CSN Chicago: Blackhawks Biggest Cheerleaders

CSN Chicago: Blackhawks Biggest Cheerleaders

I really do love the Chicago Blackhawks “hit the ice” introduction video. The CGI effects are top notch.

However, the very first thing I noticed in the vid is Coach Quenneville’s faux “media session.”

There are only three microphones placed under Coach Q: WGN TV, WGN Radio and Comcast SportsNet; the Blackhawks three broadcast partners. Now why would a front-runner franchise even bother doing this? Why have any corporate media logos? Or instead throw in more media outlets and make the fake presser look genuine? Still, this is ultimately meaningless minutia; at least compared to the more important thoughts that it provokes.

If you’re a media outlet who also broadcasts a team regularly, you are no longer a true news-gathering agency. At least not in regards to that specific team. You are beholden to that franchise and your on-air talent are de facto PR representatives; not reporters or journalists.

This is true wherever there’s a team and a broadcast network in bed with each other.

By definition if you are part of a broadcast team, you are not a “reporter” for that team, regardless of what title you are ascribed. Sure you “cover” the game; as you’re right there talking to the players and coaches and communicating about what occurs. However, you’re inherent bias prevents you from true reporting. You cannot be a “Tampa Bay Rays sideline reporter” unless you work for an outlet that has no broadcast connections to the Rays. You are in actuality a “Tampa Bay Rays In-Stadium hostess.”

This situation gets stronger in severity like cocaine to crack when the team and network are also intertwined in ownership structure. That’s why we’re using Comcast SportsNet Chicago and the Blackhawks as an example. Other teams and networks have similar relationships, but with CSN Chicago the Blackhawks cheerleading is so over-the-top that it embodies an optimal teachable scenario.

From the CSN Chicago Wikipedia:

CSN Chicago was created in 2004. It is jointly owned by Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal (20%), the family of J. Joseph Ricketts (owner of the Cubs, 20%), Jerry Reinsdorf (owner of the both the Bulls and the White Sox, giving him a 40% stake), and Rocky Wirtz (owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, 20%). The channel airs a majority of games for those four teams.  Although WCIU-TV and WGN-TV carry many Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls games, CSN Chicago was created so the teams mentioned could have editorial control over their broadcasts.

Let me repeat that last line so we can focus on it:

CSN Chicago was created so the teams mentioned could have editorial control over their broadcasts.

And that’s Wikipedia, the most vanilla and unbiased website possible, talking. I didn’t get that phrase from a media watchdog site. We learned with the firing of Susannah Collins that the Blackhawks have CSN right where they want them. Rocky Wirtz wanted Susannah removed from his airwaves in the wake of the “Blackhawks had a tremendous out of sex this season” on-air gaffe and Comcast readily acquiesced. They were like the Waylon Smithers to the Blackhawks Mr. Burns on that one.

And this chain-of-commend is why you have:

Edzo and Foley often pandering to the front office during game telecasts, Comcast employees wearing Blackhawks jerseys in their professional Twitter account pics, CSN on-air personalities repeatedly saying “Let’s Go Hawks!” during guest spots on sports talk radio and Blackhawks “insiders” never uttering a non-fawning word about team management. In other words, Comcast SportNet Chicago does not do Blackhawks journalism; they do obsequious Blackhawks cheerleading.

To their credit, they do champion slogans such as “a fan’s best friend” and “we’re just as obsessed as you are;” so they freely admit their bias. And the network obviously benefits with the success of the team. More wins equals better ratings, more valuable ad time to sell, more revenue for the station. As the team gets more nationally relevant, CSN on-air talent find themselves getting more personal publicity.

However, 1.) you can’t then call yourself a genuine news outlet at the same time and 2.) you don’t have to be so obnoxious and overt with your Blackhawks cheerleading! We know the hockey team is winning. We’re aware more people are watching. You’re making more money now; we get it!

I, along with many others, ripped the Big Ten Network to shreds over their pathetic lack of Penn State scandal coverage. (They covered just the NCAA sanctions, nothing else) And deservedly so. It was truly the darkest hour of BTN. However, the Big Ten Network did admit that they are a broadcasting agency, not a news service.

Seems subtle, but the difference matters greatly.

It would be great if CSN Chicago would do the same. Just go ahead and explain that you are a television broadcasting arm of the Chicago Blackhawks Public Relations Department. The city will accept that.

Many will even embrace it.

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net. (“Quasi-endorsed” by Philadelphia Eagles Coach Chip Kelly) He’s also an author who also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker

Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks), like him on Facebook

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