Local TV creates heat, little light On location, emotion eclipses journalism BALTIMORE GETS THE STALL

October 27, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Local TV newscasters this week are adding a sixth "W" to the who, what, when, where and why of good journalism.

This "W" stands for wigging out and trying to whip viewers into an emotional frenzy with their coverage from suburban Chicago of the NFL owners' vote on expansion.

Never have I seen so much air time and breathless reporting result in so little information or perspective as this week from the let's-go-live-to-Chicago gang.

Here's how Channel 11 sportscaster Gerry Sandusky opened his live report from Rosemont, Ill., Monday night:

"Rod, I'll tell you, I finally understand that saying, 'I spent a month in that city one day,' because that's what it feels like we spent here in Chicago. From an emotional standpoint, we have really gone through an entire month, maybe a year's worth of emotions today."

Sandusky went on to explain that "year's worth of emotions" by saying that at first, during the afternoon, he thought Baltimore was a "long shot." But, then, in the evening, he decided "we started to look great again." And, finally, during the live broadcast, he "was back on the fence and feeling kind of 50-50 again about Baltimore's chances."

No, yes, maybe? Kind of covers it all, Gerry. And when you have inside information and insight like that, why not lead the 11 p.m. newscast with it?

But Sandusky wasn't the only local newscaster careening across our screens on an emotional roller coaster.

Channel 13's Denise Koch was a close second for the most-hyped-up-in-Chicago award.

At noon, yesterday, she started to interview Sun NFL reporter Vito Stellino but then remembered a USA Today she was holding in her hands.

So, Koch promptly held the paper in front of Stellino's face to show viewers a page one article saying Baltimore was a front-runner to be awarded an NFL franchise.

Koch was very excited about the article until Stellino stepped back in front of the paper and explained that it was written by Danny Sheridan, who has been handicapping Baltimore all along, and it didn't mean much.

"Oh, just one man's opinion," Koch said, quickly discarding the newspaper, the way "Saturday Night Live's" Emily Latilla used to say, "Never mind."

And what can you say about Channel 2's breaking into "Jeopardy" last night so that Scott Garceau could bring viewers a live interview with ESPN analyst Mel Kiper?

Kiper told viewers he hoped a decision on cities would be made quickly, because he had an 8:20 flight out of Chicago.

What a busy guy, and what an important update!

Channel 2 also had its moments of penetrating analysis, such as when Garceau reported on how impressed Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis was with Baltimore's presentation.

Anchor Stan Stovall put that in context, explaining that Davis is very influential with the other NFL owners.

Good point, Stan, except that Davis is not influential with the owners. He's seen as a maverick by most of them.

The most unique piece of analysis, though, came from Bruce Cunningham, of Channel 45, who said confidently last night that the delay in naming a second city until Nov. 30 "can't be viewed as anything but a positive step for Baltimore."

Really, Bruce?

Calm down, Gerry. Take a deep breath, Denise. Hey, Scott, forget about guys like Kiper. And take stock, news directors.

Rooting for the old hometown's OK. But let's try to do a little bit of journalism, too, when we go through this again in a month.

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