Sunday, August 30, 2009

MLSE Compensation: My Expert Says...

Walter Sobchak:You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me.

The Dude: Yeah, but Walter...

Walter Sobchak: Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o'clock this afternoon... with nail polish. These fucking amateurs...

When I first started this blog, I used to post quite regularly on issues I had with the media and sports coverage. I don't post on that topic much anymore because - to be blunt - 90% of the material filed by sports columnists is crap and that percentage is unlikely to ever change.

But Garth Woosley's column in the Sunday Star is that rare delight of poor reporting, lazy writing and some rather significant omissions.

Woosley's column is, ahem, built around a series of quotes from Massachusetts based economics professor Andrew Zimablist. The professor states that MLSE would not be eligible for compensation in the event that Jim Balsillie was to move an NHL franchise to Hamilton.

So who is Professor Zimbalist you might ask? Well, he's been retained by the Balsillie group as a so-called expert. Unfortunately, this rather important fact is buried in Woosley's 6th paragraph. Woosley doesn't mention if, or how much, Zimbalist is being compensated by Balsillie PSE for his expert opinions either.

Now, I don't care if a team moves to Hamilton, if hockey survives in the desert, if MLSE gets paid or not. But it would be nice if my Sunday morning reading wasn't marred with such crap. Let's face it, the pending court case is going to be lousy with so-called experts drummed up by each side’s $700 an hour lawyers. The least a columnist or reporter could do is explain why one so-called expert's opinion matters (the ol' bona fides) and maybe get a quote from the NHL's or MLSE's paid experts too.

Contrast the Star's haphazard approach with James Mirtle's, where we learn exactly who Zimbalist is, why he matters, and that there is indeed an estimate as to what a relocation fee might be: $11 to $13 million.

Mirtle goes one better than the Star and posts Zimablist’s primary court documents too.

If you only have time to read one take on this issue, skip the Star and get over to From the Rink.

As more and more media outlets contemplate new payment models, on-line fee structures, and the future viability of newsrooms, a much larger point remains: a request for payment indicates that there’s some value in their content. Unfortunately, to borrow Woosely's lead, the value in the Star column is “Zero. Nothing. Nada. Zip"