Social media has been a game-changer in so many aspects globally in the last decade, and its influence only seems to be growing as each year goes by.
Whether or not we should weep for humanity because of this trend is another discussion for another day.
The wide grasp of the internet also assures that not much tends to go undetected these days, which extends to conversations on the radio.
One man quite familiar with that particular conundrum is NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman, who had a Tuesday afternoon hit on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650.
Toward the end of the segment on The Program with Andrew Walker and Dan Riccio, Riccio posed a question that allowed Friedman the chance to delve into this topic – on which he’s been somewhat vocal in the past few years.
“Just looking through the Thoughts and thinking as we talk here, you have so many notes about Canadian GMs,” began Riccio. “I can’t get over, Elliotte, how difficult a job that must be. Every little move for every Canadian team is just poured over by its hardcore fan base, and more so than in most American cities I would imagine. For all of these guys, they’ve got to be looking over their shoulder all of the time, no?”
“Well, I think the thing that’s interesting about that Dan is the one thing I would say for sure is the relationships are much more tense than they used to be,” noted Friedman. “From the time I came into the business in 1993 – so now this has been 25 years – the amount of battles you have, there’s more than ever. And the amount of pushback you get, there’s more than ever.
“For example, I get along pretty well with Trevor Linden. But a couple of years ago he told people at a fan forum he didn’t like what I wrote on the Dan Hamhuis deal. And he called me, and we had a conversation about it. And the conversation wasn’t nasty or anything like that, but he didn’t like it and he called me about it.
“And it was fine. We worked our way through it. But that happens a lot more now. It happens more in Canada, I agree, because the scrutiny is very intense. But it happens for the American guys too.
“I think social media – and you guys know this – social media has changed everything. The radio hits now – they terrify me. Because radio used to be a place where you shot the breeze, you guys asked a question, I answered the question, maybe I threw a scenario – you never took radio as seriously from a reporting point of view. Unless you came on and said, ‘I am reporting this.’ It was always, ‘This is my theory.’
“Like to me, radio is a bar. I envision the three of us having this conversation right now, we’re sitting at a bar, we’re having a couple of beers or whatever your guys’ drink of choice is, and we’re talking sports.
“But it’s gone to now people say what you say as gospel. It’s a report. It’s that teams are thinking of doing this. And that’s where I think everything has really changed. It goes viral. While it annoys me the way it’s done that, I know I have to be a lot more careful. Because it used to be you said something on radio and it went ‘poof’ up into the atmosphere, now it’s going everywhere.
“And I don’t like that because I still see this as a bar conversation – the problem is you can’t see it as a bar conversation when nobody else does. So you have to kind of change the way you do things.
“I do think that’s changed a lot for both the GMs, the teams, and the reporters. There’s no question about that.”
One problem with social media, as we’ve found to be particularly harmful in the political arena, is that misinformation can spread like wildfire. And once it’s out there, it tends to stay out there.
In that respect, a comment from a radio hit could be taken out of context and then retweeted or reposted again and again. If your remarks were being misconstrued in that manner, you’d probably be pretty pissed too.
Yes, there is big difference between an Insider saying, “I”d imagine that Team X would have interest in Player Y,” compared with “Team X is actively pursuing Player Y,” and that’s one of the underlying points of Friedman’s bar talk perspective.
Some people can hear either one of those examples and still come away with the latter (a report) as the takeaway, rather than the (simply conversational conjecture) former. But should the inevitability that a section of people are going to be unable to distinguish nuance really prevent the Insiders from having these sorts of conversations? No. No it should not. Fans love these radio hits.
That’s where accurately conveying those comments, in their context, is invaluable. People can still take anything they want from those reports and twist that information to suit their purposes, but that can be done with a TV appearance (including on-air intermission banter) or the Insiders’ own articles as well.
Yes, it’s been clearly noticeable that the four key Insiders who have been covered extensively in this space over the past three year or so – Friedman, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun – have become much more careful with their wording on the radio in the past few years, and the last year or so in particular.
Why? They don’t want to get radioed. That’s their term for it.
All I can speak to is what’s written in this space.
Have I been perfect in my coverage of them? I’d imagine not. The sheer number of radio hits I monitor weekly and the amount of information through which I sift to present you the interesting nuggets likely means something could have been handled better here or there.
I still stand by every single report I’ve produced over the years, both for accuracy of the quotes and the context in which they’ve been presented.
The fact that more hockey fans – most of whom are working during the day and can’t listen to these radio appearances, especially out of market – are able to see what the Insiders are discussing in this realm is a positive, not a negative.
Friedman realizes that, has recalibrated his radio approach, and people who enjoy his perspective have more access to it.
Source: Sportsnet 650
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