Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When Opinions Are Not News

The opinions of professional broadcasters, unless directly involved, are NOT news stories. At least they should not be. However, this past week brought still another instance where this comes into question. As many of you know, Bob Costas went on at halftime of Sunday Night Football (on 10/13) and gave his opinion about the Washington Redskins team name not being changed. Costas is most certainly entitled to express and opinion, and was able to do that to a large national audience, providing the opportunity for viewers to agree or disagree. No problem there.

However, where I do have a problem is how this became a "news" story and was actually reported by other networks and stations around the country. Say what?

I will grant you that at this moment in time I am not a News Director or Sports Director who is in charge of making decisions about what gets reported. But I will tell you that if I were at this moment, there is ZERO chance that I would tolerate any of the writers or reporters in my command to put a story on the air about Bob Costas' opinion. Whether I agree with it or not.

Of course, I understand that the recent outcry over the Redskins team name has been in the news of late. But a national sportscaster expressing his (or her) feelings about it is NOT news. If a station, network, web site, or publication wishes to "report" on this story, then do so by presenting facts about it and/or an opinion of someone directly involved.

This is far from the only time a TV or radio broadcaster has expressed what is merely an opinion and had it be treated as if it is newsworthy. Sports fans have had to put up with stories about things that Charles Barkley has said, among others. Although Barkley was a Hall of Fame caliber player, he, like Costas, is paid by at least one TV network to provide analysis, opinions, and related broadcasting duties.

Yet, other media, often networks competing for those same sports viewers, seem to treat such opinions and commentaries as if they are big news items. If the story being commented on is that big of a deal, then pick up the phone or grab the camera and get reaction from a team official or someone directly impacted by the subject.

Personally, I was not watching at halftime, and did not see the Costas commentary, since I had switched to the baseball playoff game. Yet, I heard about what Costas said from several different media sources, including local TV stations, within the 24 hours after. I should either have not known that Costas said anything, or at the most have seen something about it on an NBC or Comcast sports related web site.

While Sunday Night Football continues to deliver ratings for NBC, and NBC Sports Network is getting a boost from the start of the NHL regular season, it is otherwise quiet. The fact that both NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network were making a big deal about adding college hockey telecasts for this season reflects that. Although it is live programming instead of some of the hours of filler programming both networks have, I'm not seeing a demand for more college hockey at the national level.

Over at Fox Sports, it has been a mixed bag of late. Fox is doing very well with the exciting (as of press time) Red Sox vs. Tigers ALCS, including a ratings gain on Sunday (10/13) night, even going against Sunday Night Football on NBC. That telecast set a LCS ratings record for Fox in Detroit, which had a higher local rating than Boston. The early series ratings for Fox were up more than 20% across the board compared with their NLCS games last October.

However, Fox Sports 1 actually showed a game on Saturday (10/12) that was actually worthy of attracting a big audience, but failed to do so. The Oregon vs. Washington telecast, with the #2 team in the country against another ranked team, finished with a 1.3 overnight rating. In comparison, CBS (Florida vs. LSU), ESPN (Michigan - Penn State), and ABC (regional games including Clemson vs. BC and Northwestern vs. Wisconsin) all showed much higher ratings.

It was interesting that Fox Sports 1 did beat one other national telecast with this game. That was the Baylor vs. Kansas State game on Fox Sports, also seen over-the-air.

On the other hand, CBS reports that its SEC telecasts are, thus far into the season, averaging the highest ratings in 12 seasons.

CHICAGO: CSN Chicago has added another full-time anchor and reporter with the addition of Kelly Crull, formerly with Fox Sports San Diego.

WVMP ESPN 1000 will be airing at least 17 games of the University of Illinois Chicago's basketball games this season, with Dave Juday and former UIC player Ken Williams on the call. The station will air every game which does not conflict with its schedule of Chicago Bulls broadcasts and ESPN national games it carries.

CLEVELAND: WEWS-TV Channel 5 has added Kenny Roda to its football coverage effective immediately. Roda will participate on "Tailgate Saturday" Ohio State coverage, among other duties. He had recently lost his gig at WKNR after roughly 20 years there.

WKRK 92.3 has added T.J. Zuppe to its staff on what is reportedly a part-time basis. Zuppe had also previously worked for WKNR as well. Zuppe replaces Matt Loede, who had covered the Indians and Cavaliers beats this past season before being let go by the station last week.

LOS ANGELES: As Time Warner Cable gets set to begin its first season of Lakers telecasts under its expensive new package, the network is adding an all-star team of analysts. I'm not sure how having a total of FOUR analysts on the telecasts is not major overload, but James Worthy and Robert Horry will have even more company. Byron Scott and Luke Walton have been added to the on-air staff, with both added to the pre-game and post-game shows.

NEW ORLEANS: WWWL 1350 has dropped ESPN Radio and cut back on its sports programming. Although a local sports talk show is in the works for at least one weekday shift, the station has reduced to merely airing NBC Sports Radio for nights and overnight.

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