Local stations generate much heat, little light, over NFL 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 we've been getting this week from the let's-go-live-to-Chicago gang.

And they're proud of being out of control on top of it.

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," Sandusky said to anchor Rod Daniels. "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 to Sandusky 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.

So, Koch promptly held up the paper in front of Stellino's face to show viewers a Page 1 article saying Baltimore was a front-runner to be awarded an NFL franchise.

Koch was excited about the article until Stellino stepped 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.

Stellino added that it was Baltimore and Charlotte that Sheridan was picking, not Baltimore and St. Louis, as Koch incorrectly had reported moments earlier.

"Just one man's opinion," Koch said, quickly discarding the newspaper as if it was old news and refocusing on Stellino.

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 expansion 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 what Gov. William Donald Schaefer had to say during the Baltimore presentation.

Anchor Stan Stovall put that in context, explaining how important that was, because Davis is so influential with the other NFL owners.

Good point, Stan, except for the widely known fact that Davis is not influential with the owners. In fact, the opposite is true.

Calm down, Gerry. Take a deep breath, Denise. Forget Kiper, Scott. And get it together, news directors.

Rooting for the old hometown's OK. But do a little journalism, too. Give us some real information and a bit of context for it. Or you're going to wake up tomorrow morning when this night of emotional excess is over and hate yourself no matter what the outcome in Chicago is.

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