Jurich vs. Barnhart: No Contest

You get the feeling that The Cats Pause, the fan publication for UK sports, would do almost anything to get an exclusive on the Wildcat basketball coaching situation. That includes repeating unfounded rumors, or, maybe even making stuff up.

How else to explain how a message board rumor turned into a news story picked up by legitimate media outlets like the Courier-Journal. Cats Pause GM Darrell Bird, in a C-J story, said the “rumor” his site reported wasn’t meant to be picked up as a new story. Right.

The headline was “Blockbuster Deal Done” and the story that included terms of a contract, based on Bird’s unnamed sources. It probably sold a few subscriptions for the Cats Pause website and no doubt pushed the site’s traffic figures.

It’s amazing how the folks who write about sports wander off the path of honest journalism, especially when presented with an opportunity to be first to report a college basketball coaching change. Imagine if reporters on the news side tried to post such a rumor about, say, the Mayor.

They forget the principles of journalism, the simple stuff like checking facts and confirming sources, in the rush to publish on the Web. It’s all about getting the story first, and that kind of competition is good. But the quest to get the story, especially in reporting college basketball coaching changes, must be grounded in some fact. What’s more irresponsible is the legitimate media outlets who report the rumors, citing some rogue blog as its source.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for this one, starting with the UK athletic director. Mitch Barnhart, from the moment Tubby Smith departed for Minnesota, holed up in his office and refused to talk to reporters. Contrast that with Louisville’s Tom Jurich, who always seems to control media reports during high-profile coaching searches.

During the period in which Barnhart was hiding from reporters, Jurich held a press conference hours after learning his women’s basketball coach was leaving, and completed the new hire and introduced his new coach as a press conference.

By taking a proactive approach to personnel changes, Jurich squashes the unfounded rumors that UK seems to attract. I’d bet that in each sport, Jurich has a short list of replacements should his coach leave. It was obvious that when Bobby Petrino left that Jurich had done some groundwork with Steve Kragthorpe well in advance.

So while Jurich goes to his Rolodex, Barnhart has to hire a search firm. While Jurich always seems to get his man, Barnhart seems to lack personal relationships in the athletics fraternity. And he feeds the media beast by refusing to talk.

Drive Time Reduced

Now we come to the time of year public radio listeners dread the most — the spring membership drive. Or, you might call it the begging season. During the drive, the WFPK DJs, and other local public radio personalities, struggle to find something to talk about that relates to the pitch for money from listeners. It’s irritating and surely costs the stations listeners during the drive.

Here’s the good news, one of many right moves being orchestrated by PRP boss Donovan Reynolds. The drive time for the pledge drive is being reduced this year from 10 days to just seven. The stations are also giving away a European Vacation during the drive, and you can get a CD from the station of your choice with a $120 donation.

I know these drives are a necessary evil that makes public radio possible. It’s an odd way to run a business, but it’s one that seems to work. There’s a lot of “feel good” that comes with the drive and with giving to a cause that you can benefit from every day. That said, I’ll be checking out commercial radio during the drive, and will come back to WFPK when it’s over.

I Want My HDTV, Locally

It was great to read about WDRB-TV’s plan to produce a local HD broadcast for this year’s Thunder over Louisville. It’s a technology that is creeping into our society, set to take its place as a given in much the same way that black-and-white gave way to color years ago.

I got HD about two years ago, and am now totally spoiled to the point that I find it hard to watch non-HD TV.  It’s probably inevitable that all local TV stations will be doing their newscasts in HD five years from now — but the question is, who will be first?

It’s a significant investment. WDRB says it’s costing $140,000 to do Thunder in HD, and the station is renting much of the equipment needed to do the broadcast. The progress of HD signals into homes will help determine how quickly stations jump on the bandwagon. It has been estimated that penetration is growing quickly here, up 15 percent in the last year to 30 percent of local households. One national study predicted that penetration will reach 60 percent in the U.S. by 2010.

In Nashville, CBS affiliate WTVF began broadcasting its news in HD on Super Bowl Sunday, making it the first station in Tennessee to do so. Let’s hope that stations in Kentucky are putting plans in place to follow suit.

The Boyd is Back in Town

After eight years of dodging bullets in Iraq and other outposts, Terry Boyd is back covering retail and advertising for Business First. Terry, who sat across from me in the paper’s newsroom for a couple of years, told me how he came to the decision to get home.

“I was going up in a helicopter when we just dropped suddenly. I looked at my watch, and I was exactly 50 years old. I figure I’d used up all my luck. So I said that was it, right then.”

So Boyd, known during his days at BF for stirring the pot, called BF editor Carol Timmons and got his old job back. I’m hoping he’ll bring some scoops to the paper and unearth some controversy on his beats. Knowing Terry, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t do just that.

Terry said the journalism work in Iraq was rewarding but dangerous, and is getting more so every day. “I got shot at all the time,” he said. “Even the Green Zones were dangerous, they were places buses wouldn’t take us.”

When Terry left Louisville for the gig with Stars and Stripes, a lot of us thought he was crazy, and that he’d be back quickly. No one guessed he’d take his family on an eight-year odyssey around the world.  He seems better for the experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing his byline around here again.