Broadcast the 'breaking' news, but its source, too

Media Watch

May 26, 1998|By Milton Kent

As a "Media Watch" public service, we're going to let you in on a little secret that is true no matter where you go: Most of the stories you hear and see on local radio and television -- news or sports -- originated in the newspaper.

The reasons for that truism are obvious. Given their time constraints, not to mention the fact that newspaper reporting staffs are generally at least two or three times larger than those of their broadcast counterparts, most local television stations and all but a few radio stations can't devote the commensurate amount of time to sports and news coverage that newspapers can in terms of space.

Many broadcast outlets do a fine job, under the circumstances, but they can't match the paper, and most wouldn't want to. With the cost of equipment (satellite dishes and time, cameras, tape machines and so forth) being so prohibitive, it's usually cheaper for radio and television stations to take the material that has run in the paper and reshape it to their purposes.

That's fine, as long as said outlets give credit for the source of the material on important stories, which brings us to Sunday's Channel 11 morning news, in which two rather significant stories that appeared in this newspaper got short shrift from that station's on-air personnel.

During the 8 a.m. hour, sports anchor Tim Morris relayed that the Washington Post was reporting that Orioles officials were considering a trade of Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets, but neglected to mention that this newspaper was reporting the same story. An Associated Press story similarly only credited the Post.

News anchor Julie Chapman then read a story about Orioles general manager Pat Gillick and heat he is taking from local Hispanic groups for remarks he made about reliever Armando Benitez after last week's brawl in New York. A quote, lifted verbatim from a Thursday story from these pages, appeared on-screen with no attribution.

In and of themselves, these two incidences mean little, but, over XTC the past few months, our friends at both Channel 11 and WBAL Radio (1090 AM) -- both owned by Hearst -- have been notoriously stingy about crediting newspaper accounts, usually falling on the phrase "published reports" to indicate that the information was gathered by someone other than their news staffs.

No reporter or editor or manager likes to get beaten on a story, but it happens from time to time, because as hard as we work to gather news, we don't or can't get everything.

But when an organization gets scooped on a big story, just as when Channel 11 and WBAL jointly broke the news of the Browns' move here from Cleveland nearly three years ago, the competition should acknowledge the victor and work hard to get the next one.

A good first move

As we've said here on a number of occasions, the relationship between the NBA and NBC has been way too chummy over the years, but Sunday's "NBA Showtime" piece on the pending showdown between the league and its players over the collective bargaining agreement was a welcome change from the normal.

True, the report seemed a bit skewed toward the league, and reporter Peter Vecsey's questions and tone toward players association head Billy Hunter were far more pointed than his demeanor toward Russ Granik, the NBA's deputy commissioner. But it's good to see NBC, which cornered commissioner David Stern last weekend, at least addressing issues. We'll hope for more of the same.

Want fries with that?

We can't let the hoopla over the 20,000th "SportsCenter" completely die down without relaying a Chris Berman story, told both on ESPN Radio and to a Washington reception last week.

It seems that Berman and Greg Gumbel were working a "SportsCenter" on the first week that the "Sunday Conversation" long-form interview premiered. Berman couldn't remember who the interview subject was, but he recalls that both he and Gumbel were hungry.

So, the pair had an associate get a car warmed during the show, and just after the interview started, Gumbel and Berman jumped into the waiting car and drove across the street from the ESPN complex in Bristol, Conn., to a McDonald's, where they ordered dinner.

They then carried their food back into the ESPN building and onto the set, where they had just enough time to get a couple of bites, clean their faces and pick up the show right at the end of the interview.

"If the tape had clogged, well, we're at McDonald's," said Berman sheepishly last week.

To which the ever-snappy Dan Patrick replied: "Yeah, working there."

Pub Date: 5/26/98

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