Sports media rumblings: 105.1 vows to beef up lineup
Royal Oak — Back in February, when it was announced that Dave Shore would become the new programming director at Detroit Sports 105.1 (WMGC), his friends back in Los Angeles were understandably puzzled.
Why are you leaving this weather?
"I'm not in the weather business," Shore said, laughing, over coffee on Thursday morning. "I'm in the sports business. I grew up in the Midwest. I can handle it.
"If Detroit isn't the best ... it has to be No. 1 or 2 of the top sports cities in America."
Shore, 49, a radio veteran whose career has taken him through Los Angeles, Dallas, North Carolina, Oregon, Kentucky and Indiana, has a tall task ahead of him here, trying to take a sliver of the ratings away from chief competitor 97.1 The Ticket (WXYT).
It's a tough battle, considering 97.1 is round-the-clock local — and among the top-rated sports-talk stations in the country, not just Michigan — while 105.1 remains local only from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Detroiters have proven time and again that they want local content, not national.
So no surprise, Shore, who takes over for Jason Dixon, who was the station's programming director for its launch in August 2013, said more local programming is essential, and while he doesn't have a time frame, he said, "I like to work fast."
"You'll hear more right away, you'll hear more from us," Shore said. "The bottom line, we're not going anywhere. (Greater Media is) committed to local content. When you move to sports (format), you don't do it to take a dip in the shallow pool. You have to get in it for the long haul."
Among the new things you're hearing on 105.1: Rob Pascoe is getting more of a presence on the update desk during ESPN Radio's flagship morning show, "Mike & Mike"; Pistons pregame and postgame host Jake Chapman is starting to get more air time to talk about all sports; and on Wednesday nights, Chapman and veteran Detroit sports journalist (and former News staffer) Rob Parker are teaming up for a show.
Shore wouldn't comment on the Parker-Chapman combo, other than saying, "What you'll hear me do is, I will try a lot of things. Jake is one of our regular staff members. I want to hear him do all kinds of sports."
Shore also already is starting the planning for beefed-up fall football coverage, which isn't nailed down yet but figures to include more weekend programming geared toward Michigan, Michigan State and the Lions. Friday night high-school football coverage could be in the works, as well.
He may not be a Detroiter, but Shore knows the business, knows Detroit is a passionate sports town — and knows you can't do enough local programming.
"Do I want more local programming?" Shore said. "I do."
When the rapid growth will start is unclear, and Shore isn't naming any names — though he said he values entertaining voices above anything else, because it's an entertaining business. In past stops, he's hired a longtime caller (Jay from Compton) to be a fill-in host, and even found on-air talent in comedy clubs.
Detroit Sports 105.1 has three regular shows under contract: Ryan Ermanni and Rico Beard weekday mornings; Matt Dery weekday mid-days; and Drew Lane and Marc Fellhauer weekday drive time. The station also has an excellent reporter in Denny Kapp, and a great producer/booker/update man in Tom Mazawey.
Shore said he's spent his first weeks on the job taking everything in, including listening to the station's shows — and analyzing the shows' strengths.
One of the biggest knocks on 105.1 is that its billboard hosts, Lane and Fellhauer, are as likely to talk about an 80-year-old porn star as they are the Wings playoff series. Asked for his philosophy on how much sports his hosts should talk, Shore defended going off on government or pop-culture rants if they can grab listeners' attention.
"If you and I meet for lunch, we don't sit down and say, 'Do you want to start with sports?'" Shore said. "So I don't have a daily rule book for the guys.
"Remember, every market and every show is different. We're 18 months old. If you go to most markets where they've started a sports station, and you've got guys who every day talk Xs and Os, they don't do have half the ratings after 18 months that Drew and Marc have."
Shore said Lane and Marc are just being themselves, and that's important in any line of work. "You don't want to be something you're not," Shore said.
While 97.1 remains the undisputed ratings champion in Metro Detroit, 105.1 gets decent numbers from Lane and Fellhauer, and the ratings book doesn't include the number of folks who listen on streamed apps, or who download their podcasts. The podcast numbers, Shore said, are substantial.
Detroit Sports 105.1 landed the Pistons for the 2014-15 season, and continues to hold their rights — which could be huge if the Pistons turn things around, as they're expected to do under Stan Van Gundy. It's unclear if Greater Media will at least make a play for other pro teams' rights, including the Tigers, who are a significant reason behind the massive ratings at 97.1. During Tigers off-season, 97.1's ratings drop quite a bit — though, of course, nowhere near enough to knock it from its pedestal.
Shore acknowledges he spends a little time listening to 97.1, though he doesn't obsess. He's got his own house to fix up.
"I try to listen some," Shore said. "But when you get to a place and you completely switch gears, I've gotta spend a lot of my time listening to my station.
"I check them out and I have mutual respect for the amazing job that they've done over the years. But there's room for more."
Smith's valiant return
It was heartwarming to see Shelley Smith back on the air for ESPN this week.
Smith, diagnosed in October with breast cancer, has returned to work to cover the NFL draft. Her first assignment is in Hawaii, where she's covering Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Smith appeared on air with no hair, but a smile as radiant as ever.
"At least, for once, I won't have to worry about the wind," Smith wrote in a column posted on ESPN.com.
"I didn't have to ask whether it was OK if I went bald on the air. They called one day and asked if I wanted to do the draft and that they would welcome my shaved head. That shows me they understand what this is all about. I'm proud to be an ESPNer."
Smith wrote that doctors have told her the chemotherapy is working. With ESPN since 1997, Smith is back to work for now, until a 25-day treatment starts May 11.
For a second year in a row, ESPN has told NFL reporter Adam Schefter to stay off Twitter during the NFL draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday.
In other words, ESPN told Schefter, closing in on 4 million Twitter followers, to not do his job. Why? ESPN brass say viewers don't like the surprise of the draft picks foiled before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces them.
The NFL also has told its broadcast partners not to leak the information before the picks are announced.
How did Schefter, a Michigan alum, feel about this last year?
"If someone else tweets out news, my bosses don't care," Schfter told Poynter. "I'm almost granted immunity. It was refreshing.
"It almost felt like what it was like to be a sportswriter 20 years ago."
If you have a good hour to kill, I recommend heading over to Deadspin.com and checking out the expose reporter Greg Howard and a team of others just released on ESPN's Jason Whitlock, who is heading up the network's new website, "The Undefeated."
"The Undefeated" is scheduled to launch this summer, and is said to be focusing on African-American issues and personalities in sports.
Deadspin, as it does so well, got its hands on gobs of internal memos from Whitlock to his staff, and few of them are not very flattering, at all. Whitlock, who earlier in his career worked at the Ann Arbor News, often comes across as pompous, demeaning and, at times, unbearable.
In one hilarious correspondence, Whitlock uses inspirational quotes — including several from himself.
Check it out. It's a hit job, sure, but a rather enlightening one, too.
Michigan.com — the umbrella company for business operations of The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press — has launced its latest sports app, LionsXtra.
The LionsXtra app will serve as one place where readers can gobble up all Lions content from both Detroit newspapers.
The LionsXtra app follows the launch of the TigersXtra app, released earlier this year.
The app is a free download for iPhone and Android users.