By HOWARD BERGER
UPDATE — TSN, on Wednesday, delivered a smart and quick response to the issue of live public reaction during its signature events:
TORONTO — TSN says it will no longer air public tweets during live coverage after the all-sports network accidentally carried an inflammatory post from a viewer about Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul and team captain Dion Phaneuf’s wife during Monday’s NHL trade deadline show. A spokesperson for TSN would not discuss how the offensive Tweet, which ran on a live crawl at the bottom of the screen, made it to air. But Greg McIsaac did say “going forward TSN will not be airing public tweets during our live broadcasts.”
TORONTO (Mar. 4) — Let me begin today by hoping for an amicable truce between TSN and Maple Leaf players Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul.
All parties were victimized by a repugnant, contemptible Tweet that somehow appeared during the network’s coverage, Monday, of the National Hockey League trade deadline. It was a dreadful mistake by the person (or people) in charge of monitoring such commentary but the overwhelming majority of mistakes — this one included — are fully unintentional. Though Phaneuf and Lupul have every right to be angered by the lewd message, I’m confident cooler heads will ultimately prevail.
On the bright side, something good normally evolves from something lousy. In this case, I’m hopeful that TSN — the world leader in hockey coverage — will recognize the utter futility of posting remarks that have neither value nor merit. To wit: the ramblings of Joe Fan. Social media has an obvious upside but it also serves as a forum for the emotionally unstable. When I tune into TSN for hockey information and opinion, I’m interested only in the network’s phenomenal cast. I want to hear Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun, James Duthie, Aaron Ward, Jeff O’Neill, Pierre McGuire and others that have vaulted TSN into the stratosphere. Under no circumstance should I — or anyone else — care what Fred from Ajax or Mike from Oakville is pondering.
Such irrelevance has no boundary.
THE PRIME TSN HOCKEY PANEL OF (LEFT–TO–RIGHT) JAMES DUTHIE, DARREN DREGER AND BOB McKENZIE. WHY RISK HANDCUFFING THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS?
Yet, there’s a strange, paradoxical urgency for news and sports networks to project interaction with viewers in real time. One that I’ve never been able to comprehend. The networks seek out and pay top–dollar for those that are authentic and credible while concurrently undermining such figures by displaying meaningless drivel. Why do both? Perhaps a slight increase in viewership can be generated today by interactivity but is it essential? Shouldn’t the gold standard for hockey broadcasting and information feel secure that its renowned experts can deliver — without distraction — an audience that appeals to advertisers?
In my view, it’s a rhetorical question.
That said, don’t get me wrong: Not for a moment do I believe the public should be avoided or neglected. Twitter, in credible hands, provides an incalculable bridge between celebrity and patron. Nowhere is this more apparent in hockey than with TSN’s McKenzie, whose integrity and balanced interplay has cultivated nearly one million Twitter “followers” (955,688, to be exact, as of late Wednesday morning). My friend Elliotte Friedman has drawn more than 207,000 “followers” with his splendid work through the years at CBC and Sportsnet. Social media interaction, when suitably deployed, is imperative in today’s media landscape.
On television, however, there must be a demarcation point. Which, to me, is the display of public banter in real time. TSN was exploited by such a posting during a particularly tumultuous afternoon. Its annual trade deadline and free agency coverage requires more spontaneity and less structure than any other programming. The network’s resources have to be pooled and coordinated in a clamorous environment. It’s a remarkable challenge — one in which TSN routinely excels (as does Sportsnet). Offering what Joe Fan has to say is utterly pointless. Not even in a best–case scenario can it bolster the presentation. In a worst–case scenario, it undercuts significantly good work.
As it did — so unnecessarily — on Monday.
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