Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tony Marinaro: Geoff Molson Has Effectively Fired Pierre Gauthier

Well. This is an interesting one to discuss, for many reasons.

The first question everyone will ask, and rightly so is: Is this true?

The answer to that question strikes at the core of both Tony Marinaro as a journalist and journalism itself which has been felled by a large degree of corporate enmeshment.

The story of Marinaro's ascent to household name in the Montreal sports media scene is a compelling one. He worked hard at being part of the conversation. He called in on sports radio shows and offered his advice. He impressed the radio hosts with his quick wit and knowledge. His passion made it clear that he would work tirelessly at creating a space for himself within the industry. People noticed. So he worked harder. Trained himself to be more constructed when delivering the message, not just verbose. 

He was offered a spot on the Team 990 and slowly rose to become the most informed fox in the hound.

Marinaro did not accomplish this on feeble scoop attempts. He understands both the game of hockey, as it must be played on the ice, and the corporate dynamics that lie behind the scene that assemble the parts of what is to become a hockey team.

He understands the contracts, their impact on a team and the monetary value of the players. And he discusses it with stunning ease and dexterity.

Marinaro's employer, Team 990 recently became TSN 990. With that change came the rights to the Canadiens games and a far closer relationship with the team. One with less insight on the reality of journalism today would expect this to foster more information to flow from the Canadiens to TSN 990 and then to the public. 

Nothing is more false.

Journalists at TSN 990 are caught in this uncomfortable paradox: their relationship with the team obliges them to act with far more prudence, caution and even retenue. Adventurous reporting may ruffle some coprporate feathers and so scoops that can hurt the team create tension between both groups.

When Marinaro reported on the state of Markov's knee and the type of discussions that occurred between the team and the all-star defenceman's camp, the Habs were infuriated. The truth is a dangerous thing to an organization that guards information as if it were a state secret.

Marinaro stands to lose everything he's built if he started reporting recklessly. You can disagree with his opinions, you can take exception with his style that some have come to brand as arrogant, but you cannot say that Tony Marinaro is in the business of tabloid fodder. He has always held himself to a better standard. His success story is built on effort and hard work. There are no shortcuts. 

The fabrication of a story is everything that Tony is not. If the story isn't there, he won't report on it. When it is, contract with the Canadiens or not, Marinaro will break the story. And that's the way it needs to be.

The tentacles corporations have grown into the freedom of the press are stifling reminders that the news is often times only news when it's allowed to break. Special interests have swayed the social discourse in a way that makes it harder to engage in open, honest and meaningful dialogue. 

Marinaro works in a field that is different from the one in which Tevan, Blackman and Fisher toiled. Access to information, to the players is guarded in ways that dent the purpose of reporting. Red Fisher once told me the players, who are now coached by the team to speak with the media, have become robotic distributors of clichés.

To stay relevant, Marinaro has had to work against this grain and look hard for stories that years ago were easier to discover. That means a world of undisclosable sources, more nebulous ties to the facts and reporting that at times seems far fetched. But Marinaro is not in the business of far fetched reporting. He has spent hours creating contacts who want to speak to him because they can rely on him to report the story faithfully.  He doesn't spin the rumour mill, he breaks the news when it's there.

Again, the fact is, Marinaro is in the business of fact. 

The news he broke yesterday is sensitive. It's sensitive to the team and it puts everything a journalist lives and breathes with at risk: his credibility.

Marinaro has worked far too hard to expose himself that way on a story most of us knew would be in the makings sooner or later. Add to the mix the construct of the relationship he has with the Canadiens and his honest and grinding efforts to get to where he is today and you're left with a simple reality: nothing suggests Marinaro is wrong in reporting Gauthier has been all but replaced.



Angry Habs Fan said...

Great piece.

Steve said...

Food for thought, if it be so, I hate being lied to. Whats worse than a bad GM, a owner thinking he knows more about hockey than the experts.

Don's Cherries said...

Steve is bang on. Experts like him can't be second guessed by billionaire owners. This team owes him an explanation.

Moey said...

Agree 100%. Those who have spent the last 24 hours ripping him several new ones simply don't get it.

Ryan Mtl said...

I don't know... To me, Tony always sounded too much like a wannabe insider. I've heard more of his broad scoops , claims and proclamations over the years regarding trades and such that always made HIM the focus of the story because HE was breaking it. He claimed to be really dealing with inside sources but my admittedly unscientific recollection tells me that most of these never actually panned out. Maybe a few did, but in my mind's eye, Tony has been crying wolf way more often than any wolf was actually seen.

chepanet said...

He may be absolutely right, but I'd have to agree with RyanMtl on this one. Moey, I think the reason so many people ripped into him was because of the way he hyped the announcement hours beforehand in a kind of hackneyed gimmicky way. Rather than simply announce what was nothing more than a fairly decent piece of news, he kept everyone on the edge of their seat for hours expecting an announcement to the effect that Markov was retiring or something of the sort. So the objection many people may have taken had more to do with the form, rather than the substance of the announcement. To be taken a little more seriously, Tony must start acting more like a credible news source and less like a shameless self-promoter constantly trying to prove his hockey knowledge and inside connections.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Tony is his "I told you so" attitude and arrogance that bothers me the most. He is far from humble, and he treats his callers like idiots, choosing only those that brown nose him to get on the air. He's recently blocked me on twitter because I strongly disagree with him and his "reporting".

Another thing that bothers me, is that when the team is winning, he's quick to put "don't stop believing" music and calls Maria the voodoo person to wipe out curses. But when the team is losing, he's the first person to put them under the bus.

Tony says he loves putting the "cards on the table", but he's playing with a magicians deck, full of illusions and tricks.

Moey said...

Marinaro is no saint, he blocked me on Twitter because I disagreed with him as he has done with many others. I also emailed a question one day that he used as his own with a caller without giving me the credit. If he was a chocolate biscuit he's lick himself. I get all that, all I'm saying is I believe what he's ssying to be the truth. There's no way Molson is going to admit it, an official announcment will most likely be made at the end of the season. Also, the last thing this team needs right now is more turmoil.

Moey said...

Pardon the typo's but I can't be bothered to delete and retype the whole thing.