T Dog’s Think Tank: T Dog Media at 10


Happy anniversary to T Dog Media! It’s a different media world today than it was when I started this.

As we mark the ten-year anniversary of T Dog Media this weekend, I would like to take a look back – not at dopey posts from the early years such as these (really bad idea)…or getting involved in feuds (Wil Wheaton and Kenya Moore), or just some ill-thought out essays (a critical post I wrote was nuked for being way too mean – even for me.) Instead, I would like to take a look at the issues the media business faced then, now, and throughout the duration of this blog.

To mark ten years writing on this site, here are ten major turning points in the media business in the last ten years. Has it gotten better or worse? You be the judge…

The rise of social media. When this site began, MySpace basically was social media. Since, we’ve seen the rapid rise of Facebook and Twitter (which I joined in 2009), not to mention Instagram, Snapchat, Pintrest, and others whom didn’t exist in 2006.

The rise of Netflix and other streaming services. In 2006, Netflix was just a rent-a-DVD-by-mail service. Now Netflix is a streaming powerhouse, who along with Hulu and Amazon, changed the face of television forever, creating another outlet for high-quality programming.

The fall of Chicago. Since 2007, yours truly has penned several quality of life essays about Chicago – none of them exactly enthusiastic as the city (particularly after losing the Olympic bidcontinues to stumble on the world stage as rising murder rate and gun violence takes its toll. As a result, residents are leaving the area (many of them African-American), resulting in fewer viewers/listeners – and ad revenue.

The rise of the Blackhawks. You want a textbook example of how to turnaround a failing business? Ten years ago, the Blackhawks were a doormat team, with low attendance, television ratings, and win count. When owner Bill Wirtz died in 2007, son Rocky took over and turned the franchise around – by adding home televised games, developing star players, and marketing the hell out of the team. The result? The Hawks won three Stanley Cup in six years and is back among the elite franchise in the NHL and in all of sports.

The fall of radio. While listeners continue to tune in, the industry continues to be run into the ground by out-of-touch radio conglomerates. Listeners have all but accepted voice-tracking, awful content, repetitive music, and increased commercial loads, and that’s a shame.

All you have to do is look at Chicago radio. Has it improved in the last ten years? Like the city itself, hell no. It seems “The Chicago Way” determines who gets gigs (Mancow), which led yours truly to call Chicago radio the worst in the country, and recent evidence proves things have not gotten any better.

And let’s not bring up Nine FM or FM News.

The media business has become more politically polarized. In 2008, a merger between Sirius and XM was approved by the FCC, in a 3-2 party-line vote – a rarity at the time. In the last few years, we’ve seen the FCC hijacked by partisan lobbyists (including current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, himself a former head of the National Cable Television Association), with issues such as station ownership limits and net neutrality ending up in the same divisive pile as abortion, gun control, and gay rights. As Sen. John Thune (R-S.D) pointed out this week, there’s been more partisan-decisive votes during Wheeler’s tenure than there has in the last two decades. Even worse, FCC Commissioners are now nothing but puppets, controlled by partisan legislators (i.e. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon).

The FCC has given the Illinois legislature a good run for its money for who can be the most dysfunctional body in government while achieving absolutely nothing in the process. Not good for those who care about communication issues.

Media merger-mania continues unabated. And while the idiots at the FCC aren’t busy playing a partisan game of Survivor, they continue to let big media companies merge with one another – notably the NBCUniversal’s merger with Comcast and Cumulus’ acquisition of Citadel, who acquired ABC Radio. As you’ve probably have noticed, there are fewer TV station and radio groups than they were ten years ago – and we, the public are poorer for it. Look at the shitty coverage of this year’s Presidential elections and tell me I’m wrong…

Network television continues its decline. With the advent of quality programming on streaming services, viewers are tuning away from the same old-same old for fresher, more vibrant programming such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Stranger Things, and Transparent, among others. Meanwhile, Cable continues to create water-cooler programming such as Game of Thrones and You’re The Worst.

There are exceptions – notably The CW, who is also celebrating a ten-year anniversary – who improved its programming by adding well-written and acted shows like Arrow, The Flash, and Jane The Virgin – a vast improvement over Gossip Girl and a 90210 rehash.

More talk on diversity. The first article I wrote on racism in the industry was one on Survivor. Since then, I’ve written more on the diversity issue in Hollywood and in Chicago local media, before “Oscars So White” became a trending topic.

Management….sadly, is still inept. In October 2006, the first critical post I wrote was about Cara Carriveau’s firing from WLUP-FM by a managerial dork for writing a critical piece about Chicago radio to Robert Feder, then-media critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. Since then, bad management has run rampant in the media business from Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman at NBC to Kevin Metheny, Sam Zell, and Randy Michaels at Tribune, and from Jan Jeffries at Cumulus to any GM or news director WFLD has hired in the last ten years.

Yours truly received a taste of such arrogant and inept management at my former employer, a (supposedly) non-profit where I spent eight years of my life. For the last two years, the people running the place were even bigger buffoons than those I just named in the previous paragraph. They make Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV’s Frank (from MST3K) look like Lee Iacocca by comparison.

Over the years, T Dog Media has evolved from being snarky and rebellious (remember T Dog’s Groovy Grab Bag?) to delivering a more professional presentation and being outspoken on issues in the media industry, such as those listed above. And from time to time, I still have fun here, writing about classic TV, current TV shows, sports, Comic-Con, geeky things, or comedy pieces.

Along the way, I attactred some fans (Feder, Carriveau, Marc Berman, David Kaplan, etc.) and some distractors (see the first paragraph.) It’s been a pleasure to entertain and inform you over the last ten years, and look to do so for another ten. And I am proud of the work I do here.

Thank you for your support!