SBD/January 30, 2013/Media

Has Boston Sports Media Become "Stale" In Its Reporting?



The Boston sports media, once considered "one of the country's best and most influential press corps, is stumbling toward irrelevance," according to Alan Siegel of BOSTON MAGAZINE. The national media "not only seems to break more big Boston sports stories than the local press, but also often features more sophisticated analysis, especially when it comes to using advanced statistics." The city is "clogged with stale reporters, crotchety columnists, and shameless blowhards." Although the Boston Globe's staff has "shrunk overall in recent years," Sports Editor Joe Sullivan has "increased the number of reporters on the marquee Patriots and Red Sox beats from two to three each." Sullivan said the extra staff is important "to serve the Web and print at the same time." As forward-thinking as that "sounds, the newspaper's core approach to sports coverage -- which still relies on boilerplate game recaps, columns, and weekly 'notebooks' offering bullet-point takes on the happenings from the various sports leagues -- hasn't changed much over the years." The paper's sports section today "remains synonymous with" columnists Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy. "The Best American Sports Writing" series editor Glenn Stout said, "A place like the Globe hasn't had a turnover of voices in 20 or 30 years." Since columnist Michael Holley left the paper for "a radio gig at WEEI eight years ago, it's hard to think of a single distinctive voice the paper has developed and held on to." Meanwhile, the Globe has "continued to employ a number of longtime veterans," like Nick Cafardo, who seem to have "hung around forever."

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME: It is a "similar story" at the Boston Herald where "old mainstays like Gerry Callahan and Steve Buckley continue to occupy top billing." WEEI has "stuck with many of the same hosts they've had since the '90s," like Callahan, John Dennis, Glenn Ordway and Mike Adams. It is "not that all old-timers are bad -- it's more that it's bad there are so many old-timers." It is "not as though the local sports press exists in a total time warp." TV, radio and the Internet "all have a big presence in the media landscape." It is just that "too many of our sportswriters ... have become adept at using these 21st-century tools to serve up what is little more than the same old slop." After Shaughnessy's more than 30 years at the Globe, everybody "knows the columnist's shtick: Be contrarian, be over the top, and, if at all possible, be part of the story." And "why should he change?" It continues "to work." But over time, the city's sports "punditocracy has expanded to include not just the truly wise, like Ryan, but any sportswriter willing to blow hot air." Comcast SportsNet New England and WBZ-FM co-host Mike Felger said, "If you're a halfway decent beat writer in this town, you'll get on Comcast, or NESN, or Sports Hub, or 'EEI." Siegel writes the "primary goal for reporters seems to no longer be merely producing great and interesting work." These days, they are "all trying to be loud and provocative so they can become fixtures on TV and radio." There is "good money, after all, in broadcast" (BOSTON MAGAZINE, 2/ '13 issue).
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