In Baltimore, all-sports radio is getting yet another yakker

The Baltimore Sun

Reaching into the locker and taking the notebook out of the backpack as we go back to school with this week's sports media notes:

* As of Monday, Baltimore will have one more all-sports radio station than it has professional teams. WVIE (1370 AM) joins ESPN 1300 and WNST (1570 AM) as the third sports yakker, coming online at 6 a.m. as a Fox Sports Radio affiliate.

The station, formerly WLG and now to be known as Fox 1370 Sports Radio, will carry a mostly syndicated lineup, though it has hired former WBAL voice Jerry Coleman as its sports director and a talk show host.

"There's a void for quality sports radio in this town," said Coleman, who had covered the Redskins for two years for Washington's WTEM until the station was purchased by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder this year.

"We're going to be a station that doesn't wave the pompoms," he said.

(Good idea, because that sound would probably come across as static on the microphones.)

Not carrying Orioles or Ravens games is a plus, Coleman said.

"Now I won't have to worry about [team] management calling the station about something I said."

WVIE, which has been broadcasting syndicated news talk, is owned by the same group, M10 Broadcasting, that owns WCBM (680 AM).

* Here is the scheduled weekday lineup for Fox 1370:

6-9 a.m.: Steve Czaban; 9 a.m.-noon: Craig Shemon and James Washington; noon-3 p.m.: Jim Rome;

3-6 p.m.: Jerry Coleman; 6-7 p.m.: local show TBA; 7 p.m. on: Fox programming.

WBAL (1090 AM) carries Fox Sports late at night and on weekends and will keep doing so through the end of the year, station vice president and general manager Jeff Beauchamp said. Station management has yet to decide what will replace Fox after that, he said.

WNST also runs Fox Sports at night, and that will continue, owner Nestor Aparicio said.

* My initial reaction to the WVIE news: the more, the merrier. However, the station could use at least one more local show to balance the heavy tilt toward a national outlook. ESPN 1300 has 6 1/2 hours of local shows each weekday, and WNST is all local from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I've already heard from a few readers who say Czaban, based in Washington, and Rome are anti-Baltimore. I haven't listened enough to know whether that's the case. Rome's stylized approach does have its fans, though waiting ... through ... his ... long ... pauses takes some getting accustomed to.

* WVIE's isn't the only launch coming soon. Aparicio is relaunching his Web site, WNST.net, sometime next week. He has formed a new company, WNST Sports Media - with former Ravens coach Brian Billick as a partner - that owns the Web site and the radio station.

The site "will look and feel a lot like ESPN.com," Aparicio said. "It will be a lot more video-oriented."

And he said the approach will be flipping the emphasis toward the site. "The radio station is going to act as a billboard for the Web site."

The station also will provide plenty of the content for WNST.net, with chunks of audio from various shows available at the site, along with new features such as blogs from Billick and Ravens offensive lineman Jason Brown. Aparicio is aiming for local interactivity.

"It's a bar stool," he said.

Stop me if you just heard this, but the bar isn't owned by any team.

"We're not beholden to the Orioles and Ravens," Aparicio said.

Local ownership is important as well, Billick said.

"The key to what we're doing is we're not a corporate entity," he said. "We're going to build it from the ground up."

* Billick makes his debut as a Fox NFL analyst Sunday, calling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints game (not being seen here - Channel 45 has Dallas Cowboys-Cleveland Browns at 4 p.m., with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman). On weeks such as this when Fox has a doubleheader, he'll be paired with Thom Brennaman. The other half of the time, Billick will be the third man in the booth along with Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger.

"My opinion will be just one of many" on the NFL, Billick acknowledged.

"Everything beyond the facts is all opinion," he said. "Everyone who comments on this league has an agenda."

But don't expect "criticism for criticism's sake." As a former coach, "I hope I can bring a little bit of that perspective."

Here's an opinion: Signs from his previous media appearances, both as a coach and in an analyst's role, point to Billick's becoming a big on-air asset for Fox.

* Did you miss them? Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon are back to call Sunday's Ravens-Cincinnati Bengals game on CBS (Channel 13).

* ESPN is teaming Chris Berman and John Saunders to anchor the Sunday 7 p.m. SportsCenter throughout the NFL season. They will be joined by Berman's NFL highlights partner Tom Jackson for what obviously will be a football-heavy version of the day's sports news. Hey, at least more Saunders is a good thing.

Berman and Jackson will continue in "The Blitz" segments of NFL highlights during the 11 p.m. Sunday SportsCenters.

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