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John Canzano Finds Balance In Mid Days

“When I was hired at The Oregonian one of the first questions was, do you ever want to do radio? They had a real aversion to it. The publisher was old-school and didn’t like it because he saw his competition.”

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Nervousness. 

John Canzano couldn’t escape that feeling as he sat behind the mic on The Bald Faced Truth for the first time ever. But the nerves weren’t for the reason you’d probably suspect. It wasn’t because it was his first show on a new station, it wasn’t because he was trying out sports radio after years as a successful sports journalist and it wasn’t even because he’d only spent a handful of months in the business. It wasn’t any of that. It was all because of his very first guest on his very first show: Barack Obama.

There probably wasn’t a more relevant guest during the summer of 2007 than Obama. Forget what format your station was in, news, sports, politics, it didn’t matter. If you could get the man that was attempting to be the first African American in the White House, it meant something. 

Image result for candidate obama

The thing was, Canzano wasn’t a stranger to doing interviews with big-name people. He had covered Major League Baseball and the NFL at the San Jose Mercury News. He covered Bob Knight at Indiana as well as Notre Dame Football and various Olympic Games. But there was something about interviewing Obama that brought out the nerves. 

“At that time, he was running for president and was in a tight race with Hillary Clinton,” said Canzano. “His camp decided they were only going to do one interview in the Portland market. We requested him and they picked it because they thought it was a real change for him from talking about healthcare and all the other issues.”

Though the get was huge, especially during his first show, Canzano was now conflicted on how he should conduct the interview. Should he interview Obama with similar questions as everyone else had done? Or should he just ask him the things he really wanted to ask? Luckily, Canzano found a voice of reason when he asked his wife, Anna, a local TV anchor in the market, which way he should take the interview. 

Her response: “That’s a dumb question.”

Canzano asked Obama what it was like to throw out the first pitch at a White Sox game. He asked how the man kept not only in shape, but his sanity while out on the campaigning trail. But the connection really happened when the two started talking about their daughters and what it’s like to be a parent. It was much different than the normal radio hit the soon-to-be president had done, but it worked. And the audience loved it. 

“There was a moment about two or three minutes into the interview where I could really feel him relax and go, oh, we’re not going to be talking about health care,” said Canzano. “He really settled in after that and acted like it was just two parents talking about sports. He was so interesting and so good.”

It’s one thing to come out swinging during your first show, it’s another to have on arguably the most relevant guest in the free world. That day was a pretty good indication Canzano would transition just fine into sports radio.

A sports columnist for The Oregonian since 2002, Canzano is still in both print and sports radio. His weekday show, The Bald Faced Truth, which came from a submission from a listener, is from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. on 750 The Game in Portland and is syndicated throughout much of the state. 

In the following Q&A, Canzano covers how he got into radio, balancing both writing and being on the air and even the demands of being the biggest sports media personality in the area. 

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TM: So after so much success as a sports columnist, how did a hosting opportunity in radio come about? 

JC: I had always been a newspaper guy who occasionally appeared on radio shows. Really, that’s how I got my start. When I was in The Portland market I would go on different shows and do five to eight minute hits. What happened was, the Blazers in the draft lottery, got the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Rose City Radio, who had a hip-hop station on 95.5, decided to flip that format in the sports, because Portland was going to win multiple championships. You’re going to need multiple sports stations. They took me, they did a really smart thing, for a period of about four to five months they stashed me on KXL, which was a political talk station and they had me do nights. I was just working out a lot of kinks and figuring out how to do a radio show and learning the format of it. Ultimately I think the first show was Labor Day of 2007. 

TM: I have to imagine the cross-promotion between print and radio really helps each other out. But more specifically, how does the newspaper help out the radio show?  

JC: When I was hired at The Oregonian one of the first questions was, do you ever want to do radio? They had a real aversion to it. The publisher was old-school and didn’t like it because he saw his competition. Over time they came to sort of embrace that, hey, this could be good for the column. It creates a conversation beyond the column and gives the readers a chance to talk to me about what I wrote. I’ve even had the former general manager of the Trailblazers, Kevin Pritchard, tell me he loves the show because I write something in The Oregonian and the show gave him a chance to challenge me on it.

They really walk hand-in-hand now, in that media has become so diverse. The radio show, podcasts, the best interviews, I’ll put them on OregonLive.com and give our readers a chance to hear part of the radio show. Of course I bring on the writers at The Oregonian who have written something interesting that day. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. 

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TM: It takes a lot of time to prep for a three-hour show. It also takes a lot of time to have well-researched and well-written articles that attract readers. How are you doing both and balancing your time? 

JC: It’s a real challenge now, seeing that news is so immediate. You really have to have a rhythm when you host a three hour radio show that’s in the middle of the day. I do a lot of my writing in the morning. There’s overlap in the preparation and there’s overlap with the guests, too.

Maybe I’ll write something and then someone who I’ve written about will come the radio show. A great example of that, Saturday night I was at the Oregon State-Stanford game and I wrote about the economics of college football at Oregon State and how they were the least funded program in the Pac 12. On today’s show I have the athletic director at Oregon State which will fit in nicely with that column. Now, there’s not a lot of prep I need to do for it, because I did that all on Saturday. I also lean on really good staff members. I have hired two production people out of my own pocket that work for me, not the station. They do a lot of work behind the scenes, such as prep work, guest booking and just helping out the show on a daily basis. I could not do it without them.

TM: Are mid-days perfect for someone who has as much going on as you do? Or would another slot fit better? 

JC: I like the mid-days because it fits with my life. I’m a parent and I’ve got kids that are in school. My 16-year-old plays volleyball and I get to go to all of her matches. I get to come home at the end of the day and be there for dinner. I think the radio station has embraced having a mid-day show, I’m the only local show on the station right now. They’ve embraced having that revenue in a timeslot that normally isn’t a huge revenue generator. They’re still able to sell afternoon drive to potential advertisers but having your mid-day show fill at a level that really fattens up your station is pretty good strategy. 

TM: I really like your Facebook page. It’s current, has a lot of content and features a ton of videos. What’s your strategy with that? 

JC: I’m just a big fan of, as a newspaper columnist, I feel like when I’m writing I’m doing so to one reader. As a radio host I feel like I’m always trying to talk to one listener. If I can draw in one more listener with the Facebook page or with Twitter, Instagram Live, I should be in as many places as I can possibly be in. Now, there is a balance there. Sometimes you’re a little frayed because you’re trying to do everything, you still want to maintain quality with what you’re doing. I just found out there’s a segment of my listeners who are on Facebook. I have to speak that to them when I need to speak to them.

TM: When people think about sports in the Portland area, do they think about John Canzano? If so, what comes along with that?

JC: I think that most people would probably tell you that. I also think that’s a tremendous responsibility. You have to be, if you’re the voice of a region, you have to be right, you have to be researched, you have to speak from authority, you have to be sourced and get answers when you don’t know them. I think there’s a lot of people that will sit back and spout their opinions, but what really set you apart is the ability to maintain those relationships, be critical when you need to be critical, but really, it’s not a race to be first when you’re the voice of a region. It’s an obligation to be right.

TM: Do you view your show as more Oregon and Oregon State or the entire Pac 12 in general? 

Image result for oregon vs oregon state

JC: I think a Pac 12 show. I think you have a transient population that listen to the show. My show is broadcast pretty much state-wide and we get a lot of listeners outside of the area. Plus, we have the podcast and the stream.

I try to talk about and interview people that I’m interested in knowing more about. This week it was Herm Edwards at Arizona State. Today will be Scott Barnes at Oregon State and it might be Mike Leach of Washington State two days from now. I don’t consider my show to be the home of the Ducks or the home of the Beavers or even the home of the Blazers. I always joke that it’s the home of the truth. I do think there’s truth in that, because I’m trying to serve everybody but also do a show that I would listen to. The show that I would listen to would not be all Ducks all the time or all Beavers all the time. I think you have to have a real diversity of approach and interest. Sometimes we’re not even talking sports and I think that’s OK, too.

TM: What about the NFL? The Seahawks are the closest team, is there a big fan base in your market that dictates you talking about them? 

JC: I think I probably talk as much Seahawks as any of the other NFL teams. It’s three hours away and it got force-fed down the throats of the Portland market back in the day when they could only watch one NFL game during one timeslot. There’s a lot of people here who are Seahawks fans just because that’s all that was on TV. So we address it but we also have a lot of 49ers fans, Rams fans, Patriots fans so whatever is big in the NFL that day is what I’m talking about.

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.

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grant cohn

Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.

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Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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