Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Newspaper-less world is a bad world.

Here in Ottawa this week it was announced that the Ottawa Citizen will discontinue its Sunday Edition and layoffs were announced.  The Parent company is also making similar adjustments to other newspapers across Canada.  This scares me.

We all in the Radio and TV business have undergone massive change in the last ten years because of technology and mass ownership with the pain of layoffs and mergers which have changed the business completely and changed the lives of both the group still in the business and those sadly who were forced out of the business.

The Newspaper business has been slowing going through the same process and now it seems to be speeding up.  That is expected but the larger problem is the journalistic side of this process.  Newspapers are hugely important to a democratic society whether the average person perceives it or not.  The type of journalism newspapers have historically engaged in is the spade work.  The tough, long and important work.  The investigative reporting that sometimes requires years to get to the bottom of a story.  That is very expensive work and the kind of work which has never been matched by the electronic media.  In fact the electronic media reads multiple newspapers each day to find stories they want to chase and expand upon.  You may get the story first on TV or Radio, but its origin may have been a newspaper story.

Newspaper reporting is what has often kept politics in check.  Prime Ministers in check.  Big business in check. On a less important scale, it has kept sports in check.  Without newspaper reporting would we know about Watergate, Abscam, and in the sports world, Graham James?

The younger generation has become accustomed to getting their news online.  Sometimes from online newspapers but too often from other sources.  Those other sources often have no journalistic ethics, integrity or accuracy.  Too many Internet only users mistake blogs and twitter as actual, true and accurate news.

The decline of the newspaper industry puts all of us at risk of having fewer checks and balances to protect all of us.  Without the light the newspaper industry shines on both the good and bad we have less opportunity to cheer hero's and expose villains.

As the newspaper industry transitions more and more to the online world, we all have to hope that the journalistic bar does not drop or we all suffer.

Read a newspaper today.  Please.

See you at the rink.

Friday, May 25, 2012

You want the dirty words too?

There is a debate about the broadcast position between the benches during NHL games. Some believe that Pierre McGuire from NBC and Glenn Healy from HNIC should have told viewers what was being said between the two head coaches in the NYR/N.J series. Really? Does anyone really believe the journalistic integrity of either broadcast was cheapened by not repeating the insults and swearing between the two coaches?

The short sighted nature of this request is the fact that, the position between the benches is not one the teams have to allow. If commentators start relating exact verbiage of coaches or players exchanges it would not be long before teams refused to allow access to that area and then the viewer’s get nothing from that perspective. The other reality is families watch these broadcasts. You don't want kids hearing those words.

The print journalists who are up in arms over this are hypocrites. I don't know any print journalists who don't keep off the record conversations private; knowing that burning a source means they will never trust you again. You might be a star for one day, but then never get another piece of important information from that source. The perspective of keeping some information private to allow you to have a relationship with a source which will get you the big story later is not new and in fact happens every day. The print journalists who claim "viewers have a right to know" make me laugh. Print journalists withhold juicy information every day but somehow they are journalists and the men between the benches are shills?

If you want the between the bench perspective live, you have to accept that they will tell you about what they are yelling about but not the words they use. They will tell you a player is injured but not what the injury is. They will tell you about the general theme of a coach's speech to his players, but not the exact script. More than that means the privilege of being between the benches will be revoked.

The contention that a separate audio feed could be provided for a fee so fans who want to hear every word is also not realistic. The cost of a separate feed could never be recouped and how many fans really want to hear coaches and players swearing? Is it really that big a thrill? Players and coaches also have to be able to vent emotion within the field of play without being embarrassed in the media for it. They have to be allowed to have some parts of the game which remain theirs alone.

See you at the rink.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Time for the Media to walk out on Tortorella

Today's mandatory media briefing with Rangers head coach John Tortorella lasted all of 68 seconds.  These daily NHL mandated get togethers  were a joke during the Ottawa/NYR series.  They were no better in the 2nd round and now in the Conference Final they continue to be a complete waste of every one's time.

Here is the transcript of today's epic exchange.

Q. The guys you brought up, how do you use them, not in the series, but what is the thought behind having them up here?

COACH TORTORELLA: Just have players ready to play in case we run into injuries.

Q. What has been the key do you think of your strong recent third periods?

COACH TORTORELLA: Staying with it.

Q. Being aggressive?

COACH TORTORELLA: Staying with it.

Q. John, if you've got a guy who is not going offensively that you know can. What has historically been your tactic? Do you talk to him? Do you just ride it out?

COACH TORTORELLA: Depends on the player. Depends on the player, depends on the situation. It's a question that I can't answer because it all depends on the situation.

Q. So if I asked you about Ryan Callahan?

COACH TORTORELLA: I won't answer.

John Tortorella is behaving in a completely childish and unprofessional manor.  It is just that simple.  I know and admire John as a coach but this is an embarrassment to both him personally, the Rangers and the NHL.

Like it or not, the media is the conduit to the fans.  If you treat the media this way you are snubbing and disrespecting the fans of the game.  That is unacceptable.

Tortorella is clearly still angry over the fines he was forced to pay this season for his public opinions and the words he used to express himself, many of them of the four letter variety.  He always tells his players to let things go and be professional.  To have restraint and skate away from situations which could hurt the team.  The coach needs to listen to his own advice.

Every question from the media is not going to be an award winner.  There will be some dumb ones.  Show some professionalism and answer as politely as you can and move on to the next questions.  Refusing to answer any questions about players, their health, systems, situations and general tactics is out of line.  Those questions are legitimate and are top of mind with the fans.  That's who you are really answering to.  The fans.

John's boss Glen Sather needs to step in and help his coach here.  If Glen can't impart his experiences and more help is needed then dip into the massive Ranger budget and get him some anger management help.

Below is a link to a USA today story about how the Yankees handle their media training with the players and coaches.  It is enlightened and realistic.  The Yankees face far more scrutiny every day than the Ranger coach faces in an entire season.  If they can find a way to professionally deal with the media I'm sure John Tortorella can too.

Or he can continue the angry child routine which has been soooo worth while for everyone involved.
It might be time for the media to get up and walk out when he takes the podium.  He is under the impression they are wasting his time while the fact is he is wasting all of ours and thumbing his nose at the fans in the process.

See you at the rink.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Who is the NHLPA protecting?

The NHLPA is appealing the 25 game suspension of Raffi Torres for his illegal hit on Marian Hossa.  Understandable that the union wants to give a dues paying member the representation he pays them for but who is the association really protecting?  Is Hossa OK with this?  Was Hossa asked if he disagrees with the union (he also pays massive dues to), asking the league to reduce the punishment for the man who devastated him?

This association too often sides with the offenders and forgets about the victims.  Has the NHLPA ever considered applying its own internal sanctions against players who intentionally injure other dues paying members?  If you walked up to someone in your office and tried to take their head off you would likely be fired and the victim would have the right to file both criminal and civil charges with the full backing of his/her union.  Does Hossa have any of these rights?

The other bothersome part of this is the utter uselessness of it.  With Commissioner Garry Bettman being the sole adjudicator, he has never overturned or lessened a suspension.  This one will not be the first. 

The situation only points out again, that third party arbitration is required.  The league already does this with salary arbitration where independently hired judges handle all arbitration cases.  Why not third party arbitrators to handle suspension and supplementary discipline appeals?

The answer is a simple one.  The NHL never wants to allow an outside voice to judge the type and severity of discipline it hands out.  Salary arbitration is a simple dollars and cents procedure based on publicly available salary and statistical comparables. 

Using the NHL's past history of suspensions and fines measured against the actions which caused the discipline, would only point out and embarrass the NHL.  An independent adjudicator would have to try and make heads or tails of the jumble of mixed messages, star weighted decisions and inconsistent rulings and non-rulings over the years.  In other words the NHL would never want a third party to shine a light on how badly they have managed this area of their business over the years.

See you at the rink.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ovechkin Debate

Dale Hunter's use of Alex Ovechkin in these playoffs has become a daily story.  I'm not sure how much of a story it really is.  Ovie is a superstar who has been used to playing much more on average than he is playing in this post season.  Its not a "benching" its simply coaching.  Ovechkin is a one dimensional player.  Very dangerous when he has the puck and a train wreck defensively when he doesn't. 

In the past his coach's have been leery of cutting back his ice time when the team is defending a lead fearing his reaction or that of the teams ownership and management.  Dale Hunter doesn't fear either because he doesn't need this job and thus does not have job security as a motivation.

There is a contention that Hunter uses exactly the opposite method with his junior team in London by over playing his stars.  The flaw in this argument is that Hunter and his brother Mark select all the players in London and they would not have any one dimensional players on their team.  Their best players with the Knights are also their best defensive players so the comparison is not valid.

The microscopic camera work by the TV networks, close ups of every shift, both Ovechkin and Semin play only reinforces Hunter's decision.  No back checking, no forechecking, and not only no commitment to defence but an apparent complete lack of understanding in what to do and how to do it.

Looking at his total ice time per game and comparing it to other games is also a flawed comparison.  The game situation is the important key.  How much does he play when the game is tied or the Caps are trailing? How much does he play when they are defending a lead?  The answers are a lot and very little.

This is nothing new.  When the dynasty Montreal Canadians were leading a game Cournoyer and Lafleur didn't play as much as Gainey and Jarvis.  The biggest difference from then to now is media analysis.  Then it was good coaching.  Now its insulting a superstar.  Then it was trying to win and now it is not getting full value from your highest paid player.

This is nothing new.  Its simply called coaching.

See you at the rink.