The Washington Nationals are close to finalizing a deal with Bonneville to broadcast the team's games on the new station, according to sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations. The deal, which is likely to be for more than one season, could drastically improve the Nationals' presence over the air. . . .
Post publisher [Boisfeuillet] Jones [ed: cool name] said in his memo to staff that "this is an innovative way of presenting Washington Post journalism to Washington area radio listeners. The new station will present news, information and diverse views concerning national, international and Washington metro area news, including business, entertainment, sports, cultural and consumer news."
The new station will occupy the 107.7-FM and 1500-AM frequencies beginning in late March; news radio leviathan WTOP will move to 103.5-FM, and classical music will replace the gone but not forgotten Z104-FM.
"Online journalist" Mark Fisher of the Post opined on this sea change in DC radio at his blog:
The Nationals broadcast team says goodbye to Dave Shea, the jovial but clumsy sidekick to the Nats' dynamic and winning play-by-play man, Charlie Slowes. Excellent move, as is the departure from the TV side of the Nats' broadcast operation of color commentator Ron Darling, who was possibly the worst sportscaster in town last season. He'll take his reticent, dull act to New York, to join the Mets broadcasts. No word on a replacement, and no sign of progress toward getting the Nats games on TV this year.
Verily, it is true: the Nats have added Shea to the dustbin, to join Darling. (Or maybe Darling jumped to the Mets first; I can't recall.) I've commented on Shea several times already, and I would consider Fisher's description of him particularly apt. Nevertheless, from the looks of his comments to the Post, Shea appeared to take the news fairly hard---and he openly wondered what he'll be doing next. It does seem a bit unfair for the Nats to let go of him in early January; I'm not aware of any other MLB radio gigs open at the moment. (It seems likely that Steve Hyder of Pawtucket will replace him.)
With his plight in mind, I'm going to dedicate this paragraph to Dave Shea. He was a nice companion for the Nats' inaugural season, and as a person who relied heavily on the Shea-Charlie Slowes duo, I want to thank Shea for some great times and some lasting memories. He seems like a good guy, and I wish him success. This Blue Moon's to you, Dave.
According to the press release heralding this venture, Washington Post Radio (I guess we can conditionally call it "WPR" for now) will feature the paper's journalists and columnists to provide "context" to their reporting. This can only mean primo radio opportunities for Barry Svrluga, Tom Boswell, and Les Carpenter---as well as general baseball writer Dave Sheinin and perhaps sports business guys David Nakamura and Thomas Heath. (Hopefully, there won't be many lease-related details to outline by then, eh?) It will be interesting to see if the Post's Baltimore Orioles' beatwriter, known simply as "The Generalissimo"---assuming his beat still exists---will be featured much on the station. I'd guess he would be, to a degree, but this question dovetails into a couple of questions I have arising from this announcement:
1. Would the Post's print/electronic arm or would WPR, in an apparent business relationship with the Washington Nationals, retain editorial authority over the insights and opinions of the Post employees who comment on the Nationals?
In other words, if St. Barry or Boz appears on WPR (not if, actually, but when and how much), will his opinions be tempered by this carriage agreement directly involving his employer? I don't follow the Chicago Tribune sportswriters a tremendous amount, but it seems (for good or ill) that the rival Sun-Times' reporters/columnists are more frank (caustic?) about the Cubs.
2. Does this mean that WPR will exclusively feature Post employees observing and weighing in on the Nats?
Pick a day on the Nats' calendar: will the guest on the pre-game show ever by Ken Wright or Mark Zuckerman or Rocket Bill Ladson?
Maybe these are relevant questions to ask, or maybe I'm playing chicken little. Nats' fans are prone to do so---or so the accusation goes. Anyway, I have one other question:
3. Is this a sign that the Nats are going to put together a serious radio network?
The Nats are now out from under a seventh-rate radio deal: inconsistent FM coverage (on 104.1 and its sister signal, 103.9) and a veritable Bic lighter of an AM station for day games. Bonneville owns those stations, too, but this time it seems like the suits in Salt Lake City are behind our team.
Think back to ten or eleven months ago, when we were all speculating about the radio deal. No one seemed to want the thing tremendously, and the results certainly conformed to that perception. Now, we seem to be dealing with a major league (and Major League) radio deal. Bonneville's behind it, and so apparently is the Post. That's some heavy muscle.
Time for a network, sports fans.