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Madoff Court Decision Nowhere to be Found on WFAN



By Mike Silva ~ August 17th, 2011. Filed under: Sports Media Commentary.

I am sure the media has grown weary of the court hearings to determine how much the Wilpons owe as a result of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. The case is obviously not sports related and takes a great deal of research to understand. For a much as I rail against media members who fail to prepare in an era where the reader is quickly catching up with them, I can’t condemn them for staying on the sidelines when it comes to analysis on this topic. After all, do you want your sports reporters commenting on the banking crisis? Do you want to hear what Mike Francesa thinks when it comes to the Republican Presidential debate? What we do want is to have news organizations provide the facts, even if it’s absent of analysis. If sports radio stations talk about the topic they should have experts on hand to assist in the discussion. I have to say listening to WFAN throughout the morning today they failed in their obligation to report this news to their listeners.

We saw modern day internet fueled sites like The Biz of Baseball and Capital New York run features, with well-researched opinion, about the ruling by the Second District Court of Appeals. However, on the Mets flagship station WFAN there wasn’t even a word during the update. A caller pointed this out to Marc Malusis during his mid-day show, which Malusis responded with defiance and sarcasm (a typical WFAN response when given any kind of criticism). The caller even mocked Eddie Coleman, who has mastered the art of saying as little as possible despite having more access than anyone. Why can Adam Rubin of ESPN NY talk about Madoff and still cover the team, but Coleman and WFAN can’t? After another Madoff-less update, Malusis read a brief statement about the case to placate the caller’s accusation. He even sarcastically said that VP Sports Programming CBS Radio, VP Programming CBS Radio New York, and WFAN Operations Manager Mark Chernoff forbid him to do so during a morning meeting before the show. He turned the error into a joke.

The real question is not whether Chernoff was defending the Mets, who have a long-standing relationship with WFAN, but why a news organization would be so remiss in even mentioning this during their updates? Why did it take a caller embarrassing them on the air to make it happen? Even worse, during a conversation with Capital New York’s Howard Megdal yesterday, he pointed out how little Mike Francesa does know when callers have asked him about the situation. Apparently Mike did touch on it briefly during Tuesday’s show, but it was void of any facts and real analysis. I have heard many Mets fans turn to Mike to educate them on this topic. He clearly is out of his league, but WFAN does not even bother to call Megdal or the aforementioned Maury Brown. Both would be great guests for a segment. The listeners would actually learn about what is going on so they could formulate an intellectual opinion when they call. A true journalistic opportunity thrown away by the self proclaimed #1 New York sports talk station.

Why are callers then allowed to ask Mike Francesa his opinion on the case when he 1) doesn’t have an extensive grasp of it like Brown and Megdal and 2) why are callers allowed to get through with their question? Why are they not cut off when asking something that is out of the realm of the host’s expertise? Why isn’t  the host punting the question? It’s ok to be honest and say “I don’t know,” as long as it’s followed up with “I will get you the answer.” Joe Benigno is classic for saying “I don’t know” without ever educating himself and following up. WFAN acts like the cool table in High School who want to wear ignorance as a badge of honor since “only nerds” study. It’s old and tired, and quite frankly, unacceptable from a station of that stature. They once again have failed in their news-reporting obligation.

I criticize the YES Network all the time for their pompous in-your-face Yankees pom-pom agenda. I can’t absolve WFAN when they seemed, intentional or not, to selectively ignore negative Mets information. Their disdain for knowledge, facts, and constructive debate when criticized comes across as arrogant, pompous, and extremely unattractive.

Memo to Chernoff and company: grow up and step up your game.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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3 Responses to Madoff Court Decision Nowhere to be Found on WFAN

  1. Ralph C

    Mike-normally I feel you are a little hard on WFAN because enjoyment of a host is subjective (i.e. I enjoy Benigno and Roberts while most can’t stand them). However, this article is revealing because it shows Francesa’s hypocrisy in action. Remember when he ranted against ESPN for forbidding their radio hosts from discussing the Ben Roethlisberger scandal? He said he had never been told what he could and could not discuss. This may or may not be true (probably not) but will he now get on his station for doing what ESPN did? No way.

  2. Russ Cress

    There’s a big difference between YES and WFAN.

    YES is owned by the Yankees. WFAN is owned by CBS and has a contract to broadcast Mets games.

    Those two things have a different journalistic expectation. YES being happy-go-Yankees is to be expected, it’s a bigger version of a team owned podcast or website. You know what you are getting and it’s not going to be the same standards as is expected from and independent news entity.

    WFAN is different. They are supposed to be held to a higher standard. However, that is compromised by the fact that the relationship isn’t a perminant codependent one like the TV situations. By the standards of integrity they should be held to a level of objectivity concerning the Mets except during the broadcasts (which is debatable but reality). In this case, they are in a position where they don’t want to tick off the Wilpons because they can take their contract to other radio outlets. That said, ignoring the issue isn’t the answer. As long as they cover the story in a fair and objective manner, the Wilpons should be big enough people not to have issue with it and understand the difference between honest reporting and negativity. WFAN should report the facts and the Wilpons should accept that. They owe that much to both of their customer bases.

  3. Benny

    Mike:

    The fact is that there is not one person at WFAN that has a legal/economic/journalist background with the exception of Sherri Ross and at one time Steve Sommers (more on that later). Without that type of reporter, I see no point in WFAN repeating the Madoff information without any background to go with it.

    Many years ago I met probably the last great reporter WFAN had a fellow by the name of Dan Wasserman who now is the Director of Communications (Fancy name for spokesperson) for the NBA Players Association. Very bright and aggressive (the two qualities you look for in a reporter). He would be the one person on that station who would be able to understand and give a analysis to the the listener (he was a lawyer before he joined FAN). There were many stories he provided good insight and thought to go with it. I can even tell you at one time that Steve Sommers was also one of those aggressive reporters. When’s Steve’s true love the National Hockey League was going through its share of problems in the late 80′s, Steve would be reporting what was going on between the NHL and the NHLPA. Steve even somehow tracked down the Commissioner at that time John Ziegler in London,England of all places while the Stanley Cup finals was taking place. I can remember Steve asking relevant and sharp questions at Ziegler as to why the NHL was not successful and John doing everything he can to avoid the answers.

    As for Chernoff stepping up: fat chance for CBS would have to spend at least $50,000 a year on a journalist with a sports/legal/economic background. You would hear the same answers from CBS radio President Dan Mason: What is the ROI on this person we would hire and besides investigative reporting what else would they do?

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