and still found a way to make Super Bowl appearances. It’s awesome to see.” He then tips his cap the local franchise here: “Not every organization can run as smoothly as New England and expect the kind of excellence the Patriots have achieved year in year out – which is a thing of beauty as well – especially in the salary cap era.”

As mentioned previously, Charles worked in Boston for three years during the 1990’s, including the year the Bill Parcells-led Patriots went to the Super Bowl to face Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Even then, Charles could see that the Kraft family was looking to build something that would endure over the long haul.

“It was more than obvious the Kraft family was building something special with the Patriots for all New England fans,” Charles says. “Of course we (at WHDH) covered the Patriots Super Bowl after the 1996 season extensively, and the dye was cast on the type of players and atmosphere that would set up the franchise for years to come.” He adds, however, that winning three Super Bowl Championships, and nearly posting an undefeated season in 2007 was something few could’ve predicted.

The subject turns to the current rendition of the Patriots, and Charles has been watching them closely. He warns against putting too much stock in preseason prognostications.

“Yes they’ve exceeded expectations – but expectations are just that – expectations. You never really know how a team will do until it hits the field.” He goes on to talk about the unit that some feel will hold the Patriots back in the postseason: “There’s plenty of talk about New England’s “young” secondary and no-name defense, but that unit continues to do just enough. Even though statistically the Pats D has given up a lot of yards – you have to look at WHEN those yards were accumulated and whether they were really relevant to the outcome.”

When it comes to the Patriots offense, Charles is effusive in praise. “The bottom line is this – Tom Brady is having an MVP type season that’s MORE impressive than the year he had in 2007 because the offense is not nearly as high powered as it was during that record breaking year and Brady’s finding a way to get everyone involved. Plus the Pats will rarely beat themselves by making foolish mistakes – they play such SMART football which is always crucial once the post season arrives.” He notes that it’s taken a little while for some of his colleagues at NFL Network to come around to the 2010 Patriots. “In the first half of the season few people here believed in the Patriots, but as the wins continue to pile up – the pendulum has swung.”

Hey, if the analysts at NFL Network are coming around on the Patriots, we might just have something here.

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You’re On Your Own, Kids.

Well, for the next 10 days or so, anyway.

Once again in the “Bruce’s great timing” department, I’m heading out this afternoon for some family time. I’ll be gone the rest of this week and all of next week. I might chime in on Twitter from time to time @BruceAllen but for at least part of the time I’m away, I’ll be totally without internet access. That period happens to include Sunday and Monday, so reaction to the Patriots game, win or lose, will have to wait.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the week without sports radio and TV here. On Saturday, I’ll get to watch the games with the other side of the family, who happen to be HUGE 49ers fans. Well at least now they are. Those Bay Area folks are fickle. Maybe that’s what happens when you have local teams in both leagues to root for. The family has big A’s fans, except when the Giants are winning the World Series. Huge Raiders fans in the 70′s, (There’s still a Jim Plunkett autographed photo on the wall of my wife’s grandmother’s spare bedroom) and the 49ers fans in the 80′s and 90′s, and now again. They’re pretty consistent with the Warriors, I guess.

Anyway, should be interesting. If the unthinkable happens Saturday night, at least on Sunday morning I’ll be driving down the Pacific Coast Highway towards San Luis Obispo free from whatever is going on back home.  

While I’m gone, I do have content lined up almost every day. Here’s what it looks like:

Thursday, January 12From the PFW Archives, an interview I did with Fran Charles of the NFL Network last year.
 
Friday, January 13 -  Guest column – The State of Network TV Sports News, by Frank H Shorr, Director of the Sports Institute at Boston University

Monday, January 16 - Holiday. I may put up sort of a generic post so that people can chime in the comments section about what happened Saturday night.

Tuesday, January 17 – Guest Column – L.A. To Boston And Everything In Between: A Sports Reporter’s Tale, By Jackie Pepper, former CSNNE anchor and reporter.

Wednesday, January 18 – Guest Column – Why write? Why not? by Michael Gee

Thursday, January 19From the PFW archives, an interview I did with Jason La Canfora,  of the NFL Network in 2009.

Friday, January 20 – TBA.

Broncos Will Be Tougher Foe This Time Around

Sunday’s performance against the Steelers opened some eyes as Tim Tebow threw over 300 yards and connected on several long passes, and threaded the needle on a couple others. Preparing for the Broncos is no longer solely about stopping the option and the run.

Air about Tim Tebow now - Karen Guregian has the Patriots defense noting the big plays against the Steelers. Glen Farley has more on the challenges Tebow presents.

The Other Quarterback - Rich Levine compares Tebow’s performance against the best playoff performances from Tom Brady, with surprising results. Ian R. Rapoport has Brady not looking at recent playoff failures, only ahead to the Broncos.

Patriots ready to tough it out - Shalise Manza Young says that the Patriots late-season comebacks have given the team confidence.

Ditch the Good-Evil bit - Steve Buckley doesn’t want to hear about the Good vs Evil storylines that he writes about today. Wait, what?

When it comes to playoffs, neither roster has seen many wins - Paul Kenyon notes that both of these rosters are pretty inexperienced with playoff success.

Charlie Weis: O’Brien can make both jobs work - Bill Burt talks to the former Patriots OC, who explains what Bill O’Brien is going through right now.

Josh McDaniels sports a familiar look on field - Rapoport’s notebook has the offensive assistant playing a background role at practice. The Globe notebook from Shalise Manza Young has a look at a practice with all players present and accounted for the Patriots.

The Bruins got back on track with a 5-3 win over Winnipeg at the Garden.

Late arrival - Fluto Shinzawa has the Bruins turning things on in the third period.

A look at just how good a third-period team the Bruins are - DJ Bean looks at how the Bruins always seem to save their best for last.

Thornton lays the burn on Vancouver columnist - Eric Wilbur has Shawn Thornton taking on a Canucks writer during last night’s Sticks and Stones on CSNNE.

Cam Neely Responds to Alain Vigneault’s Criticism of Brad Marchand, Bruins - Mike Cole has the Bruins President going on with Felger and Massarotti to defend his team.

NHL Suspends Bruins’ Marchand for Five Games - The other sports leagues could learn a lot from the NHL about explaining player punishment. The Brendan Shanahan explanation here is very good.

Celtics search for an identity - Paul Flannery says that right now, the Celtics are just a .500 team looking for answers.

Former teammates have high praise for Pietrus - Jessica Camerato with a look at the newest Celtics, who looks to make his debut tonight.

Sox saving their money - Sean McAdam says that the Red Sox are not likely to add much to their payroll before the season begins.

Time for Red Sox to step to the plate - Michael Silverman says that the Red Sox need to make one more big move.