WEEI

WEEI and the Boston Globe play the Feud once again

If you don't live in the Northeast, you may not be familiar with the long-time feud between two media giants in Boston. Between 1999 and 2009, the Boston Globe and sports radio station WEEI were at each other throats. It began in 1999 when the Globe banned its writers from appearing on WEEI's afternoon drive show, "The Big Show" hosted by Glenn Ordway. Two years later, the Globe instituted a full-station ban preventing staffers from the appearing on WEEI altogether. The reasoning was that Globe editors found WEEI's content offensive. And as WEEI continued to dominate Boston's ratings with little to no competition, the station did not suffer from losing writers like Bob Ryan or the late Will McDonough as guests (although McDonough did go on the station during that period).

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Jump to 2009 when CBS Radio decided to enter the Boston sports radio scene with 98.5 The Sports Hub. Realizing that it would have its first legitimate competition with deep financial pockets, WEEI decided to call a truce and allow Globe writers back on the station. It came as a surprise to Boston sports media observers.

So we move to the present day. WEEI's ratings have fallen to the point where it's a very distant second to 98.5 The Sports Hub. The aforementioned Ordway was fired. WEEI's long-time executive Jason Wolfe was recently let go, a victim not only of his past success, but also of the ratings woes. And despite having the Boston Red Sox for summer programming, the station appears to be running in quicksand, slow to change while the Sports Hub dominates Boston's ratings.

Last  week, the Globe ran a front-page story written by Callum Borchers making it appear that WEEI was languishing and long-time listeners were abandoning ship. The story even quoted two people who said they have switched to The Sports Hub. In addition, Borchers talked about what he deemed questionable programming and financial moves, pointing to the station's contract with the Red Sox that pays the team $20 million per year, more than what the New York Yankees and New York Mets each receive from CBS Radio. A sample of Borchers' piece:

"Once a Boston radio powerhouse that had the local sports market to itself, WEEI already has lost many listeners like (Drew) Mavrikos to 98.5 The Sports Hub, a CBS-owned rival that was launched in 2009. Though the station takes in much more money than its new competitor, revenues at WEEI are down nearly 20 percent since The Sports Hub began broadcasting, according to industry figures, and it remains saddled with an expensive contract to broadcast the Boston Red Sox."

Enter designated WEEI mouthpiece Kirk Minihane. He's a regular on WEEI's morning drive show hosted by John Dennis and Boston Herald columnist Gerry Callahan. Minihane wrote a reply on the station's website not only calling out Borchers, but disclosing that he was once a WEEI intern. Minihane not only did a takedown on the Globe for running the story, but he also took down Borchers for not disclosing his one-time allegiance to the station:

"Callum Borchers, the author of the story, was an intern at WEEI in 2006. He worked (wait for it) for the Dennis & Callahan show. Now, keep in mind — this is a Page 1 story in the Boston Globe, and (in 2013, more importantly) a story that was the lead on Boston.com for most of the morning Thursday. You'd think any whiff of bias would be addressed, right? Nope. The story never mentions that Borchers was once an intern for Dennis & Callahan, a show that was a focal point in the piece, in fact the only WEEI program mentioned in the story. Why not? According to Borchers, the story wasn't a "first-person account," so such disclosure wasn't needed. Does that strike anyone as a believable response?"

Minihane also pointed out that one of the former WEEI listeners quoted in Borchers' story is a Facebook friend of the Globe writer and went even further to show his "disgust" at the paper.

Did the editors and fact-checkers at the Globe simply not care? Were they negligent or inept? Either way, it's a disgraceful performance, intellectually and journalistically dishonest. True or not, it smells like a rejected high school newspaper pitch — someone uses a couple of buddies for quotes that fit an agenda. And the Globe not only signed off on it, it put it on the front page of the newspaper. I can only imagine what didn't make the cut.

In this takedown, we give this edition of the feud to WEEI by 3rd round techical knockout.

So the Globe/WEEI brawl is apparently back on. We'll see if the newspaper's writers will be banned from appearing on the station once again. As always, Awful Announcing will be watching. 

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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