State of Baltimore Sports Media: Where do you get your info & whom do you trust?

January 27, 2012 | Nestor Aparicio

State of Baltimore Sports Media: Where do you get your info & whom do you trust?

fees and flagship status and sponsorship deals are massive credibility issues in most free-thinking places but the media is so “bought off” here that it’s only a topic allowed for discussion in the community by WNST.

As for other sports radio programming in Baltimore, WBAL-AM 1090 fired its main sports talk anchor (Steve Davis) a year ago and despite its obvious sports connections as the Ravens Radio rights holder and the synergy of WIYY-98 Rock’s ultra loyal hometown crowd (and I’m on of those people, by the way, who has a lifelong crush on Sarah Fleischer and a lifelong fan and friend of Mickey Cucchiella), they’ve been unable to make it a financially viable vehicle because their programming has been so awful that no one wants to listen to it. Plus, it’s really a “break” in their format and they don’t have enough interior experts who anyone likes.

And on Sundays, live football play-by-play on radio is really a bit for the geriatric set to begin with in 2010 – anyone who really cares about the game winds up watching it on television and I see less radios at the games now than ever in the stands. Plus you can be watching play-by-play action on your phone or monitoring your fantasy stats or a myriad of other different forms of action (including WNST’s Twitter feed or our live Purple Haze chats) to augment your enjoyment of a Ravens game.

WBAL has tried to use The Sun’s sports staff to man its Ravens coverage but the mundane sound and looks and observations of “old world” radio and sportswriters just aren’t working. And, as I will try to express over the next few days, it’s really not about the programming, hosts or the listeners. Sports radio – and local sports media in general – has become a sponsor-driven vehicle.

It really IS about the money!

If the sponsors aren’t getting a return on their advertising investment, none of these companies will exist for very long. At the heart of the bankruptcy issues with The Sun and other local newspapers in other markets isn’t just the deterioration of their content and medium and reach, it’s the sheer lack of proof that the advertising is being distributed at all. Not to mention a return on investment for the buyer. (This will be addressed later in the week as well.)

There’s also a sports operation at AM 1370 where Rob Long and Jerry Coleman hold fort around that other Baltimore lover, Jim Rome (the biggest fraud in the history of sports journalism) at Fox 1370. They came in and stole my afternoon show and agreed to put Rome on middays to get the “Fox” designation, which quite frankly was worthless to WNST. Honestly, I haven’t spent five minutes listening to them over the past 15 months so I can’t tell you much about what they’re doing. No one ever comes up to me or Facebooks me or tells me that they listen to AM 1370. I’m sure some do, but as I said, I don’t listen to shows where I don’t learn anything of significance or I’m not supremely entertained.

Up until now, I’ve simply discussed the past and present condition of sports media entities in Baltimore. It’s a leaky boat at best and corrupt relationships and censorship and money are all involved as I’ll outline later in this series..

But all that is changing and the world is becoming more transparent in 2010 — hence this series and these concepts and our WNST Baltimore Sports Media Survey that I’ll be outlining all week.

If you don’t read another word in this very verbose series over the next week, just remember this: THE FUTURE OF SPORTS JOURNALISM IS ON THE INTERNET!

And in tomorrow’s blog I’ll outline the measurement systems that prove that WNST.net is the new market leader in covering real time sports in Baltimore. Arbitron, Neilson, Scarborough reports – they’ve all been a set of lies, damned lies and statistics.

With the power of the internet, every click is registered, every story read is registered, every minute spent on every web page is identified, every subscriber is accounted for, every sponsor’s lead is justified, every mention of your brand and links are measured by Google.

What you need to know is that the money of the advertisers is quickly migrating to the world of the web where measurement of their reach and clicks are self-evident – not “guess-timated.” Or “arbitrary” in the case of Arbitron.

So, while the rest of the players in Baltimore are caught up in doing radio, filling TV time or making 11 p.m. deadlines for their printing presses in Port Covington, at WNST.net we’re filling your Twitter and Facebook and email and text with the instant information you really want and we’re here for you day and night to discuss all of the relevant local sports issues without being “bought off” or forced to censor our thoughts, opinions, reactions or commentary.

It’s almost mind-boggling to me that anyone with half a brain would turn to most of our competitors for an honest analysis of anything given their inability to criticize anything in the Angelos kingdom for fear of retribution or having their media credentials revoked or being “left off the buy,” which is poison to the ears of Bob Phillips, Jay Newman, Ed Kiernan and their ilk. So, they get in line and “play the game.”

Mock word outta Ch. 13 is that their poobah, Newman, was going to force the secretaries and the cameraman all down to the WJZ-TV booth at Orioles Fan Fest for autographs and pictures last weekend under strict corporate orders to show “CBS loyalty” to Angelos and the orange birds, who ring their spring cash register in the evenings when the car ads on the local news dry up.

And the accountability of their media lies has the same accountability as Angelos himself, who sits behind it all here in the Baltimore media and never has to answer a question about anything from anybody legitimate while he prints money from the public’s cable TV bills and pockets it via the MASN deal.

Oh, and the fact that he’s single-handedly slaughtered the Orioles franchise, fractured its fan base and left the city for dead on game nights except when the Red Sox and Yankees fans surround the city in the most glaringly and inarguable display of the decay of the civic pride in Baltimore’s oldest treasure.

The latest chapter will be outlined on Thursday when I profile the Hearst-CBS war, but rest assured it’s pretty ugly behind the scenes with those two corporate structures with Ravens and Orioles rights and censorships and player marketing contracts and exclusive content deals that squelch free speech by “media partners.”

And across all of the media in Baltimore, fact checking and accountability are not strong suits across the marketplace.

Last month, CBS Radio spent three days promoting an “exclusive” interview with Brian Billick. That’s almost laughable, considering Billick is a part-owner of WNST.net and appears on our airwaves three times a week.

Jerry Coleman and Anita Marks have both held “mock press conferences” where they ask the question to the coach only it’s an answer from a press conference audio clip. (That’s just weird!)

And then there’s the actual question of “crediting” sources when stories are broken. Jamison Hensley of The Sun thought we “stole” information from his Twitter account about the Ravens wearing black uniforms last month and sent out a series of vitriolic, childish Tweets when we didn’t steal any information. The Ravens PR staff released the information about five minutes after he sent it. We Tweeted it. No drama. No theft. No foul. We don’t steal at WNST.

Meanwhile, we routinely send out “WNST Texts” before The Sun has information on their website and I have never – not ONCE – seen “as first reported by WNST.net” on their website or newspaper.

But that’s all the behind the scenes drama and insider fodder for you, the sports fan in Baltimore.

All you really want as a Baltimore sports fan is good, fast, reliable information that you can trust.

In reality, everyone consumes media in a variety of ways. You might like one host or one writer or one voice in the marketplace but in reality you’ll always turn to a variety of places if you’re interested in seeing a wide swath of analysis. Competition is a good thing as I’ll outline tomorrow. It brings out the best in us all.

And the one thing that I’ve always respected in media figures is – like Howard Cosell – the ability to be straightforward, educated and no-nonsense in their information. It’s a basic premise at WNST that we give you the truth. And we try to make rational, logical arguments for our position. And our hosts say what they think without fear or reprisal from their boss, owner or peers.

I assure you that in 2010 in Baltimore, you’re not getting that from ANY of our competitors.

With censorship being at the heart of the Orioles every move in the marketplace – from WBAL to WJZ, from The Sun breaking stories to The Washington Post breaking them in the heyday to the banning of 20-year veteran journalists from having a press pass at home games – controlling the message is at the heart of any “business arrangement” with Angelos.

Want proof? Want to see it in action?

Call Mark Viviano or Damon Yaffe on the air and ask them what they think about the Orioles’ past 13 years of ineptitude and try to get a real opinion. Ask Scott Garceau how he feels about the deterioration of the franchise that he formerly was the flagship TV announcer for back in the 1980’s? Ask Garceau about how he feels about the way Brooks Robinson has been treated by the Orioles current ownership? Ask Bruce Cunningham to express his private feelings about the Orioles? I’d say, “Ask Gerry Sandusky” but he’s too busy to take your phone calls.

And then you tell me if you think they’re being honest with you when you get an “on microphone” answer.

Of course these are all guys who received six-figure contracts for going on the 6 and 11 o’clock news and reading scores over highlights for two minutes a night. Their hair and their voices were FAR more significant than their insights, opinions or analysis circa 1992.

Now, they have to actually “take a side” as they do many hours of sports radio each day and that’s something they CAN’T do. At their core, these are all guys who are afraid of offending people and becoming unpopular. As I’ve found out over the years, if you speak your mind on ANY issue, you’re going to piss people off. It’s just the way it is.

Hey, they have families to feed. I get it. I even respect it to some degree. They can’t afford to be honest because they wouldn’t be allowed to keep their jobs. (I have audio of Angelos saying just that back in 1997 in regard to the firing of Jon Miller, which was passed off as a resignation. “That’s a fundamental principle,” Angelos bellowed. “Tell it like it us but keep your opinions to yourself.”)

I honestly don’t know what is ethically worse – the fact that they have to work as employees with personal brands under those conditions or the fact that they agreed to “go along with it,” especially from a guy like Garceau who I’ve always had so much respect for over the years and whom I interned with at WMAR in 1992.

Garceau, in one of his Uncle Scott moments, once said to me: “Nestor, you only get one chance to lose your credibility.” I remembered that last year when he saddled up next to Anita Marks

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