NBC withholds story, and its own credibility

December 21, 1993|By Bob Raissman | Bob Raissman,New York Daily News

No one at NBC Sports can ever say it puts viewer interests ahead of its own business interests. On "NFL Live," both Saturday and Sunday, the network failed to report the biggest NFL story in years -- Fox's outbidding CBS for the league's NFC TV package.

For the record, NBC Sports spokesman Ed Markey said the decision not to report the Commentary

deal had everything to do with the fact the network was still in negotiations with the league for the AFC package.

This reasoning is mind-boggling. CBS went with the story on its evening newscast Friday when Dan Rather reported the Fox bid. On Saturday, Greg Gumbel also reported the story. Both reports came when CBS was still trying to land the AFC package.

Forget for a moment NBC Sports chose to withhold news. Another issue here is how that decision affects the credibility of both Jim Lampley and Will McDonough, two men who don't hesitate to report a story, no matter who gets burned.

The fact that they were given orders from the top not to mention the deal put them in the position of being no more than puppet boys of the corporation they work for.

You think McDonough, who also serves as NFL columnist for the Boston Globe, would not have written the story for his newspaper?

And what about Lampley? He has made a career as a solid news and sports journalist. You knew his instincts had to tell him what NBC was doing was wrong.

At NBC, Lampley has been turned into just another sports anchor traffic cop. We know Lampley is better than this. In a panel discussion Saturday on Larry King's show, Lampley joined ESPN's Robin Roberts, CNN's Fred Hickman and MSG/NBC's Marv Albert to talk about the business.

At one point in the hour-long discussion, King asked Lampley if sportscasting is journalism.

Lampley said: "If a person is trying as hard as possible to tell the truth, the absolute truth and nothing but the truth, for instance on our HBO boxing telecasts where we have a contractual relationship sometimes with both fighters, sometimes with both managers and a promoter. There's obviously a money interest for HBO and still, in spite of that, we're trying to say the truth no matter who it damages. That to me is the purest form of journalism you will find."

Lampley is right. But obviously he now has to live with a double standard. He'll only get to practice "pure journalism" when he holds an HBO mike. At NBC Sports, if reporting true facts doesn't jive with the corporate agenda, it ain't news.

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