Marquee Sports Network will air ‘The Reporters’ live after segment critical of Cubs doesn’t air
Said Marquee general manager Mike McCarthy: “A judgment was made on the fly that in retrospect was overly sensitive. Going forward, the show will be live, and the reporters on it are completely unedited, as the intention really has been all along.”
Sequels, prequels and remakes are all the rage in entertainment, and Marquee Sports Network created its own with “The Reporters,” a spin-off of “The Sports Writers on TV,” which aired mostly on SportsChannel Chicago from 1985 to 2000. Ben Bentley, Bill Gleason, Bill Jauss and the Sun-Times’ Rick Telander were the usual panelists.
“The Reporters” records and airs Sunday mornings with different panelists each week. But they sit around a similar card table with a similar pool-hall light above them and the same black background behind them. What the show is missing is clouds of cigar smoke and, at least for one episode, credibility.
During taping Sunday of its fourth show, Marquee didn’t air a segment in which the panel questioned Cubs president Jed Hoyer’s transparency regarding the team’s roster rebuild. In response to questions about the incident, Marquee general manager Mike McCarthy said the show will now air live.
“A judgment was made on the fly that in retrospect was overly sensitive,” McCarthy said. “Going forward, the show will be live, and the reporters on it are completely unedited, as the intention really has been all along. Because the luxury of taping the show was in place, some people decided to get a little careful and avoid, among other things, repetition from other shows.
“It’ll be pretty hard to censor somebody that’s on live television. We’re going to remove that element to it because people make decisions that other people wouldn’t make. But this is not a Cubs management-Marquee management swath across the bow that no one’s ever critical of the Cubs because that’s not the case in this show’s brief history. And it won’t be going forward.”
The panel — which consisted of host Bob Sirott of WGN Radio, David Haugh of The Score, Peggy Kusinski of ESPN 1000 and Maddie Lee of the Sun-Times — had begun to discuss the different approaches between former Cubs president Theo Epstein and Hoyer, who has been reticent to describe his plan as rebuilding.
After Kusinski and Haugh spoke, Lee said she was about to speak when a producer said they needed to restart the segment because of technical difficulties. But before they began, the panel was told to steer clear of talk about transparency.
“We all looked at each other very confused, like, is this happening?” Lee said. “I said it’s peak irony that they’re going to blame technical issues in restarting a segment about transparency.”
Sun-Times sports editor Chris De Luca told the staff Tuesday that the Sun-Times would no longer participate in the show.
“It really felt like it was not a big deal,” Kusinski said. “In the spirit of sports-talk radio in Chicago, it was tame. You’d think that the powers that be understand that people are passionate in Chicago, and reporters will reflect that passion. I believe that’s what the Cubs will want.”
For the show to draw viewers, it needs that passion. What it didn’t need was to give viewers a reason not to watch. Nostalgia will carry it only so far. Content is king, and it might take awhile to regain viewers’ trust. Airing the show live is a big step toward that.
Marquee entered the Chicago sports scene facing concerns about the objectivity of its Cubs coverage. There have been times during postgame shows when the crew has noticeably strained for positivity. But viewers can see right through that.
“The Sports Writers on TV” never pulled punches. It’s great that Marquee wants to connect to the city’s sports-talk history. But if it’s to connect with Cubs fans — many of whom are still bitter about its mere existence — Marquee must make credibility its priority.