NESN To Let Naoko Funayama Go In Latest Headscratcher

Around 8:00 last night, just as the NBA draft was getting rolling, NESN sent out a press release announcing that they would not be renewing the contract of Bruins reporter Naoko Funayama.

Releasing the respected and professional Funayama is just the latest curious move from the network, which has had very high turnover across all departments of the organization.

Some have said that the network rivals or surpasses WEEI in the dysfunctional department. Fitting that the two have partnered up in many ways.

In the release, NESN states that NESN has incredible appreciation and admiration for the work that Naoko has provided the network during this historic chapter of rebirth of Boston Bruins hockey. 

So why let her go? She was respected by all, whether it being colleagues in the media, the players and coaches she interacted with, and viewers.

The announcement much immediate outcry and backlash against NESN, as well as words of support for Funayama. My buddy Ken Fang does a great job summarizing the reaction in a post from early this morning:

How to Anger Boston Bruins Fans? Let Popular NESN Reporter Naoko Funayama Go

Fang also posted the following on his Facebook page:

A source has told me Red Sox butcher Tom Werner made the call to axe Naoko in favor of Leah Hextall.

Now, I like Leah Hextall, and hockey is in her blood, but if true this still screams the point that Werner is the most out-of-touch of all the Red Sox ownership – which says a lot – and the direction that NESN has taken since he took over has been a screaming indication of that.

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Elsewhere in the local sports media, CSNNE announced yesterday that a new eight week primetime program, “THE SHOW” will debut next Monday, July1st at 8:30pm.

The announcement describes the The Show as The format will be similar to Comcast SportNet’s long-running signature baseball program “The Baseball Show” but with an interesting twist and perspective exclusively from the younger fan-base. The show will be hosted by Trenni Kusnierek and will feature panelists Chris Gasper, Marc Bertrand and Rich Levine. The show will feature plenty of staged “mock debates” which are all the rage in sports programming these days.

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NBC scores big with hockey fans – Chad Finn’s media column this week examines the ratings that NBC scored for the Bruins/Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals, and has other notes, such as the two items above.

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So, anything else happening these days?

I guess the better question should be what’s happening next? The last week has been day after day of headline stories, with most of them leaning toward the tough side of the fan experience.

The latest, of course, is the seemingly completed trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, along with Jason Terry, to the Brooklyn Nets. Danny Ainge made good on his vow not to let his mature produce rot on the vine here. Adrian Wojnarowski, as usual, was the man breaking the story (and seemingly every other story) last night.

The idea of KG and Paul Pierce especially, putting on a Brooklyn Nets uniform just makes my stomach turn. But I understand that this needed to be done. I guess whenever you can get the Nets franchise to fork over three first round picks (with an option to swap picks in another year) you HAVE to do it, especially when you consider that at least two of those picks will be after the Nets have squeezed any remaining value out of KG and Pierce and those two have retired.

I also really, really hope Ainge has more in mind for some of these Nets players that are said to be coming here. especially Kris Humphries.

The Garden is going to have a much, much different feel this season.

A few of the top links on the matter:

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett get traded as the Celtics finally blow it up – Paul Flannery, SB Nation.

Danny Ainge won’t let these Celts grow old – Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald.

Celtics made painful decision to start over – Gary Washburn, Boston Globe.

Huge trade further proof Nets, other ‘haves’ playing different game – Ken Berger, CBS Sports.

Also, check CelticsLinks.com for widespread reaction to the deal, and the draft.

  • Andy Dursin

    Wow, just what we need — another talking heads show. Bertrand and Gasper too? If there’s a market in this town for that, then we’ve truly reached the bottom.

    • agramante

      Agreed. More general contrived-debate nonsense. I prefer shows that focus on one team or one sport, and dig a little deeper.

  • Winning_Again

    NESN continues to make mistake after mistake regarding their staffing. I really despise that station, though I do feel for some of the good talent and people they do have on air there. I’m sure it’s not easy working there, and why we see so many itching to bolt, before they get let go. NESN deserves as much bad press as possible for letting Naoko go.

    In regards to the Celts, it sucks seeing PP and KG go but it makes sense. However I disagree with the statement that Danny didn’t let this team get old. He was a year off. Hopefully we suck, ping pong balls bounce our way and we can get Andrew Wiggins. Although we’ll also need to bank on that fact that he turns into a Kevin Durant type and not Greg Oden. Otherwise, prepare yourself to be the Washington Wizards.

    • agramante

      I was surprised when he re-signed Pierce after 2010. Granted, they’d just gotten to the championship round, but the team’s direction was clear even then.

  • JonB

    I’ve talked to people who have worked or know people who have worked at NESN, and the one word you hear over and over again is CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. Cheap as in they don’t cover employee’s work-related expenses, if they even splurge enough to send them on the road, salaries are way under-market outside the “top talent” (i.e. Remy), pay raises virtually non-existant, and little opportunity to advance. Layer that on top of a generally dour environment where management doesn’t really care about creating new and innovative programming (beyond Linda Pizzuti & Tom Werner’s completely non-sports related pet project of the moment) and you’ve got a pretty crummy place to work. Werner will hire a bubbly 20-something airhead with little to no experience (not that Leah Hextall is necessarily that) for half the cost over a true professional like Naoko seven days a week and twice on Sunday.

    NESN airs nothing of value outside Red Sox & Bruins games. Virtually everything CSNNE produces is of far higher quality and presentation than its NESN counterpart. NESN exists to be a cash cow for the Sox ownership group, so every extra dollar that goes into improving the quality and retaining valuable employees is one less dollar to line their pockets with.

    • bsmfan

      I think Finn has had the ‘starting’ salaries in either his chats or columns. CSNNE was starting and paying something 1.5x what NESN was (if not more). I recall it came up around when Jessica Moran’s name for an WEEI slot came up, as it’d not only be a career step down but one in pay.

      Up until some of the 2.5m in the Boston DMA say “no” to the $4 (figure this exceeds $6, if not $8, by 2020) you fork over to NESN a month through your cable bill, they will continue to laugh all the way to the bank. With Sox/Bruins games doing 7.0s, they’re rolling around laughing inside some huge vault of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.

      Look, more power to the market. If NESN devalues paying talent so much, it’s great that their talent can go to other bigger, better networks that want to pay them for what their worth. Didn’t Randy Scott say that in his tweet? Look at the ex-NESN folks now at bigger gigs who I assume have to be not only compensated better but happier.

  • JonB

    Looks like Doc Rivers decided to snub WEEI after doing his first Boston radio interview with 98.5 this afternoon. D&C have already been fairly critical of Doc post-Clippergate, but something tells me it’ll get a whole lot nastier next week (assuming they’re not on vaca). John & Gerry thought they were legit buddies with Doc, so it kinda tells you something when he elects not to do an interview with them once he’s no longer affiliated with the Celtics.

  • DryHeave

    I don’t care if Leah Hextall has, “Hockey in her Blood” or not. (what is she going to do?, ask Claude “hardcore” strategy questions?)….truth is, when it comes to women TV sportscasters it’s all about “looks” and Hextall fits the standard cookie cutter/Barbie doll mold.

    • Half Fast

      Leah Hextall has a phony, disingenuous demeanor that won’t be well received by Bruin fans if she is Naoko’s replacement. NESN ought to rethink their decision.

  • city_dweller_38

    two of the most insufferably irritating sports media hacks are found on NESN: Jackie Edwards and Tommy Caron. Both grate on the nerves, but both (somehow) manage to glue themselves to their positions like gum does to a shoe. Where Jackie Edwards finds his fans, I have no idea. But obviously Caron has none. His penchant for injecting his whiny voice on top of other speakers is immature and insecure.

  • bsmfan

    The Globe today. Ashley Fox and Jason Whitlock yesterday. Borges and Shank started it all. I think it’s time for some Mt. Rushmore of “lets see how bad we can vomit on ourselves” journalism.

    • agramante

      I enjoy Whitlock’s writing quite a bit, and I thought he had some good points on Hernandez. He really wasn’t saying anything about Belichick and the Patriots–he barely mentioned them. They drafted a risky guy–maybe a lot riskier than most–but they’re hardly the only team to have done that. Whitlock’s pretty quiet on the topic.

      His main point on Hernandez was, athletes these days have some subversive role models. Heck, even someone as harmless as Shaq wanted to rap. Were Jordan, Magic or Isiah doing any of that? There are plenty of stars now–Chris Paul, Kobe, Durant, LeBron–who don’t. But there are plenty who do, and I think he’s right to look for reasons.

    • Trip McNeely

      Was the Fox article just a troll job? I feel like it was. There’s no way a logical person could write what she wrote.

  • freddiestevens

    Tom Caron should be next. He’s over-exposed on the Network and has a very annoying voice.

  • TheLoneDissenter

    Are you kidding? Getting rid of Funayama was a great move. She’s hard on the eyes and not very exciting to watch/listen to.

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