SI sees big difference in missions for cable, print

Media Watch

November 26, 1996|By Milton Kent

ATLANTA -- Within the broadcasting industry, the pending battle between ESPNEWS and CNN/SI for a place in the hearts and cable boxes of sports fans is an intriguing one, because it matches two behemoths, Walt Disney and Time-Warner.

But, on a more subtle level, the marriage between Sports Illustrated, the most venerable of all sports magazines, and CNN, the world's most established all-news network, has its own intrigue.

For many, especially within print circles, there is wonder about whether, in the course of expanding the brand of Sports Illustrated, the magazine's editors and writers might be giving its readers short shrift.

Steve Robinson, managing editor of CNN/SI and former senior editor of the magazine who has been placed in charge of arranging the ceremony, says there's nothing to worry about.

In his mind, the new channel, which makes its debut Dec. 12, can only be a boon to all parties concerned.

"Most sports news, things like trades, firings and franchise moves, is news for 24 hours. That's not the news that Sports Illustrated has traditionally been in the business of pursuing; not with a weekly deadline," said Robinson. "That doesn't mean that [SI writers] aren't learning that kind of stuff, seven days a week. But before, they had no outlet for it."

For example, Robinson said SI's Peter King learned on a Thursday that Art Modell was moving his NFL team to Baltimore. King got the news before anyone else, but since the magazine already had been printed, he and SI readers were out of luck.

Now there is a place for immediate reporting, though Robinson cautions that even with a studio in the SI newsroom in New York, those writers and editors will serve the magazine first.

"When we do an investigation or a project that does make news, that's stuff that is the magazine, but we'll be working in parallel with them. We'll be able to get the editors and writers to talk about it, as well as hopefully some of the subjects in the story because we'll have a head start. One complements the other," said Robinson.

Making history

By now, you must be familiar with that Spike Lee-directed shoe commercial in which three members of the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team take on some New Yorkers on the playground. The spot ends with this tag line: "Basketball is basketball. Athletes are athletes."

For tomorrow's Miami-Los Angeles Clippers telecast (10: 30 p.m., TNT), Turner Sports adds a different dimension to that saying, as Cheryl Miller becomes the first woman to do color commentary on an NBA game.

"I'd like to try to downplay this [the significance]. The game should stand on its own, and if I could add any interesting insight, then that would be great," Miller said yesterday.

Miller, a four-time All-American and Olympic gold medalist at Southern California, is in her second season as a studio analyst for Turner, and has done analysis of men's college games in her hometown of Los Angeles, as well as of the women's Olympic competition for NBC.

This, however, is a much bigger kettle of fish, and Miller knows it.

"I'm always a little nervous, but that's good because then I know that I'll try to be on my best game," said Miller. "As long as I can keep up with the standard of Hubie Brown, Chuck Daly and Doc Rivers [Turner's NBA commentators], I'll be doing something. If I can do a quarter of the things they've done, I'll be OK."

Ravens chatter

James Lofton, Ron Meyer and Vince Cellini -- the cast of CNN's "NFL Preview" -- have very definite thoughts about the fortunes of Baltimore's new NFL franchise.

Lofton, a Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver, praises coach Ted Marchibroda for turning quarterback Vinny Testaverde into a solid player.

"This is the first time Testaverde has been called a good quarterback in his entire career," said Lofton. "They just need defense. They just need to retool that."

Cellini, a Cleveland native who had a memorably contentious interview with Art Modell last summer, has doubts about the organization's long-term prospects.

"I don't think Art has ever surrounded himself with the right front-office people or at least given them enough time to improve themselves. Look at the string of coaches. Maybe I'm bitter," Cellini said with a chuckle.

Meyer, a former Patriots and Colts head coach, is much more succinct.

"I'll come right out. I'm a big proponent of Marchibroda and the entire coaching staff and players. My exception is the front office. I think they stink. I think the ownership hurts. He [Modell] fired my man [former Browns coach], Paul Brown. I'm still bitter," Meyer said.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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