Times & Transcript botch a fluff article

The Times & Transcript,  Moncton’s daily newspaper (circulation of around 40k) recently published this article on the awesomely named Jazzmar Ferguson. It’s a pretty standard fluff piece giving some background on a new signing, but boy-howdy did the reporter fail to do even the most basic research and chose to just try to hype up Jazzmar. The poor research surfaces in this paragraph:

Ferguson helped Indiana University Southeast capture the conference title and advance to the March Madness national championship tournament in each of his four seasons there. This tournament, which expanded from 64 to 68 teams in 2011, is one of America’s highest profile sporting events.

During his time there, his school lost in the first round of the tournament twice, advanced to the final 16 teams once and made it to the final eight survivors once.

Ferguson, 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in three-point shots made per game last season. Now, he’s is ready for a new adventure.

So what’s wrong here? The obvious problem is that March Madness is the name of the 68 team NCAA Division 1 championship tournament, and as the author accidentally points out IU-Southeast plays in the NAIA, not any division of the NCAA. It might seem like splitting hairs but while division 1 of the NCAA is inarguably the premier amateur basketball circuit  in the league in terms of both talent and exposure and March Madness is one of the most watched sporting tournaments in North America the NAIA is not nearly as competitive nor as popular.

The NAIA’s first division is a strange mix players but is generally about on par with the NCAA second division. No one watches their championship tournament unless they know someone playing in it or go to a small mid-western college participating in it. It is definitely not “one of America’s highest profile sporting events.” The NAIA tournament is also only a 32 team tournament, not a 68 team one. So pointing out that Ferguson helped IU-Southeast advance to the final 16 is a lot less impressive when you realize that they won just one tournament game to get there.  I get that it’s “just basketball” but it’s also sloppy reporting, particularly in an age where these things are just a google search away. Fans expect and deserve accurate reporting and I almost don’t blame the author: he likely had too many other stories to write and is not a basketball writer. I blame a chain of newspapers owned by the the family of New Brunswick Robber Barons who have broke unions, shipped personal wealth over seas, intimidated reporters at other papers and basically bought up the entire province. If simple mistakes like this are being made in the sports section how much can you trust the paper to critically report on the hard news in Moncton, particularly those involving their basses?

Jazzmar Ferguson might be a great player (there have been some good NAIA players in the minors) but the profile of him in today’s Times & Transcript doesn’t accurately describe his achievements, and that’s dishonest, lazy and unfair to Ferguson, The Miracles and their fans.

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What Happens When Newspapers Gut the Newsroom?

It’s a rhetorical question.

This happens.

This was an “article” written by the PR department at Dalhousie and posted on the Dal website.  The Metro picked it up as a weekend online feature without even re-writing it.

I think we still get scores and game results, but the thing that is seriously missing when newspapers gut staff and pages is features and longer, in depth articles.  It’s sort of annoying when it comes to sports but hard news is in just as bad situation.

For the record, I love noon hoops although I haven’t been out in months (and showed up rarely even when I did go).  I just think it’s absurd for a newspaper to rely on PR departments for content.

Profile of Eric Crookshank

There’s a pretty good longform interview with Eric on the Haligonia website.  It’s 12 minutes long and while there aren’t tons of new details in it I think it gives you a pretty accurate idea of what Eric is like.

Rainmen Want to Draw 5,500 Fans Per Game Next Year

No one can ever say that Andre Levingston lacks ambition.  He told Chris Cochrane of the Herald that he wants the team to average 5,500 fans per game next year.  That’s ambitious.

This year saw a jump from 1800 fans per game to 2800 fans per game a 67% increase in just one year, which is huge.  If they can somehow get a similar increase over the next off season we’d be looking at about 4,700 fans per game which seems to be a more realistic goal.  That said, Andre isn’t just assuming people will show up, he’s a smart enough business man to know he has to work for it and he mentions hiring experts in ticket sales and more staff to try to increase attendance.

I think a first step would be a decrease in ticket prices, but not to the level of absurdity that the Rochester Razor Sharks have done it.  $5 tickets for children 12 and under should be the norm.  Slight decreases in other tickets might not be a bad idea, but the kids tickets are crucial.  It’s just too expensive to bring a family to a game, and if kids go then you know their parents are too.  They need to be more aggressive on group sales and actively seek out groups to sell to.  The season tickets should be advertised as including the extra events they hosted this year.   They also need to decide what exactly they want to do with special event nights – “big name” performers before games haven’t delivered and the only promotion nights that really work are kids night (the first time) and two for one night.  Military Families night in the first year was successful despite short lead time, and I think nights like that which target specific groups should be the goal for next year.  I also think that the graphic design of newspaper ads needs to improve greatly.

The article has lots of other little bits of info including Andre saying that he hopes to have a coach in place by the start of June and that Berry is his first choice.

In other news:  The Black Basketball Association is running its annual tournament starting on May 18.  The quality is often uneven but there are occasional high level pros – guys playing in the first division in Germany, second division players in Spain, PBL/CBA/DLeague/ABA guys, NCAA guys on summer vacation and even NBA guys from time to time.  There isn’t an established Pro-Am league in Canada so tournaments like this are as close as we get.  I ran into Eric yesterday and he said he’s playing in the tournament on a team with Strick.  Watching Strick in a situation which is a bit closer to streetball is an opportunity I don’t think I can afford to miss.  I’ve run into Eric a few times and he will be in the city all summer (minus a short trip home to Oakland) and is doing summer camps and promotional work for the sponsors he has (Coke and Rogers for the most part).  Athletes always talk about how much they love the city they’re playing in, with Eric I actually believe it.

Chad Lucas Will No Longer Be Covering Rainmen

So I suspected as much, but thought I’d wait for confirmation prior to posting it, but Chad Lucas is one of those people who will be let go as a result of the massive lay offs at the Chronicle Herald.

The newspaper business is in dire straights for various reasons and people more qualified to comment on it have typed a great many words on the subject – use google and you’ll find some good commentary I am sure.   In Halifax we’ve seen the loss of a number of good reporters and it’s unfortunate that Chad is among those being let go.  The Herald had a number of reporters like Chad who represented a dying breed of reporter: the beat reporter.  In many ways it’s a miracle that the Herald had a basketball reporter at all, but as basketball fans we were blessed to have regular updates on high school, university, college and pro ball from someone who spent most of their time covering these stories rather than covering a half dozen other things.  Being immersed in the context of the stories and having a bit more time to dig around and fit pieces together shows in the writing and it’s sad as a basketball fan to lose the kind of in depth reporting that we’re all used to. (It’s perhaps even more sad that we’re likely to lose the remaining beat reporters at the court house and other places as well)

Lucas was always very friendly with me, and never saw me as the enemy or competetition.  I think he saw this blog the same way I do:  an adjunct to the newspaper reporting where I gave unqualified opinions, shared unsourced gossip and provided a place for fans to talk about the team (and often discuss the things Lucas wrote about in the paper).

He is an excellent writer and he was never scared to dig into the business side of the Rainmen, the ABA and the PBL which I felt pushed him to another level.  Often reporters (usually due to time constraints) take people 100% at their word and don’t dig around, I don’t think Lucas could ever be accused of that.  His actual analysis of basketball was excellent and while he rarely got into details in print, his blog often broke down the strengths and weaknesses of the Rainmen with more clarity than I ever have.

The Rainmen have benefited from media coverage that has been unparalled in the minor leagues over the last two years and halfway through their first season they suffered a blow when the Daily News shut down, the loss of Lucas as a beat reporter will no doubt continue to erode the amount and quality of coverage they get.

It is really too bad that Lucas will no longer be writing for the Herald – both due to the loss of excellent coverage of basketball, and because he’s a good person who lost his job due to no fault of his own.  I hope he can quickly find a new job (I think a book on the post-2000 ABA still needs to be written) and he’s more than welcome to come sit in sections 22 and 23 with all of us.  Heck, I know some folks in the section have extra seats that often go unused and I am sure he’s more than welcome to make use of them.

Warm Up

I I am down and out with a terrible flu combined with healing holes in my mouth from wisdome tooth removal, but I read this and it struck a cord with me.  From the blog of Michael Grange, Raptors beat reporter for the Globe and Mail:

This is probably unfair, but first impressions are first impressions. I had a moment at half time and I decided to watch Patrick O’Bryant last night and this is what I saw: He strolled out on the court early for warm-up, but did very little in the way of warming up. He kind half-assed some jumpers, like you would if you were kind of tired and goofing around on your own. I thought that was odd because given all he’s got between him and some playing time is Jake Voskuhl, I’d think he’d be quick to get out there and get a light sweat on, or at least pretend he had a purpose. Not that at all. Some relaxed shooting. Then, when the layups started, some kind of goofy finger-roll. What happens next though, is the killer: he takes off for a wicked windmill; and then throws down some other pretty rare dunks. (emphasis is mine)

Oddly enough, Grange is also down with “flu-like symptoms,” but that’s not what caught my eye, it’s this:  Whose warm up does that sound like?  It’s pretty much a spot on description of 80% of the Rainmen.  And what’s the result?  They blow lay ups in the game, often come out flat, and don’t make the simple plays come game time.   The first time you see it it’s cool to see guys throw alley-oops to themselves and try to do silly dunks, but after two seasons of not-quite-good-enough play I am sick and tired of it.

Watch/Listen to Halifax On the Road

As strange as it seems to have to move past the Crookshank suspension, there is basketball to be play this weekend and Halifax take the show on the road and battle two teams that they went a combined 0-12 against last year: Vermont and Manchester.   Manchester are 2-2 with both wins coming against Vermont, and Vermont are 1-2 with their losses coming to the Millrats.  Halifax are the odd man out in this Atlantic Division rivalry and are hoping to come through the middle to hold on to the divisional lead.

Halifax need to at least split these games – it’s been said time and time again that the PBL season is short, but it’s worth mentioning again:  these two games are 10% of the total schedule for Halifax.  Splitting these games puts them at a very good 4-2, losing both drops them to .500.  I had originally thought that Halifax could win both games, but with the confusion with the Crookshank situation and the injury to Silverhorn I think the more reasonable goal is a win and a loss.  (Although winning both is not out of the question)

Both teams play tough defense so Halifax should not anticipate many easy scoring chances.

You can watch or listen to both games online through links on the team websites, Vermont here (audio) and Manchester here (video).

Rainmen Announce Live-to-Air Webcasting Deal

The Rainmen announced today that home games will be available both live and in archived form on Haligonia.ca. It’s good news for Halifax fans, but is even better news for fans of visiting teams who can follow their team on the road.  I think that with a deal like this Halifax should seek to become a regional force – not just Halifax’s basketball team, but the only pro-sports team in the whole region.
This means that Vermont and Halifax have local webcast deals with Mid-Michigan having radiot broadcasts available on line.
There’s no word on what the alleged PBL-wide broadcasting deal will do with the Vermont and Halifax games.  @sportsTV should negotiate the rights to show games on tape delay, but I doubt that the Vermont and Halifax broadcasters would give up archiving rights or live rights.   It’s looking like the @sportsTV deal is just a Rochester deal… which is not entirely surprising.

Where are they now? Metro try to update you but are sloppy about it.

The Halifax Metro ran a story today about where the Rainmen from last year currently are playing and it offers a few bits of harder to find info (i.e. where Eichelberger is) but misses some of the most obvious stuff:  It makes no mention of the fact that Booyer played against the Rainmen, making his Halifax debut, for Chicago but didn’t make their regular season roster; and more surprisingly it fails to mention that Lantrice Green is currently on the Montreal Sasquatch who play in Halifax on Sunday afternoon.  Those are the two updates that are actually somewhat meaningful to casual fans in Halifax since those guys actually played/will play here this season.  Strange ommissions.

Rainmen Getting Great Media Coverage

Nancy Sheppard, the PR director for the Rainmen has put together a media relations strategy that is mindblowing for this stage in the (pre)season.  Since November 25 they have had 23 stories go to print in the Herald or the Metro and every single day of training camp has recieved at least one story in the Herald or Metro and most days have at least one article in each.  Every roster move has generated coverage, even if it’s no shows or local guys getting cut and the team has gotten more coverage in a few weeks than many minor league franchises generate in a whole season.

One of the things about Halifax is that, even more than other cities, hype builds more hype.  You need to convince people that your event is a big deal, once you convince people its a big deal you have a chance to actually make it a big deal.  If fans think it’s bush league then they simply won’t show up.  But a full week of dominating the sports sections of both dailies the Rainmen are making sure casual fans know the team is still around and ready to play better than last year.  They’re getting players, both old and new, introduced to fans, and they’re giving people  a sense that the team is important – at least important enough to get constant media coverage.
While casual fans who are getting their first introduction to the team are well served, I think those of us who are (perhaps overly) obsessed fans are getting even better coverage.  The Metro has started updating  online some stories, including Rainmen stories, as soon as they can get a draft written which means factual news is available within an hour of the Rainmen announcing it.  Chad Lucas’ blog provides a good mixture of factual detail, context and opinion as well as previews of stories being published the next day and additional info that doesn’t find its way into the print edition of the Herald.  I usually manage to serve as a clearing house for other coverage as well as providing some rumours, analysis, a lot more opinion than the other two, and a place for fans to discuss the developments.  In addition, fans looking for info about the whole league can easily find a complete list of which players have been signed around the league and updates on preseason games on the OSC PBL board.  If you’re a fan of the Rainmen and looking to keep up to date on the team and the league there is no shortage of information out there.

Let’s just hope that all this coverage translates into plenty of people in the stands.

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