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.

The Last Byline for John McGill

If you were paying attention to sports around here in the last 30 years, you probably read the work of John McGill, who passed away earlier this week. I was fortunate to work briefly with John, and I’m truly saddened by the news. Billy Reed writes a wonderful tribute to a great writer.

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.

The Numbers are in and. . .

I finally got my hands on the local news ratings numbers for February, and they’re pretty much as expected. Most time periods are really close, with WLKY-TV winning mornings and by a wide margin at 11. WHAS-TV hangs on, barely, at 5, 5:30 and 6.

Did this have anything to do with Bob Klingle’s resignation? I guess it depends on who/what you believe.  Tom Dorsey outlines a lot of different things that could have affected the numbers in his C-J column, in which he says the TV news race is tighter than it’s ever been.
Mornings:

5AM-6AM:

WLKY – 4.8 rating, 17.9 share
WHAS – 3.7, 13.8
WAVE – 3.6, 13.5
WDRB – 1.9, 7.0

6AM-7AM

WLKY – 6.6, 19.5
WAVE – 5.5, 16.2
WHAS – 5.4, 16.2
WDRB – 3.1, 9.2

Noon

WLKY – 5.6, 14.8
WHAS – 4.9, 12.8
WAVE – 4.0, 10.5

5 PM

WHAS – 7.7 , 14.7
WLKY – 7.2, 13.8
WAVE – 5.3, 10.1

530 PM

WHAS – 8.0, 14.8
WLKY – 7.0, 12.9
WAVE – 6.1, 11.2

6 PM

WHAS – 8.6, 15.6
WAVE – 8.2, 14.5
WLKY – 7.8, 13.8

11 PM

WLKY – 11.2, 20.1
WAVE – 7.7, 13.7
WHAS – 6.7, 12.0

Categories TV

WHAS: Klingle Out as GM

Bob Klingle is out at WHAS-TV. His resignation is effective March 23, and he plans to stay in Louisville and pursue other opportunities, according to a report on the Business First web site.

That’s the official story, now here’s some speculation. It’s certainly no secret that WHAS-TV is on a ratings decline. In news, WLKY-TV won the morning race and at 11 p.m., time periods in which WHAS-TV has done much better in the past. I was told by one insider that the 10 p.m. experiment on WBKI-TV isn’t attracting a significant audience. WHAS-TV’s news product has frequently focused on weather non-events, carrying on about potential storms, while the competition moves on to real news. I hear there’s been plenty of in-house turmoil over the morning show.

When an official release says “pursuing other opportunities,” that’s just a code for being forced out the door. So Klingle may be the fall guy for the station’s poor performance in the February sweeps. Or, the 50-year-old GM, who’s been in the TV business for 25 years and at WHAS for seven, may really be ready to move on to something else, as the C-J reported.

The question is…will the bloodletting stop there? Some fingers will point to News Director Aaron Ramey, brought in by Klingle, whose position may be in the most jeopardy. It will be an interesting story to follow.

Categories TV

Ali’s Return Should Be Celebrated

There’s been some buzz around town about the New York Times piece written by local freelancer Michael Lindenberger. You can read it online, free, at this Toronto Star link. The story has attracted criticism (Velocity listed Lindenberger as one of “This Week’s Losers“) , calling the story “ignorant and inflammatory.”

I know Michael, and think he’s an excellent reporter. I respect his perspective on journalism, and have worked with him on a few projects for LEO. That said, I think his take on Louisville’s attitude about Ali is way off base. The story’s second graph is a quote from a bartender at a VFW post still bitter about Ali’s four decades old decision not to go to Vietnam. I don’t know how hard you have to look to find that kind of bitter old man, but I guess the VFW would be a good place to look. I simply question the judgment of basing a New York Times story on the opinion of such a person.

The writer chose to create a controversy where there arguably is none. Ali, who bought a home in eastern Jefferson County in January and plans to spend at least part of his time there, is as close to a cult hero as it comes in this town. I’ve been to a dozen events over the years in which the Champ has entered the room to the most reverential of receptions. That the Ali Center downtown has become a successful project is further testament to Ali’s popularity.

Which makes me question why, in reporting Ali’s anticipated return to his hometown, Lindenberger would choose to write a story that suggests that Louisville as a whole harbors a racist, resentful attitude in its treatment of Ali. If you surveyed the city, I’d be surprised if you found one person in a hundred with an unkind word to say about Ali, and most would be thrilled to welcome him home.

Lindenberger’s story suggests that a significant contingent of local citizens still resent Ali for his decision 40 years ago. He got an editor at the New York Times to believe him, and wrote a piece that reflects negatively on the city.