written by R.L. Bynum
Reporting from North Carolina will be norm for Hurricanes’ playoff coverage
If something happens on the ice during a Carolina Hurricanes game in Toronto that’s not on camera, Michael Smith, the team’s in-house reporter, might be the only North Carolina-based reporter with first-hand knowledge of it.
Anything the cameras miss isn’t likely to be significant. But there may be nuances that reporters may notice in the hockey press box but not notice if they are watching on television.
It’s no National Hockey League plot. It’s because the league’s playoff games will be played in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto, with limited access because of COVID-19.
There is very little incentive for media members to go to Canada to cover games and the NHL is limiting the number of reporters given access to games.
First, they’d have to go through a 14-day quarantine after arriving in Canada and before entering the arena, which makes it an expensive trip of undefined length. Second, reporters in Toronto will have no better access to players and coaches for interviews than reporters in North Carolina because they all will be conducted via Zoom. It’s the same reason many NASCAR writers have covered races this summer from home.
“We’re not going to be able to arrange any in-person interviews,” said Mike Sundheim, the Canes’ vice president of communications and team services. “There’s not going to be any in-person access. There’s really not any advantage to being at the game other than maybe avoiding the 15-second television delay. Other than that, they’re not getting any special treatment for going.”
Canes players and personnel start a 14-day quarantine when they arrive in Toronto on July 26, three days before the exhibition game against the Washington Capitals and six days before Game 1 of the series with the New York Rangers. Because they will stay in what the NHL calls the “secure zone,” teams can play and practice during their quarantine.
Even Smith won’t be allowed in the Canes dressing room until the team arrives in Toronto to begin Phase 4. Teams in Phase 3 are limited to 20 staff members in the dressing room.
“They’re just trying to limit the number of people who could possibly bring something in the room,” Sundheim said. “When we’re in Toronto, we’re in the bubble and anything we do is in the bubble. In Raleigh, there’s no bubble. We’re not staying in a hotel. We’re all going home with our families. So there’s a little more risk involved in Phase 3 in a lot of ways. Once you get to Phase 4, everyone you come into contact with has been tested every single day we’ve been there.”
A reporter in Toronto who makes it through the quarantine in time to cover games in person wouldn’t be permitted on the property of the Fairmont Royal York (the hotel where the Canes will stay). That hotel is a short walk away in an underground tunnel from Scotiabank Arena, where the games will be played. There will be restaurants and recreational areas in the NHL’s secure zone, but reporters aren’t allowed there, either. There will be no designated media hotels.
Matt Stephens, McClatchy’s senior sports editor for North Carolina, said that neither The N&O’s beat writer Chip Alexander nor columnist Luke DeCock will go to Toronto. Cory Lavalette, the North State Journal’s sports editor and Canes beat writer won’t go either. No Triangle television station will send reporters. All will report about the games, though.
Samantha Pell, The Washington Post’s Caps beat writer, said that the plan as of Friday was for her to cover the team’s games in Toronto.
Asked via email how many reporters The Athletic will have on-site for games, James Mirtle, the editor-in-chief of The Athletic Canada, said on Saturday, “The NHL doesn’t want the access guidelines public at this point. I’ll decline comment for now.”
Jamey Horan, the NHL’s senior vice President of event communications and player development, said late last week that he doesn’t know how big the media contingent will be in Toronto because the accreditation process just started.
Even the Fox Sports Carolinas TV crew will broadcast from Raleigh. Mike Maniscalco, named last week to replace John Forslund as the Canes’ play-by-play voice for at least through the upcoming playoffs, will call the game from facilities at PNC Arena alongside analyst Tripp Tracy. Abby Labar, the Canes’ in-arena host who did sideline reporting for some ACC games last football season, replaces Maniscalco as game host, with Shane Willis also contributing to the broadcast as he did before.
Forslund, the Canes’ longtime play-by-play voice, will call games for NBC and NBCSN from the arena in Toronto.
There will be no pregame skates for the Canes’ noon starts (the first two games of the Rangers series). Press interview sessions via Zoom will follow pregame skates. There will be postgame interview sessions and off-day media availabilities.
In addition to Smith’s coverage, videographer Zack Brame, the team’s digital content producer, will be in Toronto. The NHL encouraged teams to include content creators such as Smith and Brame to capture moments for fans.
“The league has its own camera people and content creators. When there are 24 teams involved in two locations, it’s hard for them to provide content for each individual team,” Sundheim said. “It’s such a unique circumstance and, in so many ways, we feel kind of separated from the people that support us the most. We want to do our best to bring things home to them to make them feel like they’re a part of all this even if they’re not able to attend their games.”
The social media team will be in Raleigh. In most cases when the Canes are on road trips, the tweets come from Raleigh, anyway.
At least the reporters covering the team from home are able to see their families during the indefinite period until the Canes either win the Stanley Cup or are eliminated. It’s a different story for the team’s PR staff that travels to Toronto, and possibly Edmonton should Carolina make the finals. Like the players, they can’t take family members with them.
Sundheim will be away from his wife Leah and his kids Franklin, Charlie and Eve (ages 11, 8 and 5). While he’s away, it will be a busy time for his wife, who has a full-time job and is working from home.
“Obviously, it’s a little tough,” Sundheim said, adding that the time away will be daunting for his family. “But I think we know it’s a unique circumstance. And, in a way, we’ve been a little spoiled with how much time we’ve been able to spend together over the last six months. I’m sure my kids will be rooting for the Canes hard. I’m sure it will be a little bit more mixed feelings for my wife.”
Sundheim is a 2000 UNC journalism graduate and former assistant sports editor of The Daily Tar Heel. He’s worked full time with the team since 2000 and earned his master’s in sports management from N.C. State in 2015.
He will be busy in Toronto. His role as director of team services, which he added in 2014, is an operational job that Major League Baseball teams used to call traveling secretary.
It’s obviously much more intense than George Costanza’s role on one “Seinfeld” episode as the New York Yankees’ assistant traveling secretary. Sundheim does hotel scheduling, travel scheduling and plans where and when practices will be held. He could perform a wide variety of tasks in that role, including helping a player or coach get a driver’s license or helping them get a tee time, for example.
Added to that, he’s also the team’s designated compliance officer for this trip. Each day by 10 p.m. in Toronto, he must fill out a report that certifies that all members of the Canes’ traveling party are compliant with all aspects of Phase 4 protocols.
“That’s everything from making sure everyone had their daily PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing, to completing their symptoms screening through remaining inside the secure zone to wearing face coverings where they’re supposed to be wearing face coverings.”
The good news is that Canada has handled the pandemic much better than the United States, so Toronto is far from a hot spot by U.S. standards. In contrast, all NBA games are in Orlando, in the middle of hard-hit Florida.
Pace Sagester, a 2008 UNC journalism graduate and the director of communications and team services, will also be in Toronto. He was with the team for a year full time after graduation and has been with the Canes since August 2017, after a 4-year stint with the Capitals.
Sundheim and the rest of the Canes players and staff won’t be able to leave the NHL’s secure area until Aug. 9. That is, of course, unless they lose the Rangers series (Game 5, if needed, would be Aug. 8).
Until Aug. 9, barring elimination, they can’t leave the bubble even to go on walks or runs. It will be a challenge to work out since hotel equipment will be limited and plenty of others want to work out as well.
“It’s very different. This is going to be an adjustment,” Sundheim said. “A lot of us like to get to a city and take a walk and go to a restaurant. Those are things you really can’t do.”
Just one of many examples of 2020 providing scenarios nobody would have predicted in December.
Jonas Pope IV to cover N.C. State
The N&O has promoted Jonas Pope IV, who has covered high school sports among many other beats, to be its N.C. State beat writer, filling the spot that opened when Joe Giglio left for Capitol Broadcasting Company in March.
In recent weeks, Pope, who got news of the promotion Friday, has written many stories about N.C. State athletics.
It’s not clear if or when the newspaper will hire another high school sports writer.
The 2002 Elizabeth City State English/mass communication graduate has covered high school sports, recruiting and N.C. Central since January 2017 in addition to filling in on ACC beats. He was part of The Herald-Sun sports department before The Herald-Sun and The N&O sports department consolidated.
Pope was a sports writer at the Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald for nearly eight years ending in August 2014. Before joining The Herald-Sun in 2016, he worked with several outlets, including WRAL, Tar Heel Illustrated, Carolina Blitz and Raleigh & Company.
Hedge fund prepares to take control of McClatchy
The bad news for the McClatchy Company was that a hedge fund won a bankruptcy auction bid for the chain that includes The News & Observer, The Herald-Sun, The Charlotte Observer and 27 other media outlets. The possible good news is that it was Chatham Asset Management instead of Alden Capital Group that completed the asset purchase agreement. The sale still needs court approval.
Alden has a reputation for dramatically cutting the staffs of newspapers it acquires. In 2018, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan called Alden, “one of the most ruthless of the corporate strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying local journalism.”
Another possible positive for McClatchy is that Chatham has been a major investor and lender to the chain.
“They know what we’re about,” Robyn Tomlin, the president and editor of The N&O and Herald-Sun, said during an interview on a “Podcast Raleigh” episode last week. “And they’ve made twice now public statements that say they’re committed to protecting independent journalists and preserving newsroom jobs. And I think that’s significant and that’s what I’m hoping for.”
But, it’s still a hedge fund, one that also owns the National Enquirer. Chatham made huge cuts after it took a majority stake in 2006 of Postmedia, which owns 106 newspapers in Canada.
“It will probably be a few months before we really know what it means,” Tomlin said.
Observer stopped using Redskins nickname in 2014
A few media outlets in recent years eliminated Redskins references from stories about the Washington, D.C.,-area NFL team but not many. One of the early outlets to do that was The Charlotte Observer under Sports Editor Mike Persinger, who took a buyout from McClatchy in February 2019.
Although online wire feeds were problematic, “Redskins” has not appeared in staff-written stories since the policy began in 2014. It has continued under Stephens. That means that “Redskins” also has not appeared in Observer-written stories that The N&O and The Herald-Sun publish.
Persinger says that, to his knowledge, the Observer was the only newspaper in the state to make the change. In September 2014, the Columbia Journalism Review wrote about the decision.
“And no one else followed us afterward, either, that I know of. None of the big papers, for sure,” Persinger said via Twitter message.
It was Persinger’s idea. He got the blessing of then-editor Rick Thames, but only after being grilled about why the change should be made.
“And to be clear, I take no credit for what is about to happen,” Persinger said. “I’m sure Dan Snyder didn’t care what I thought, then or now. But we did what I thought was the right thing.”
There was plenty of blowback from some readers in an area that has numerous longtime Redskins fans.
“I answered hundreds of emails and called everyone who left a message,” Persinger said. “I felt like they all deserved to be heard and ask questions, and yell if they wanted to. It died down after the first 10 days or so.”
After that, he’d only hear a lot about the policy when WBT radio talk-show host Keith Larson pointed it out when Washington played in Charlotte. Larson left the station in October 2016.
Canes make broadcasting moves
With Forslund headed to Toronto to call games for NBC since he couldn’t agree with the Canes on a new contract, the team made moves mentioned above for at least the duration of the playoffs, with Maniscalco handling play-by-play and Labar the broadcast host.
The announcement came days after the team announced a two-year contract extension with WCMC-FM (99.9 The Fan) to continue as the flagship station for the Hurricanes Radio Network.
Sundheim said that the extension with WCMC had been done for a while.
“We all kind of agreed with everything that was going on in the world, that it wasn’t the appropriate time to announce it in April,” he said. “It made a little more sense to announce it now that we’re at least in a training camp, preparing to play some actual games.”
ESPN Radio’s shake-up includes former Duke star
If you’re used to listening to Mike Golic in the morning on WCMC, that’s about to change starting Aug. 17 when he leaves ESPN Radio. He’ll become a college football analyst for ESPN. Instead, you’ll hear a former Duke star.
“Keyshawn, Jay and Zubin” will replace Golic’s show with Trey Wingo, “Golic and Wingo.” The latter started after “Mike & Mike,” with Golic and Mike Greenberg, ended in November 2017. Golic has been a morning-drive co-host for ESPN Radio since 2000.
The new morning show, which will air from 6–10 a.m., will feature former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson, former Blue Devils star Jay Williams and “SportsCenter” anchor Zubin Mehenti.
Brian Maloney, the vice president of radio for Capitol Broadcasting Company, told former WDNC morning-show co-host Demetri Ravanos in a Barrett Sports Media column that he was optimistic about the new morning show.
“The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” will still start at 10 a.m., but will be reduced by an hour and run only until noon. “Le Batard” airs on Buzz Sports Radio and, until the Aug. 31 return of “SportsChannel8: The Radio Show,” on WCMC.
Afternoon ESPN Radio shows that air on Buzz Sports Radio that will end are “The Stephen A. Smith Show” (which airs now from 1–3 p.m.) and “The Will Cain Show” (which airs now from 3–7 p.m.) Replacing them will be “The Mike Greenberg Show” from noon–2 p.m., “The Max Kellerman Show” from 2–4 p.m. and “Chiney and Golic Jr.” from 4–7 p.m. The latter show features former WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike and Mike Golic Jr.
Maloney said that no other programming changes are in the works for WCMC, Buzz Sports Radio or The Ticket.
N.C. State grad McKoy to be TV sports reporter in Charleston
Jasmine McKoy, a 2020 N.C. State graduate in Communication and Media Studies, begins July 27 as a sports reporter at WCBD-TV, the NBC affiliate in Charleston, S.C.
While at NCSU, she was a host for the athletics department, producing segments that aired at halftime during games. She also was a host, reporter and video editor for Wolfpack Sports Television. She was a sports and news intern in summer 2019 with WNCN.
McKoy grew up in Raleigh, moved to Cary as a sophomore in high school and played basketball at Panther Creek High School.
Morgan, Elon grad from Charlotte, reporting sports at Los Angeles Times
Emmanuel Morgan, who grew up in Charlotte and is a 2019 Elon journalism graduate, began reporting at the Los Angeles Times as part of the MetPro fellowship program in October. This month, he shifted from news to sports and will cover the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers in addition to other general assignments.
MetPro isn’t an internship, but a program that includes a full-time job with benefits for two years.
Morgan is happy to be covering sports, which he did as either a correspondent or intern at The Charlotte Observer for three years ending in June 2018.
While at Elon, he was managing editor and then executive director of the Elon News Network. Before the L.A. Times, he was a sports writing summer intern in 2019 for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
North Carolina-related sports stories of note
On ESPN.com, Graham Hayes wrote about how new Duke women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson represents the new generation of coaches, including Niele Ivey at Notre Dame.
In the News & Record of Greensboro, Jeff Mills wrote about the scene at the few North Carolina venues where you can watch baseball this summer in a story accompanied by some nice photos from Woody Marshall.
N.C. State great David Thompson turned 66 last week and gave an interesting interview to Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer.
Jeff Pearlman’s guest on last week’s episode of his “Two Writers Slinging Yang” podcast was Sheena Quick, who talked about sexual harassment she says she endured as an unpaid Carolina Panthers beat writer for Black Sports Online.
In the News & Record, columnist Ed Hardin says there won’t be college football in September and there shouldn’t be.