CBS' McDonough, Raftery cram for on-air exam

Media Watch

March 12, 1998|By Milton Kent

WASHINGTON -- If all goes according to plan today, Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery will sound as if they know every single detail about all 100 or so of the players on the eight teams assigned to the East subregional of the NCAA tournament.

If that happens, it will be because they've been cramming for the four games to be played at the MCI Center like a failing student before a critical exam.

Since the 64-team tournament draw was announced Sunday night, McDonough and Raftery have immersed themselves in as many details about Connecticut, South Carolina, Xavier, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington, Richmond and Fairleigh Dickinson as can possibly be digested in 72 hours.

"You can never be completely prepared," said Raftery, working his 16th tournament for CBS.

"To be completely prepared is to have seen all 30 of the games of all the teams, and you can't do that. But we've certainly got enough information on hand to do a good job."

The two men, who have worked together steadily over the past few years, both during the regular season and the tournament, have received faxes, media guides and about 20 tapes each from the teams and the network over the past three days.

Then, alongside sideline reporter Andrea Joyce, the two men interviewed the eight coaches assigned here yesterday, while watching the teams warm up.

"It helps that we've done the tournament together over the years. We know how we like to prepare and what the other is looking for," said McDonough, who is doing his eighth tournament.

There's plenty of memorizing to go around, to be sure, but the best way to make sure the information gets out is to write it down on something, like the manila folders McDonough has with biographical stuff on each player on all of the teams.

"Doing the charts is what takes so long. You have to write down which team runs this play, or who has the ankle sprain," said McDonough. "If you rely on your memory, especially with all that's going on here, you're going to miss something."

Only one of their games, however, the Connecticut-Fairleigh Dickinson contest, which tips off around 10: 10 p.m., will be seen here.

Opening Pandora's box

The first test of how all the ESPN entities -- television, radio, on-line and the new magazine -- will all peacefully co-exist is in, and the results are, shall we say, interesting.

The magazine, which debuts this week, reported the story of how Connecticut basketball player Nykesha Sales may not actually have the school's scoring record, even after her coach contrived for her to get it, but all the other members of the ESPN family also ran the story, effectively scooping the magazine.

Mike Soltys, an ESPN spokesman, said a magazine editor received a tip last week that Sales had been given credit for a basket during a January game against Seton Hall that she hadn't scored.

Magazine staffers began reporting and researching the story, down to watching film of the game to see when the basket took place. From there, Soltys said, the magazine turned the story over to the broadcast outlets when the book closed at 1 p.m. Wednesday, and the story aired on ESPNEWS, "SportsCenter" and ESPN Radio.

Soltys said ESPN Executive Editor John Walsh, who is in charge of both the magazine and broadcast newsrooms, will make the call on when and where stories appear.

"In some cases, John wants to be protective of the genesis of the story, if he doesn't feel that there's an immediate need [to broadcast the story]," Soltys said.

It certainly didn't hurt the magazine to have the giant machinery of the ESPN broadcast outlets drumming up publicity for the Sales story, and other pieces in the new publication, but one has to wonder about how sound a journalistic policy it is for stories to bounce around from broadcast to print and back within the same company.

CNN and Sports Illustrated have suffered a few "getting to know you" pains in the course of their marriage, and ESPN will probably experience the same.

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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