NESN has decided not to renew the contract of Bruins "sideline" reporter Naoko Funayama, so as of this summer she will no longer be working for the regional sports network.
She was great. She did her job well. Her reports were concise and to the point. She wasn't distracting. She didn't steer the broadcast away from the game. She played her part in the well-balanced line of Funayama-Edwards-Brickley. Edwards brought the colorful character, Brickley brought the expert analysis, and Funayama brought the ground-level reporting.
Funayama did what fewer and fewer sideline reporters do: REPORT. She had a good rapport with the players, and she was respected by everyone (as evidence by the stream of Tweets about her losing her job). Who else would inspire both media colleagues and Bruins players to mourn her departure?
Naoko is pro at rink and better person. Type to keep, not let go. Genius move, NESN.
— Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) June 28, 2013
@NaokoFunayama naoko .....:(
— Tyler Seguin (@tylerseguin92) June 28, 2013
The word "Naoko" is trending on my Twitter at the moment. For a sideline reporter. On this week of all weeks in Boston sports.
I don't know why NESN did this. It certainly can't be for failing to do her job. They must have a replacement in mind.
Maybe she'll be replaced by some bleached blonde bimbo with hair extensions who spends less time reporting in the dressing room than she does undressing players with her eyes.
Maybe she'll be replaced by some Bill Simmons type, who doesn't try to get a good answer, but rather tries to ask a question that becomes a story in and of itself.
Maybe NESN wants Bruins broadcasts to be like Red Sox broadcasts, and have a sideline reporter that moderates social media discussions, and relentlessly promotes the non-sports aspects of the on-air product.
Or maybe she'll be replaced by Leah Hextall, who is a fine reporter, and Ron Hextall's niece, but I just don't see the need to replace Naoko at all.
Unfortunately, working hard, being respected by peers and interviewees alike, and taking your job seriously are no longer the hallmarks of sports journalism. This is the era of the loud, bombastic, speculative sports journalist. This is the era when eye candy is more important than substance. This is the era when a TV channel would rather employ a reporter who asks questions that piss off the interviewee, as opposed to a reporter who gets their questions answered.