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ON MEDIA

Ravens coach gives scoops on radio program

Billick the reporter

December 14, 2007|By RAY FRAGER

Back again to provide sports media notes and to let you know I can really shake it down (to quote the Contours):

If you think back over the Ravens' season - though maybe there are many parts you'd rather forget - you might recall how certain bits of news came from coach Brian Billick, except he wasn't announcing them before a group of reporters.

He has used his radio show on WBAL (1090 AM) to report injury news on B.J. Sams, Trevor Pryce and Chris McAlister and name Kyle Boller the starting quarterback. Was he intentionally bypassing the media? That's not the case, a Ravens official said.

"The whole system has changed," said Kevin Byrne, Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations. "There's no news cycle anymore. When news is out, it's out."

So when Billick gets information on Tuesday, one of the few days he doesn't meet with reporters, he disseminates it via his radio show.

"We're a really transparent organization," Byrne said. "We don't sit on news. ... The only time we'll hide anything is when it would put us at a competitive disadvantage.

"We're not holding news so we can break it on the show and get bigger ratings."

(Somehow, that reminds me of the old Comedy Central Daily Show slogan: "When news breaks, we fix it.")

Considering the way the game quickly got out of hand, Baltimore's television audience stayed with Sunday night's Ravens-Indianapolis Colts game for quite a while. During the first hour, NBC's game telecast on WBAL/Channel 11 drew 27.4 percent of the viewers. The rating dropped only to 25.3 in the second hour. By the last segment (10:30 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.), though, it was down to 21.6.

Criticize ESPN if you will, but it has done something very right by making Le Anne Schreiber its ombudsman.

Her most recent column on ESPN.com takes the network to task for letting its Barry Bonds indictment coverage drone on and on, far beyond the amount of actual information available to report, and for letting Kirk Herbstreit air the "news" that Les Miles was leaving Louisiana State to become Michigan's football coach based on "a single, anonymous, uncorroborated source."

Schreiber wrote: "Why did ESPN go with a story that risked affecting outcomes - the [Southeastern Conference] championship game and the job negotiations - by itself becoming an unforeseen circumstance? ... In my mind, Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback and not an experienced reporter, was less to blame for this ill-founded scoop than the senior College GameDay producers who should have advised him against going on air with such shaky information."

Where would ESPN's Mitchell Report coverage yesterday have been without former Sun Orioles reporters? The prominent talking heads included the network's Tim Kurkjian and Buster Olney, plus Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice. Maybe part of their rise to national profiles has to do with enduring working with me.

Speaking of Sun reporters, baseball writer and baltimoresun.com blogger Roch Kubatko will join Mid-Atlantic Sports Network's Jim Hunter for the weekly Orioles Hot Stove show on WHFS (105.7 FM) and MASN. The program debuts tonight at 7 on WHFS, then is televised on tape at 9 p.m. at MASN. Starting on Jan. 11, the show will be simulcast on radio and TV at 7.

Meanwhile, I'm lucky I get to watch TV, much less appear on it.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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