The lowdown

Robin Brownlee
May 19 2009 06:22PM

kool_aid_man_glass

So, some Bozo blogger thinks Darren Dreger of TSN might be pulling NHL trade rumours out of his ass and making things up, eh?

Dreger's inquisitor on a website known as Kings Kool-Aid calls himself "qwisp," which may or may not be a version of his real name. That doesn't matter, even though the thought of somebody who might be tapping while using a fake name calling out Dreger rings just a tad goofy.

It's a witty bit of interpretive scrawl by qwisp, but it goes to show how little this person knows about the challenges facing MSM types like Dreger, who earn their living by gathering information, and the rules of the insider game as they pertain to protecting sources.

The point being pushed by qwisp is Dreger's item on Vincent Lecavalier and possible interest in him by the Los Angeles Kings is vague and written in a flimsy enough way it could be nothing more than the product of a fertile mind on a slow news day.

Vague and flimsy? Yes. Intentionally so. The product of a fertile mind? Not a chance. What, did Dreger issue an E-3 with this?

RULES OF THE GAME

Whether it's a ridiculously connected guy like Dreger or TSN running mate Bob McKenzie or those of us further down the information gathering food chain in the MSM, there are tried-and-true ways of protecting sources and keeping the information pipeline open.

Many of those tricks of the trade -- not attributing comments, using unnamed sources and even employing good old-fashioned mis-direction to protect somebody who has given you the drop on something -- fly in the face of what old-school types like me learned when getting into the business. But the business has changed. The demand for immediate information is greater than it's ever been. People want the goods now. If you're getting your dope from the morning paper, you're late. You either deliver or you don't. On top of that, people love rumours. They eat up speculation.

While that opens the door for any kook or clown with a blog template to float all kinds of unsubstantiated rumours, pass off gossip as fact and flat-out make things up, that's not the case with Dreger. Granted, it can sound that way -- "Well, where's the quote from the GM or the player in question?" -- but disguising the fact somebody spilled the beans is essential in making sure they keep talking to you down the road.

HOW IT WORKS

Dreger doesn't need me talking for him, so I won't, but here's some of the ways I've protected sources. Let's go on the premise GM X has told me he's interested in trading Player X because he wants too much money.

-- You can be vague, as Dreger was with the Lecavalier item: "The Edmonton Oilers will likely be listening to offers for Player X at the trade deadline and there could be six teams interested, including the Los Angeles Kings . . ."

-- You can say it yourself without attribution: "The Edmonton Oilers are looking to trade Player X at the trade deadline . . ."

-- You can use an unnamed source: "A source close to the Edmonton Oilers says the team is considering trading Player X because he wants too much money . . ."

-- You can ask the question: "Are the Edmonton Oilers contemplating trading Player X at the trade deadline because he wants too much money?" Or, "What's this I hear about Player X wanting $20 million over four years from the Oilers?"

No matter which of the four ways you frame it, you can follow up by saying, "When asked to confirm the possibility Player X might be traded, GM X declined comment," or "GM X laughed off suggestions Player X might be traded and said, "We're not shopping Player X."

Of course, shopping Player X means actively communicating with other GMs looking for offers, as opposed to being willing to trade Player X if his salary demands don't change. In that sense, GM X isn't lying.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The problem is, people with no contacts and no inside information can play loose with all of the above and toss as much stuff against the wall as they want in the hope some will stick.

Not because they're protecting sources, but because they don't have one real shred of information. You've read it. I've read it. There's 100 screens of the stuff out there on any given day. There's always some Bozo making stuff up. This qwisp is suggesting maybe Dreger fits in that long-shoed group. I think not. I know not.

For information junkies trying to separate intentional mis-direction or vagueness employed by a reporter to protect a source from bogus rumours with no factual basis, it's difficult to know what to put much stock in.

In the end, it comes down to credibility. Who wrote it or said it? What's their record on getting it first and getting it right? How connected are they? Who do they answer to if what they write or say is absolute fantasy?

Whether it's a MSM guy like Dreger or some Bozo blogger, the same questions should apply.

--Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Bad Seed
May 19 2009, 06:30PM
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Well said, kind sir!

By the way, you should get your pal Gregor to get Dreger on his show regularly like Stauffer used to. It was the highlight of each week.

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#2 Chris
May 19 2009, 06:30PM
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This just in: Sources close to the OilersNation website have suggested that we are all just bozo bloggers...

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#3 Tyler
May 19 2009, 06:35PM
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This guy's gonna be so excited about all of the hits...

As far as what you're saying goes, I'm not really a rumour guy, so I don't care too much, but it strikes me that doing things this way a) opens you guys up to being used by team sources and b) leads to you getting lumped in with the Garriochs of the world. Darren Dreger may well have sources coming out his wazoo - I have a hell of a time knowing that from reading his copy. I have no way of knowing that he doesn't go "Man, slow day...maybe I'll stretch something I heardto make it sound like more than it is."

Not Dreger's fault necessarily; sounds like that's the game. I'm not that sympathetic that he (and others like him) occasionally have to suffer through people saying that they're full of it or making stuff up. If you want to write this sort of fluffy stuff with no discernible substance or matter, you can't really complain when people point out how devoid of substance it appears to be.

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#4 Robin Brownlee
May 19 2009, 07:05PM
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@ Tyler: Fair enough, but it comes down to credibility and who you believe. I can tell you this, Dreger isn't getting paid what he's getting paid to go 1-for-75 on the trade front. He doesn't make stuff up.

Aside from losing credibility with readers and listeners if he's seen as a guesser and rumour-monger, there's no way Dreger gets the info he does from GMs, agents etc if he's perceived as somebody who puts more value in a quick-hit big rumour he knows isn't true than something based in fact.

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#5 Bozo
May 19 2009, 07:23PM
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Dreger: Sources close to Brownlee tell me he is possibly a nine year old girl. It is believed that he may reveal this at some future point. :)

----

On a serious note, I see your point about credibility and Dreger has it. But isn't Dreger hurting his credibility by writing such a crappy piece, using weasel words like 'possibly' and 'speculation continues that.' I mean, when your read this closely it suggests Dreger doesn't even have a source about these trade talks, but when you read it quickly it sounds like he's doing something more than speculating. Is that what he's supposed to do: make it sound like he has something to report, when he doesn't, while using language like a lawyer so that nothing he says can be proved wrong?

I'm a Dreger fan, but this ain't his finest hour. (Though I did like the stuff about Smith. Why didn't he just write that? It was interesting.)

BTW, I thought it was important for journalists to clearly state whether they were reporting specific anonymous sources or mere second hand rumors. Are you suggesting otherwise?

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#6 Andrew W
May 19 2009, 08:21PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

'You can ask the question: “Are the Edmonton Oilers contemplating trading Player X at the trade deadline because he wants too much money?” Or, “What’s this I hear about Player X wanting $20 million over four years from the Oilers?”'

Please don't tell me this whole article is a clever way of saying that Grebeshkov is on his way out of town...

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#7 kingsblade
May 19 2009, 08:26PM
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It's a tough spot. You want to report the information but you want to be able to go back to the well.

It's no wonder that team guys who complain about the media have so many problems, not enough mutual trust.

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#8 kingsblade
May 19 2009, 08:30PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Do you have an opinion on the Motin signing today?

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#9 Robin Brownlee
May 19 2009, 08:35PM
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@ Bozo: If you call them "weasel" words then you're missing the point. There's a reason for being vague or using weak language -- it's done to protect the source. Even if you don't quote somebody, there are instances when being very firm or specific about the details of a trade discussion or contract negotiation will point to the source. That's just as bad as naming him.

And, yes, it is important to make distinctions between reporting what you know, what you think and simply passing on a rumour you've heard. Some people frown on the latter, even when you make it clear it's only a rumour.

The other thing to keep in mind is this: you can't simply assume a reporter was full of it when a trade possibility he's mentioned doesn't come to fruition. GMs weigh and discount many trade offers for every one they actually complete. Some trades I thought were locks fell apart at the last minute. That doesn't mean they weren't on the table.

It's a fine line -- people want to know about what's going to happen before it actually happens. Until a deal is signed, sealed and deilvered, it's technically only speculation. You as readers and consumers of information have to decide who is delivering the best information they have and who is content to pass on an endless string of unsubstantiated rumours hoping they're right once in awhile.

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#10 MattL
May 19 2009, 08:41PM
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Why are we giving that clown the honour of reading his anonymous hate blast and bringing attention to it? Was Dreger somehow insulted by that crap piece? I doubt it. An ANONYMOUS blogger complaining about journalistic integrity... ok... whatever. That's like me complaining about professional hockey play- uh, nevermind.

Why can't the playoffs be done so we can have some Oilers news? I feel like that David After The Dentist kid...

"Is this going to be fowever? ....ugh......"

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#11 Archaeologuy
May 19 2009, 08:50PM
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It's not as if other journalists outside of the Sports Page dont do this all the time. Investigative journalists always use confidential sources. It's how most major stories are broken. This isnt a university research paper complete with bibliography. It's breaking news. I agree it sounds wishy washy, but Dreger is staking his credibility with every story he does for TSN. He cant afford to burn bridges because he cant hide behind his anonymity (Eklund et al.). If Dreger names all of his sources after every piece he does then he wont have any sources, and shortly after he wont be working at TSN. Instead, he will be working at some 2nd rate organization like The Score or the CBC.

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#12 Bozo
May 19 2009, 09:18PM
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Fair point.

But, if no trade like this one happens and we never get confirmation that these talks happened, does Dreger's credibility take a hit? Or should we say, "Oh he just said there was a rumour that it probably might, maybe happen, or something.' How are we supposed to judge this credibility you're talking about if we can never know when or if Dreger's making stuff up?

All I'm saying is, not naming your sources is one thing but making a claim that's so wishy washy that it could never be shown to be wrong is bad form. It makes Dreger look like he's guilty even if he isn't. And it makes me a little more wary of Dreger than I was before.

"Make a claim and stand by it." I learned that from someguy who used to write in the papers. He was named Brownlaw, or Brownlue, or something like that.

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#13 Robin Brownlee
May 19 2009, 09:28PM
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Bozo wrote:

How are we supposed to judge this credibility you’re talking about if we can never know when or if Dreger’s making stuff up?

If you ever think Dreger is making something up then he doesn't have credibility. Believe me or not, Dreger does not make things up. You either trust a writer/commentator or you don't.

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#14 BigE57
May 19 2009, 09:33PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

So, where does Al Strachan fall in the realm of well connected media and rumor mongers?

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#15 Kev
May 19 2009, 09:35PM
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I got to know a NHL scout this year so I often picked his brain on how the business works. I asked him if any of these rumours we always hear are true. He said, oh yeah,this business is built on friendships and guys like McKenzie and Dreger are completely tied in. He said every rumour those guys throw out has been bantered around by GM's. He said GM's are talking to each other all the time and making a few offers a week. This scout sees about 4 games a week with the sole intent of giving his GM feedback on a player should a rival GM make an offer. So, if Dreger gets paid on one rumour in 75 coming to fruition doesn't sound so bad when you consider how many of these conversations and trade possibilities actually take place.

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#16 Robin Brownlee
May 19 2009, 09:37PM
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@ BigE57: He straddles the line between the two. He's got lots of sources in the Toronto area and is well connected through Newport Sports, the big agent outfit run by Don Meehan and Pat Morris.

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#17 Archaeologuy
May 19 2009, 09:44PM
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BigE57 wrote:

So, where does Al Strachan fall in the realm of well connected media and rumor mongers?

Sometimes I think Strachan is a major Douche, but he was bang on when he reported that Pronger wanted out of E-town.

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#18 Robin Brownlee
May 19 2009, 09:56PM
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@ Archaeologuy: It just so happens Pronger is a client of Meehan-Morris . . .

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#19 Archaeologuy
May 19 2009, 10:06PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Well if i only had 1 source, but that source spoke for half of the superstars of the league, then I'd be pretty well connected.

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#20 knurled grab bars
May 20 2009, 05:34AM
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This is great info for everyone. Glad you posted this. I am subscribing to this blog. Mason

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#21 Travis Dakin
May 20 2009, 08:18AM
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knurled grab bars wrote:

This is great info for everyone. Glad you posted this. I am subscribing to this blog. Mason

I'm glad you are subscribing to this blog. When you figure out how to do that please let me know.

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#22 BigE57
May 20 2009, 08:24AM
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Well, I think I speak for most Oiler fans when I say it is high time Mr. Dreger scraped up some dirt on the coaching situation.

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#23 The Towel Boy
May 20 2009, 08:24AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

BigE57 wrote: So, where does Al Strachan fall in the realm of well connected media and rumor mongers? Sometimes I think Strachan is a major Douche, but he was bang on when he reported that Pronger wanted out of E-town.

A couple weeks ago Strachan and Milbury got into it on HNIC's HotStove and Milbury called Strachan a "dink." Haha. They're always quipping back and forth at each other. I think they truly hate each other. But I agree with Milbury. Strachan comes off as a dink, even with his credible sources.

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#24 Robin Brownlee
May 20 2009, 08:30AM
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@ BigE57: It's locked down very tight right now. Nobody is saying anything and there's only two or three people -- Lowe and Tambellini -- who really know what's going on. If you've noticed, nobody is getting anything of real substance.

If you MUST have some news on the coaching situation, I could make something up . . .

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#25 Archaeologuy
May 20 2009, 08:58AM
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Hey Robin, Does Willis have Swine Flu? I've never seen him go 5 days without an article before.

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#26 Ender the Dragon
May 20 2009, 09:10AM
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Bozo wrote:

I’m a Dreger fan, but this ain’t his finest hour.

I agree. Setting aside Quisps' denunciation and Robin's rebuttal, I think the piece still reads to most people as 'slow news day'. If Dregor has the goods on this, protecting sources or not I think he could have been a bit firmer in 'standing by his claim'. I'm not suggesting that Dregor is full of crap or that he isn't right more times than not. It's just that if you're a pretty girl dressed in a short skirt standing on a streetcorner on a Saturday night in a bad section of town, it doesn't matter that you're pure as the driven snow and go to church every Sunday; at that point, you start to lose the right to get huffy when someone calls you a name you don't like.

Get off the corner, Dreger.

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#27 Robin Brownlee
May 20 2009, 09:13AM
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@ Archaeologuy: What, you need one more person around here to write about nothing? Perhaps a statistical breakdown of Johan Motin?

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#28 Archaeologuy
May 20 2009, 09:16AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Perhaps a statistical breakdown of Johan Motin?

As if you werent expecting him to write one too.

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#29 Robin Brownlee
May 20 2009, 09:20AM
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@ Ender the Dragon: Easier said than done. Look at this item. If there's important stuff happening or I'm on the sniff about the Oilers coaching candidates because I've gathered some tidbits of info, I'm sure not writing about some Bozo in southern California because, frankly, I don't give two squirts what he thinks and I can promise you Dreger cares less than that.

This stretch is always slow, outside of the teams who are in the playoffs. Some reporters are covering the conference finals, others are burning days owing. Others, like Dreger, have to fill space and air time between games. With the teams, management and scouting staffs are huddling in preparation for the draft (the Oilers have been in Banff the past few days) etc etc. It's pretty thin right now.

Maybe we're standing on street corners because fans want something, anything, 24-7 even when there's jack going on.

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#30 BigE57
May 20 2009, 09:39AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

If you MUST have some news on the coaching situation, I could make something up .

I would probably just question your sources then...and it really doesn't make any difference because if they are not hiring from within the organization then no one really knows what to expect anyway. This coaching hire seems more important to me, than any of the moves Lowe made post-Pronger.

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#31 Ender the Dragon
May 20 2009, 09:48AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

lol. OK, Robin, I score you that point. Moments like these I'm thankful I get paid by the hour and not by the word.

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#32 Harlie
May 20 2009, 09:51AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ Tyler: I can tell you this, Dreger isn’t getting paid what he’s getting paid to go 1-for-75 on the trade front.

I was always under the perception that media types like Radio and TV personalities were paid slightly more than imported Mexican cabbage pickers at local farms. Am I wrong? What kind of scratch are we talking for a D.D media type? 6 figs??

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#33 kingsblade
May 20 2009, 09:51AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Maybe we’re standing on street corners

That could be interesting news in itself.

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#34 baggedmilk
May 20 2009, 10:23AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

You want to write something about how the fine folks at JSBM make up nothing but nonsense? We could use the traffic.

As for everyone else, Dreger is no Eklund. That jacka$s is batting under .100 lifetime. Remember the fool he made of Sportsnet when he guaranteed Ryan Smyth was locked into a 5-year deal? Don't compare someone on TV that uses their real name, to some anonymous a-hole that sits on a website, and unloads garbage day after day.

The guy keeps making money because he has "sources" that never seem to get anything right, or he steals it from other websites.

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#35 alan
May 20 2009, 10:29AM
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Harlie wrote:

I was always under the perception that media types like Radio and TV personalities were paid slightly more than imported Mexican cabbage pickers at local farms. Am I wrong? What kind of scratch are we talking for a D.D media type? 6 figs??

I heard Gregor runs his own company and pulls in six figures plus...sounds pretty good to me...TV guys who are national make six figures for sure, and in many cases over $200,000, but does it matter what guy makes really. Lots of rig pigs like myself make just as much if not more, but I guarantee you all of us would rather cover sports than work on the rigs.

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#36 baggedmilk
May 20 2009, 10:33AM
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@ alan:

Come on, there has got to be some charm to working long, strenuous hours, and living in a garbage hole like Fort MacMurray? Wait... Umm... Go OIL BARONS! or Burger Baron. Mmmm

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#37 Archaeologuy
May 20 2009, 10:34AM
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baggedmilk wrote:

Remember the fool he made of Sportsnet when he guaranteed Ryan Smyth was locked into a 5-year deal?

Worst Deadline Day Ever!

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#38 Harlie
May 20 2009, 10:50AM
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@ alan:

I once considered a career in Radio & TV broadcasting and was looking at taking the course offered at NAIT. To my dismay I found that the wages for that profession were lower than most trades, which led me to take a boring assed Power Engineering course which I barely scraped by in.

In fact, the Head of the Power Engineering teaching department brought me into his office one day and told me that I was more of a distraction than anything else and he made a deal with me to help me slide through if I decided not to take the full 2 year course. I happily agreed and waited for my full 2 year Tuition loan to clear and then cut my courses short and walked away with some government cash and a diploma to boot! 15 years later I have my own company and I'm making $ in multiples of 6 digits per year. The great thing about Power Engineering is that it is used in basically every industry and large building in the world (i.e every building or plant needs Boilers or Pumps) so my course taking wasn't a total waste! Heck I actually have fond memories of my old NAIT days and am grateful for the Teacher who cared enough to point me in another direction.

Log story short is that I always think back to my time at NAIT and wonder how my life path would have went if I ended up in Radio & TV. I always chuckled to myself thinking that I made more doing what I do. It looks like I still do (compared to some) but I am surprised to hear that some guys are making in the 6 digi's.

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#39 Harlie
May 20 2009, 10:53AM
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Harlie wrote:

Log story .

Sometimes a spelling error quite accurately describes a post! ;)

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#40 Archaeologuy
May 20 2009, 10:58AM
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@ Harlie: Those guys making the big coin are holding a very small # of positions. For every anchor on TSN there are 100 working at local news stations around the country that make much less than the average tradesman. Not everything is about money (he tells himself after dropping 8 years of tuition into a BA and MA), but passion doesnt pay the bills.

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#41 auctions maryland
May 20 2009, 11:00AM
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Well said, I

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#42 james
May 20 2009, 11:05AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Harlie: Those guys making the big coin are holding a very small # of positions. For every anchor on TSN there are 100 working at local news stations around the country that make much less than the average tradesman. Not everything is about money (he tells himself after dropping 8 years of tuition into a BA and MA), but passion doesnt pay the bills.

Sorry but you don't know what you are talking about. Every morning show host in Edmonton makes six figures almost. Not to mention other perks they get.

I'd take a bit less money for a job I loved rather than make more and hate it every day. But don't come on here and talk like you know about salaries of people unless you are correct. Gregor feel free to confirm who is right here.

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#43 Archaeologuy
May 20 2009, 11:14AM
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@ james: Really? You think the guy working in Saskatoon is making 100 grand a year reporting the Sports despite the fact that many of the companies that own these stations are on the verge of bankruptcy? Good luck with that dream.

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#44 Archaeologuy
May 20 2009, 11:24AM
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@ james: AND, while am at it, I didnt say they make min wage, I said they make less than the average tradesman. Lucky me I happen to know a graduate of the NAIT program who IS living his dream, and I happen to KNOW that he doesnt make 6 figures doing it. Yeah he gets perks, interviewing legends like Quinn and Howe, but those well paying jobs only exist in the big markets and the big 3 sports stations. Start counting the positions for Sports News anchors, they arent exactly plentiful and new opportunities dont come up all that often. Then consider how many students from around the country graduate every year. Dont pretend that the Morning Show Host in Etown is in the same position as all other sports reporters in the friggin country.

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#45 topshelf
May 20 2009, 11:27AM
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@ james: I know for a fact that isn't true. My buddy was working with CTV as the weekend sports anchor and let me tell you he was not making anywhere near 6 figures.

james wrote:

Gregor feel free to confirm who is right here.

What TV news channel is he on again?

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#46 james
May 20 2009, 11:27AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ james: Really? You think the guy working in Saskatoon is making 100 grand a year reporting the Sports despite the fact that many of the companies that own these stations are on the verge of bankruptcy? Good luck with that dream.

Who said Saskatoon? Good rebuttal. Not every guy on the rigs makes six figures and not every guy in media does. What is your point? Your original point was that only national guys make six figures and that was a false statement. I said Edmonton, which is considered a major market. Guys and gals hone their trade in smaller markets and then move up. Bigger market equals bigger dollars for the most part.

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#47 topshelf
May 20 2009, 11:31AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Harlie: For every anchor on TSN there are 1000 working at local news stations blockquote> There that is more like it I think.
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#48 topshelf
May 20 2009, 11:32AM
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Wow did I ever butcher that.

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#49 topshelf
May 20 2009, 11:36AM
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@ james: I agree with your last comment. The previous one made it sound like you thought everyone we see on the news made 6 figures. Or at least that's how I interpreted it. We're on the same page now.

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#50 Archaeologuy
May 20 2009, 11:38AM
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@ james: Hold on! You want to disclude places like saskatoon from the discussion of what sports anchors make a year around the country? That makes no sense. I know for a fact that you are wrong. I never said every guy on the rigs either. I said the average tradesman. Theres a big difference between what the pipefitter makes and what the unskilled labourer makes.

james wrote:

Your original point was that only national guys make six figures and that was a false statement.

And here I thought that my original points was : Archaeologuy wrote:

Those guys making the big coin are holding a very small # of positions. For every anchor on TSN there are 100 working at local news stations around the country that make much less than the average tradesman.

A point which did NOT state that Anchors ONLY make 100 grand on the top 3 national stations, but rather that on average they made less than tradespeople.

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