The Media Learning Curve: Trying to watch the curveballs, but the curves get in the way

According to Medialife.com, on an “intensely competitive night” in TV land, ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” finale was 27 percent down from last spring’s season ender and dipping from Monday night’s final performance show. The 3.8 rating for adults 18-49 (9 to 11 p.m. EDT), according to Nielsen overnights, was the lowest finale rating ever for “DWTS.”

“The show may have been hurt by the strong competition or the fact that there wasn’t much suspense in the episode — everyone knew Nicole Scherzinger would win,” the story said.

But did they know Erin Andrews was on? We crossed over to discuss that in today’s column (linked here), and aren’t really proud of that. We’ve since taken a cold shower.

Otherwise, we have these warmed-over dishes:

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== Fox Sports has swiped DirecTV executive Eric Shanks to become its new president, promoting Ed Goren to to a newly created roll of vice chairman of Fox Sports Media Group starting June 1. Both report to the big cheese, David Hill.

Shanks, 38, joined DirecTV in 2004 and had created several of the company’s best interactive sports services, including the NFL Red Zone Channel.

Shanks is the third president of Fox Sports — following Goren and Hill — since it began in 1993 when the network obtained the NFL rights. He will oversee programming, production, field and studio operations, marketing, promotion, communications, business and legal affairs.

Shanks joined Fox in 1994 and before leaving to DirecTV, he was a producer at Fox Sports and VP of Enhanced Programming for the Fox TV networks. During his time at Fox Sports, he helped develop the FoxTrax glowing puck on NHL games and the yellow first-down line that is now part of all football coverage.

== ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA women’s softball playoffs continues with the UCLA-Louisiana Lafayette contests on Saturday (ESPN2, 6 p.m.) and Sunday (ESPNU, 12:30 p.m. and, if necessary, ESPN2 at 6:30 p.m. for a third game) on the UCLA home field.

== ESPN has the NCAA men’s lacross championships, starting with the semifinals Saturday in Baltimore (Notre Dame-Cornell at 1 p.m.; No. 1 Virginia vs. Duke at 3:30 p.m., both on ESPN2) leading into Monday’s final (12:30 p.m., ESPN). Sean McDonough, Quint Kessenich and Eamon McAnaney attempt to legitimize this.

== The L.A., Seattle and Portland markets (10 percent of the country) get the Angels’ home game against Seattle on Saturday during Fox’s MLB game of the week (Kenny Albert and Eric Karros, 1 p.m., Channel 11). Most (77 percent) get St. Louis at Chicago (with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver).

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Meanwhile, Kevin Millar, the former Hart High player who holds out hope of playing again in the big leagues, made his Fox MLB L.A-based pre- and post-game studio show debut last Saturday with Chris Rose. Rose and Millar, who often worked together on FSN’s old “Best Damn Sports Show Period,” continue to work for the MLB Network during the week on their daily studio show. On Saturday, June 5, Fox plans to test-drive Millar as a game analyst on a Milwaukee-St. Louis telecast with Joe Buck.

Millar is also currently on the St. Paul Saints’ roster (see story linked here), but playing only when he has a chance between TV gigs. Released by the Chicago Cubs before spring training, he’s holding out a faint hope of returning to the big leagues while he also does the TV jobs. Millar actually started his pro career with the Saints after a tryout in 1993 when he went undrafted out of University High in Venice.
Millar, 38, and his wife, Jeanna, are also expecting their fourth child in June.

== FSW/Prime Ticket has its first of six WNBA Sparks games tonight (7:30 p.m. vs. Washington, Prime) with Larry Burnett and Lisa Leslie calling it.

== ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez has a piece on Sunday’s “Outside The Lines” (info linked here) about recently fired Palm Desert High softball coach Ashley Nieto, whose husband, Ron, is a registered sex offender and has been with the team as a scorekeeper and helping maintain the field. Twelve years ago when he was 39, Ron Nieto was put on probation after pleading guilty to having an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old — that girl, it turns out, is now his wife, Ashley, whom Ron married six years later. “The fact that the AD and the principal knew about this and kept it from us is hard to fathom,” says Tom O’Brien, one of many concerned parents whose daughter played for Ashley.

== HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” series goes to Agua Caliente Resort in Rancho Mirage for Bob Papa and Max Kellerman calling a junior middleweight match between Timothy Bradley of Palm Springs and Luis Carlos Abregui, plus Alfredo Angulo of Coachella vs. Joachim Alcine (Saturday, 9:45 p.m., delayed).

== AND FINALLY:

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== In his latest column (linked here), ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer finally addressed how the network — as well as almost all “online media outlets” — have contributed to “an ongoing surge” of journalists citing anonymous sources.

Says ESPN Senior VP and Director of News Vince Doria : “Sources are the lifeblood of newsgathering. But by putting trust in them, we accept the inherent danger of reporting things we have neither seen nor heard firsthand. Our credibility depends on their reliability.”

ESPN.com VP, Executive Editor and Producer Patrick Stiegman adds: “As journalists, we recognize that the gathering and reporting of information has the potential to cause harm or discomfort. At all times, we should be balancing the impact of those repercussions against public interest in that information and our journalistic service to the audience.”

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Even if those ESPN people of note dance around the topic, it has to be addressed on many levels. Ohlmeyer notes that ESPN’s policy regarding anonymous sources “requires the disclosure of sources to management, if requested, and the editor or producer is then bound by the same pledge to anonymity as the reporter.”

It doesn’t necessarily justify the process by which ESPN, and probably many others, follow up on rumors or unnamed reports. By throwing as much as they can out there to see what sticks, what’s rebutted, what’s retwisted, it just adds to the confusion and abuse of information.

Let’s keep the conversation here fluid.

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