Editorial: Bell Media blunders in scrapping local CTV sports team

Conventional media – your daily newspaper and local TV News – have been under tremendous pressure because of declining advertising revenue, the result of a multiplicity of choice from competing media, including of course, the Internet.

The Montreal Gazette, though still with some highly motivated and highly productive journalists and photographers, is a shadow of its former self. But one thing its owners and managers have not done is reduce coverage of sports, specifically hockey.

Given the reality of this being a hockey-mad town, we were shocked when last month Bell Media, owners of CTV and its highly successful TV station here, scrapped its local sports department by laying off its excellent journalists: The veteran Randy Tieman, the clever Brian Wilde, and rookie Sean Coleman.

Even those who are not hard-core sports fans enjoyed the friendly and folksy way Tieman treated major sports stories, his humour, compassion, and judgement connected with a loyal fan base. We remember his attention to the local scene, his series called Randy’s Rookies, his concern for his community by showing up for local fundraisers.

Wilde, as Jack Todd has pointed out, developed as a journalist, from a meat-and-potatoes sportscaster into a passionate and thoughtful analyst. In that role Wilde was the straight man in a delightful series of dialogues with François Gagnon of La Presse fame, in their own mini-version of the hot stove league. The decision, all about the mighty dollar as CTV moves to introduce a 5 p.m. newscast, is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Viewers who are upset can and should do something about it. One thing is to demonstrate your displeasure by switching to the excellent CBC and its local coverage of news, including sports. In Douglas Gelevan and Andie Bennett, who work on radio and TV, CBC has a well-informed and balanced team of pros. They do the job, and do it well.

Viewers can also join in the burgeoning protest movement to boycott CTV News. One campaign going around social media says, “You can’t cut local coverage and expect local viewers to continue to watch! Voice your anger … email the decision makers. They are listed as Don.Mumford@Bellmedia.ca, Bell Media Regional vice-president, and Steve.Young@Bellmedia.ca, Bell Media local news director.

There are those who say boycotts don’t work, that they will only end up hurting ratings and endangering remaining jobs. Yes, boycotts hurt and there are risks. But it is a way of making your voice heard.

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