KTIK sports director J Bates has done many things. He has spent significant time in Glenns Ferry, ID. He has worked for KTVB and the Utah Jazz. He was a host on the Spud Brothers (a personal favorite of ours). But he has never had a conversation with OBNUG. Until now.
We found the whole thing enthralling. We hope you enjoy. You can visit J's daily blog by clicking here.
OBNUG: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where'd you grow up? Where'd you go to school?
J Bates: There is some confusion out there on this. Most of my family is from Idaho and nearly all my aunts and uncles live in the Glenns Ferry area so I've always considered that "home". But I grew up in Utah and went to college at Weber State University, back when we were good and giving the Broncos fits, I might add.
We always find it interesting how people get into a career in radio. Was it something you wanted to do growing up? How did you end up at KTIK?
I had a friend who got me a part-time job as a "board op" in high school. Essentially I ran the commercials and changed the RECORDS for "Dick Clark's Rock, Roll and Remember" and "Cruisin' America with Cousin Brucie" Nothing says ladies man like working at an OLDIES radio station in high school. From there I ended up as a DJ, and the college station at Weber heard me, had a great radio program, and offered me a scholarship to work there. I got a little sidetracked with TV, but I always liked radio better. The dress code is so much more my style.
We check out your blog on KTIK every day. It's some good stuff, and it is unlike most other blogs in the Treasure Valley. What was the idea behind starting it? Have you received a good response from it?
Creative outlet was the main reason behind it. I started blogging the first time I was at KTIK because I wasn't getting a lot of airtime after the Spud Brothers was canceled. When I worked for the Jazz I saw the power of blogs thanks to David James and when I got back I just wanted to keep that up. My blog is pretty lazy right now, basically a daily list of the crap I read on the internet everyday. But this football season look out. Live blogging from games, weekly online columns and of course the Daily Links.
How much do you personally get to work with the Boise State football team? Do you get to attend practices and set up interviews?
Boise State has really clamped down on access to the team. It's not like it once was where we could interview anyone who walked by before or after practice. It makes it harder to get to know these guys, because the chit chat before and after an interview is really where you interact. I try to go to any practice I'm allowed to. I'm a practice geek, and one of my favorite things to do is sit and watch Greg Graham and his assistants run through drills.
Online media has been growing bigger and bigger as a reliable, popular form of news and information. Print media seems to have struggled adapting to this shift in ideology. Is it as much of an issue for radio? How has KTIK changed its approach in this new climate? What changes, if any, have been discussed?
We discuss it a lot, but sometimes implementing those ideas is a struggle. Radio is evolving and our company sees that. People will still listen to local radio (especially sports and news), but where the focus used to be all about "drive time" and listening in the car, the next push for radio is listening on your computer at work or on your ipod.
To be honest, we struggle with that sometimes because the short term economic gains aren't tangible, and sales drives radio. If they can't sell it, then it 's not a priority. But we're better at it than the print media because radio has a rebellious streak in it by nature, kind of like the internet.
Print media has troubles with it on several levels. But one that doesn't get talked about is that writers are against blogging for their paper's website because they don't get paid any extra for doing it. They are paid to write, and they have an increased workoad when they blog, but not increased pay. That would make anyone hate the idea. It's the economics of covering sports again....everything comes down to money.
What is your opinion on blogging and its place among traditional media both locally and nationally?
Locally it's got a way to go. It may be an extension of population, but the handful of blogs just don't have the reach separately that they could. It was why I devised Idaho Sports Zone; I hoped it would be a hub for linking up the state's best blogs for "one stop shopping" as an Idaho sports fan. My partners wanted to be a more traditional medium with a magazine and publications. Oh well, creative differences broke up the Beatles too.
Nationally, I think it's funny how more and more we're finding it's traditionally trained media writing on these blogs like Deadspin and The Big Lead. It gives me some hope that it's not all about money. Sports fans want information, and blogs are filling the void both for the fans and the writers. And they're allowed to write what they want how they want without an editor or sales monkey telling them what they should write.
What does KTIK think (if anything) of the local Bronco blogs?
I don't read the local blogs daily, but I do have most of them set up on my Google Reader. So from that perspective I hope I'm giving them some respect. If you're asking me about Caves or Prater? They couldn't name half the blogs out there. It's just not their thing, and I'm not sure if they get the difference between blogs and message boards. It's all about Broncocountry.com to them. Which is a step in the right direction....or not...depending on your point of view.
Idaho Sports Talk has somewhat of a monopoly on the radio aspect of Boise State news and talk. How does this affect what you cover or talk about? Do you feel that this gives the show a certain responsibility to the Boise area?
I'm not sure what you mean by responsibility, but I think sometimes the mob mentality of Boise State Football fans can derail IST off some good topics. I know who the big dog in town is, but I've always maintained that if you do a show only about gardening then only gardeners will listen. That said, no one does it better. Period. The contract can change hands 25 more times and Caves and Prater will still be the show to listen to for Boise State football news.
Everyone recognizes Idaho Sports Talk as a staple of KTIK's programming. What are some other shows or programs that KTIK utilizes to cater to the local audience?
My Saturday morning show I think did some good things last year. I like talking media and sports and that's a niche I know people responded to. Even Bryan Harsin and Bush Hamdan have admitted to listening to it. As for the rest of the lineup we are really happy with Colin Cowherd. His Northwest ties and college football mentality fit very well in our lineup.
What is the hardest issue to deal with as a sports radio station in Boise, Idaho?
Being treated like everyone else. No one considers us a mainstream media outlet like the paper, TV or even KBOI. Because Caves and Prater are so opinionated (and surprisingly influential) I find my job covering the teams more difficult because I have to answer for things they've said on Idaho Sports Talk. It's caused issues with every sports franchise in town so don't think that I'm railing against BSU or anything. (Although I will say the University of Idaho is the top of the list when it comes to this.) It's kind of like a kid getting beat up by a bully and then trying to take it out on his kid brother because they don't want to get beat up more by standing up for themselves.
How do you think the local sports media does as a whole? Do you see things moving in any certain direction in the future and what kind of improvements can be made?
Oh boy is this the question I've always wanted to answer. I see print media only getting better. The Press Tribune has done a good job of creating an alternative to the Statesman sports section and as a result Prater is stepping up more every year. Chadd Cripe is the best source of Bronco football information in the market hands down and the Statesman needs to do a better job of exploiting that.
TV sports in this town has degraded badly in the past five years. It started when I was still at KTVB, but it's gotten downright embarrassing. The days of Tester, Dzuback, and Johnson I think were the golden era of sports in Boise, and what passes now for for sports is hard to stomach. It's not all the sports departments' fault by the way. Too often newsrooms see the sports department as nothing more than a chance for the news producer to take three minutes off and get a soda. There isn't the commitment to local sports like there once was. Unless it's Boise State football, and then it's all about Ian and Chrissy or a pinewood derby car to appease the female viewers. Local sports is dying on TV because no one covers local sports.
What has been a highlight of yours covering the sports scene in the Treasure Valley?
The 2004 Kelly Cup run by the Steelheads and filling in for Paul J on the basketball team's trip to Albany this past season. That Steelheads team caused me to cross the line between fan and journalist a few times just because of the personalities on the team. And Greg Graham, his staff, and the players made me feel so comfortable on a trip when I was nervous out of my mind. I saw them become the team that everyone witnessed in the WAC tournament that night. I could see this season was different even when fans still didn't believe.
Who has been your favorite player or sports personality to interview or work with over the past few years? Do you have any good stories that you want to share?
Well my favorite story is the night Korey Hall had three interceptions against Oregon State. I had been a substitute teacher and assistant basketball coach at Glenns Ferry high school only two years before that and coached Korey. It was his first press conference and he was so nervous giving "aww shucks" two-word answers. There was an uncomfortable pause in the press room and everyone looked at me. I cracked a joke at his expense, asked the next question, and Korey settled down and gave a great answer. From there on out he and I had a decent rapport. I would be remiss if I didn't mention my friendship that Will Hoenike and I developed. Will's leaving Channel 6 was really the point where Boise TV sports jumped the shark.
Boise State football seems to be the hottest ticket in town nowadays. Do you see this continuing? Do you see this changing if the team loses more games than usual? Where do you see the whole Bronco Nation phenomenon going from here?
That is the big question. I don't see anything surpassing BSU football. Maybe ever. But do I think a sub .500 season, or even a couple of 7-4 seasons would show up as empty seats in Bronco Stadium? Yes. There are hardcore fans and there are casual fans, and it wasn't long ago that selling out a home game depended a lot on who the Broncos were playing. It's always more fun to cover a winner, so I hope it won't happen, but no one can sustain it forever. Not Notre Dame, not Florida State, not USC. It's more a matter of if, than when.
- Favorite TV show?
LOST. Not since the early days of ER or the Sopranos have I planned my week around watching a TV show.
- Favorite website?
The Big Lead, although What Would Tyler Durden Do? is making me laugh hard lately (sometimes NSFW).
- Favorite book?
There are four books I have read more than once and therefore fit this answer. The Withcing Hour by Anne Rice (7), Missing Links by Rick Riley (3), The Stand by Stephen King (4) and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (2)
- Favorite sport?
Baseball, although basketball is making a comeback for me.
- Favorite team?
I have the most worn-out disgusting Red Sox hat that I wear all the time, but I'm spread out really. A lot of Detroit teams are mixed in there because of the time I spent covering them in Michigan.
- Favorite BSU player of all-time?
I see Korey more as a Glenns Ferry Pilot than a Bronco so I'm disqualifying him. Bart Hendricks and Ryan Dinwiddie have both been very good to me even after their playing days. Marty Tadman was always great, ditto for Daryn Colledge.
- Favorite current player?
Big fan of Austin Pettis; that guy is sick good in practice. George Iloka won me over with one interview. That kid is class.
- Favorite radio station to listen to other than KTIK?
I'm a little bit country (KIZN 92) and whole lot of ipod (John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Mat Kearney).
- Favorite ESPN Radio show?
Colin Cowherd. Its the one show I could see myself producing at ESPN radio and not wanting to turn on my own mic and chew out the host.
- Caves or Prater?
Prater. Caves=Sky Boxes and Country Clubs; Prater=Sports Bars and Muni golf courses. I'm a truck stop, sit in the South End zone kind of person, so that's why I'd say Prater.
- Who is your choice for starting QB this year?
My choice for the first game is Bush Hamdan, but my choice by the last game is Kellen Moore. I think they won't be able to keep him off the field this year.