Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lessons Learned: Armstrong and Te’o scandals


These past few weeks, we have seen two major stories unfold right before our very eyes. Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah Winfrey he doped during his entire seven-year run as Tour de France champion.  Manti Te’o also admitted to Katie Couric he was duped by a guy who he thought was his girlfriend. The man who seems to be behind the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, is speaking out for the first time on Dr. Phil (Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in a two-part interview). From a sport media perspective, here are five lessons we have learned from these scandals:

1. 1st interviews were given to Oprah, Katie, and Dr. Phil. Why?

Who would have ever thought Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric and Dr. Phil would get the first exclusive televised interviews of figures from these to major stories? To understand the answer, one has to understand the audiences these stories really appeal to. These are not just sports stories. Armstrong didn’t just cheat; he also ruined people lives through character-attack lawsuits filed against people he competed against. These stories tailor more to tabloid news because it involves the lives of public figures. Armstrong, Te’o, and now Tuiasosopo’s public relations agents believed the best people to interview them were these daytime talk show hosts.

2. Appearing on these shows does not mean that America will forgive you.

A major motive behind these key figures appearing on daytime television is that their PR people think doing so will cast them in a positive light or be forgiven. But that’s not always the case.

Armstrong, Te’o, and Tuiasosopo have to understand appearing on these shows is just a building block to repairing their image, and they have to commit to tell the whole truth to everyone.

3. Daytime Talk Show hosts will still hold them accountable.

It is very clear the intended goal for these guys, especially Te’o, was to “dumb-down” the story for their audience. But the public relations campaigns for these characters undermined the audience and hosts of these programs. Couric and Winfrey were strong with direct questions and timely follow-ups. I expect Dr. Phil to do the same during his interview with Tuiasosopo later in the week.  

4. Timing is everything in this era’s 24-hour news cycle.

Both of these scandals have consumed the media. However, soon these stories will take a backseat to Super Bowl hype and other breaking new stories.

I question the decision by Dr. Phil to air his interview with Tuiasosopo right before the Super Bowl. While it is sweeps time, the timing of the interview is poor. Viewers will not care about this story as much as they would have if it was aired sooner. Winfrey and Couric had the advantage of having their interviews take place during an NFL off-week and the interviews aired within a week of each other.

5. Oprah and Couric asked all the right questions, mission accomplished.

The job of a journalist is to ask all the right questions every viewer would like to know without over-stepping boundaries with the public figures that they are interviewing. When the journalist finds the right balance, it is recognized by viewers and readers and allows them to form their own opinions. Winfrey and Couric have created a blueprint on how a major sports/news story should be covered.

BGSU Alumnus Goes Behind the Scenes at Super Bowl


The Super Bowl experience is like nothing else in sports – largely because the Super Bowl is so much more than a sports story. The world of sports, the advertising, media and entertainment industries all intersect at the Super Bowl, and it makes for one “giant” of a news story every single year

Around 2,000 reporters and photographers are credentialed for the Super Bowl every year, and in my career, I have been very fortunate to cover multiple Super Bowls, including the Indianapolis Colts’ victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI.

This year, the big game is in Indy, and I’ll be back to cover some of the Super Bowl festivities, including Media Day, where players and coaches from both teams answer questions on the field, in uniform.

There really are some quirky moments every year at Media Day. At the Super Bowl XLI media day back in ‘07, I still remember one reporter asking the Colts’ Antoine Bethea, “Who was the hottest Golden Girl?” I forget if he said Blanche or Sophia. These are obviously defining moments in journalism, but in all seriousness, it does make for good TV and provides unique, light-hearted access to both teams.

It’s also fun to get a chance to talk with other media from around the world, like Chris Berman and Stuart Scott from ESPN, who I met at my first Super Bowl, along with some of the crew from CBS, who were on hand to broadcast the game that year. Again this year, the NFL Network will be on hand. They will be televising the Media Day events live in the morning and again in the afternoon. They also stream it live on

This year, the NFL is also allowing fans to attend Media Day for the first time ever! All week, stadium tours have allowed fans to purchase tickets for a behind-the-scenes tour of Lucas Oil Stadium. My wife and I took the tour this weekend, and I’ve included some of the pictures from that tour, and some behind-the-scenes videos showing what it’s like around Indy, and inside the NFL media center.

Over the next few days, be sure to check back for more insights from Media Day and Super Bowl week. I’ll be posting more observations and behind-the-scenes information.

Editor’s Note: Dan Spehler is a BGSU graduate who majored in broadcast journalism, and took part in Richard Maxwell’s NFL Sport Media & Management class. Spehler has worked since 1999 as an anchor/reporter at TV stations across Ohio & Indiana, including WTVG & WUPW in Toledo, WDTN in Dayton, and WRTV in Indianapolis. He currently works as a reporter/anchor at WKRC in Cincinnati.

NFL Lineman Suggs Takes on the Media


Football fans from all over tuned in to watch a compelling AFC championship game on Sunday. As competitive as the game turned out to be, it was not the most exciting championship game many expected. Defense was a key strategic concept and play-by-play commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were on hand to help fans comprehend each down.

Leading up to the inevitable clash between the efficient Patriot offense and the highly-respected Ravens defense, there were a few instances where defensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, Terrell Suggs, took advantage of the media in order to give his opinion publicly on what he believed his team, mainly his quarterback (Joe Flacco), was capable of. Terrell Suggs made several appearances on ESPN’s First Take and SportsCenter aggressively refuting early reports of Flacco becoming “rattled” in their previous playoff game against the Houston Texans in which the Ravens won 20-13. He also had numerous debates with respected ESPN analyst and columnist Skip Bayless about how much faith he had in himself and his quarterback to get the job done come game-time against the legendary Tom Brady-led Patriots. 

These random media feuds Terrell Suggs took upon himself to spark only added even more anticipation to the already hyped confrontation between the Patriots and the Ravens. After all, the media is in the business of entertainment and Terrell Suggs was the top salesman this past week leading up to the game. Say what you want, but the entire media spectacle provided unbridled entertainment and humor and reminded people of the type of refreshing competitive atmosphere the playoffs can be.

As for the actual in-game commentary, announcers Simms and Nantz brought knowledge and clarity to the broadcast. A remarkable amount of time was spent on the play-by-play breakdowns during the game. This ultimately helped the audience notice different professional defensive schemes and formations that maybe had not been used throughout the regular season as often by the Ravens or Patriots. It was a tremendous help for the fans, because it allowed for an inside and deeper look into what was taking place on the field. This ratcheted the game up on the interest scale a lot more, especially seeing as there was not as much offense in the game as Patriots fans are used to seeing. 

Toward the end of the game, the announcers did a wonderful job of packaging the emotions expressed by the crowd at the game and being consistent in the delivery of their broadcast with those emotions. When the Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed the final field goal attempt by the Ravens to tie the game and go into overtime,  Nantz and Simms communicated through their emotions in their broadcast they were just as surprised as the fans that were in attendance at Gillette Stadium that night. It was a great approach to the broadcast which really made those who were tuning-in feel a part of the Ravens’ loss and the  Patriots’ victory. Overall, it was a great game coupled with a professional broadcast by experienced commentators.

Australian Open Male v. Female Coverage


Weekend coverage of the 2012 Australian Open for both men’s and women’s third round matches showed a lot of consistency in all phases of the media. Observing a men’s match and women’s match in tennis, especially in the early rounds, the announcers’ excitement is limited. The men’s match was Novak Djokovic against Nicolas Mahut and the women’s match was Maria Sharapova against Angelique Kerber.

Both of these matches were straight set wins and highly one-sided in favor of Djokovic and Sharapova. One thing that stood out in both the men’s and women’s matches was the need to keep the audience updated on all the current matches taking place.  Every 15 minutes or so,  it switched over to the other matches taking place and gave the audience a live look-in. Another factor of consistency was how the camera angles were used when the players were serving. In all tennis matches on television the forward shot of the camera was used so viewers can see the entire match.

The fundamental difference between the two matches is the announcers used for the matches. In the men’s match there were two male announcers and the terminology used was much more masculine compared with the women’s match, which had one male announcer and one female. One example to pull from the matches was a scenario that happened in each of the matches. Djokovic received a lob shot from his opponent and he finished the point with an overhead smash. This happened in the Sharapova match, also, but the terminology used by the announcers’ was different. In the men’s match the announcer referred to it as a “strong or powerful” point by Djokovic. In the women’s match, the announcer said, such a “pretty” point by Sharapova.

In comparing tennis matches between men and women, you can pick out many times where the choice of words in a women’s match will be more feminine compared to the words in men’s matches. Is it that big of a deal? No. But, treating a great play by either a male or female should be looked at and viewed as the same.

CBS Prematurely Reports Paterno’s Death


Late Saturday night, CBS Sports seriously undermined its credibility and committed a grave mistake when it prematurely and erroneously reported the death of Joe Paterno. The mistake is unforgivable.

Journalism is a competitive business. If a news organization is the first to “break” the story, viewers/readers may be more likely to turn to the source for news. There is much pressure among news organizations to be the first to break stories. But, in this instance, erroneously breaking the story of Paterno’s death caused irreparable damage to CBS Sports’ journalistic reputation.

CBS reported Paterno’s death based on information from an unofficial Penn State sports website. Using information from sources closer to the situation and attributing it to these sources is common place in journalism, but before reporting Paterno’s death, CBS should have confirmed with other sources before proceeding with its report. Meanwhile, other news outlets were not reporting Paterno had died. These outlets instead reported Paterno was in serious condition, according to the family.

Following CBS Sports’ report, a Paterno family spokesman denied Paterno had died.
CBS then immediately began backtracking on its story and issued an apology to the family via its Twitter page:

“Earlier Saturday night, published an unsubstantiated report that former Penn State coach Joe Paterno had died. That mistake was the result of a failure to verify the original report. holds itself to high journalistic standards, and in this circumstance tonight, we fell well short of those expectations. extends its profound and sincere apology to the Paterno family and the Penn State community during their difficult time.”

Less than 24 hours later, Paterno did die and CBS Sports reported on the death with information coming directly from the family.

What was to be gained from reporting Paterno’s death before confirming with several sources? 

Instead of breaking the news, CBS Sports had to spend the rest of Saturday night trying to recover and apologize for its error. 

In my opinion, great journalism following the death of an icon like Joe Paterno comes from the tribute stories, not based on which was the first to break the news.
Breaking news is important, but not as important as getting it right.

CBS Sports’ actions were an embarrassment to journalism.

Shulman and Brown Give ‘Informative Commentary’


The commentators for ESPN’s Timberwolves v. Clippers game were Dan Shulman on play-by-play and Hubie Brown on color commentary.  Both did a great job framing a very exciting game between two up-and-coming teams.  The duo also did a great job talking about most of the players on the floor, not just the story of Love v. Griffin. That could have been an overplayed storyline.  The best part of the commentary was when Brown used his vast basketball knowledge to diagnose mismatches and point out what the teams should be doing.

Brown did a great job displaying his basketball expertise by saying what was a good play or call.  He also told you what the mindset of the team or play was in a certain situation. For example, when point guard Luke Ridnour scored on a floater over DeAndre Jordan, Brown said: “Now that was beautiful, he was looking for the defense to rotate but they never rotated. That was a tough shot.” Brown also spoke about when players did something well or not.  In a play where center Darko Millic guarded Griffin in the post and blocked him, Brown explained why it was such great defense and how Millic put himself into position to make that play.  Also, every time a new player would come into the game Brown would talk about the new match-up or mismatch the player would cause on the court.  Brown explained to the audience what each team should be looking to do while they were struggling from outside or had trouble getting easy looks at the basket.

Shulman did a good job with the play-by-play. He never got too side-tracked by side conversations and stories with Brown.  Shulman worked well with Brown by setting him up well to speak on the strategy of the game.

The biggest story coming into the game was the all-star matchup between Griffin and Love. The broadcast did a good job showing statistical comparisons once and a while.  While they are the two biggest stars on each team, the game was taken over, for the most part, by Mo Williams and Millic in the early going.  ESPN did a good job showcasing the two players that were doing most of the scoring early in the game. 

The biggest call came at the end of the game with 1.5 seconds on the clock and a tie game when Kevin Love hit a deep three-pointer to beat the buzzer.  Shulman did a good job setting up the situation out of the time out and talked about the last time the Wolves had the lead and how they were down 15 at one point.  Then, Brown did a great job talking about how the play broke down and the Clippers failed to switch on the screen, which caused the open shot. Overall, it was a great broadcast with good camera shots and good informative commentary for a great basketball game.

Unprofessional media at the Australian Open?


An interesting dilemma occurred during a second round Men’s Singles match at the Australian Open when the No. 1 ranked American male Mardy Fish was playing Columbia’s Alejandro Falla. After Falla took the first two sets, the Tennis Channel team of commentators Bill McAtee, Martina Navratilova, and Justin Gimelstob observed Falla was beginning to cramp. In sharing that information with the television audience, Gimelstob and Navratilova remarked on their surprise he was cramping — in light of Falla’s fitness and the fact that weather conditions were cooler. As the match wore on, Gimelstob and Navratilova became increasingly critical of Fish’s tactics, as he had failed to utilize a body serve (a point Gimelstob has made repeatedly to his good friend Mardy Fish). Both criticized his reluctance to play more aggressively by going to the net to finish points. At one point, Gimelstob explained his friendship with Fish made it difficult to say these things (i.e., after making critical remarks, he suggested he might “need a new groomsman” for his May wedding after making these comments—thus confirming Fish was going to be in his wedding).

As the third set began, Falla’s cramping became more evident, prompting Fish to ask Gimelstob if he was cramping. After sharing with the other commentators what Fish had asked, Navratilova spun the following scenario: so he asked if Falla was cramping and you said yes… Gimelstob confirmed that this was what happened. If that is what he conveyed, this is clearly unprofessional behavior for a member of the media.

My question is this: was this coaching? Furthermore, when is or should coaching be allowed in tennis? Tennis commentators frequently point to the strict rules of the ATP and WTA (Men’s and Women’s Associations governing conduct in professional tennis), noting cases where one player’s camp may be violating these strict rules. According to the ATP and WTA rules of tennis, coaching is defined as “communication of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach” (Frost, 2011, para. 2). Clearly, communication occurred between Gimelstob and Fish. But is it a violation if the communication includes a commentator instead of a coach?

Admittedly Gimelstob is not Fish’s coach. That role belongs to South African David Nainkin. However, to complicate things, Gimelstob later acknowledged receiving a text from Mardy Fish’s father, who suggested perhaps Fish needed three coaches. He added that Navratilova and Gimelstob were on the mark so much they should be added to the mix. If that eventuality comes to pass, it would be clear communication between Fish, Gimelstob and/or Navratilova would be a violation. In the meantime, why is their communication not the same as “coaching” in this case?

Faldo-Miller Fall Short of Hype


The PGA Tour kicked off its 2012 campaign last weekend out in Hawaii with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The event, which is comprised solely of tournament winners from the previous season, annually provides snowbound golf fans such as myself with solid commercial-break material during the NFL playoffs as well as the chance to vicariously soak in some sunshine and 80 degree temperatures.

The Golf Channel, which has covered the 1st and 2nd rounds of every tour stop since 2007, provided full tournament coverage because CBS and NBC were still doing football. This year the network introduced a brand new wrinkle to their telecast. In December, it was announced that Johnny Miller, the opinionated color analyst for NBC, would share the booth for the opener with Nick Faldo, the top color man at CBS. The move caused a decent amount of buzz in the golf media. Miller, a two-time major champion and one of the foremost challengers to Jack Nicklaus during the 1970s, has been with NBC since 1990. He is best known for his blunt, plain-spoken analysis, which has upset a few players over the years, but nonetheless has made NBC’s coverage entertaining and informative. 

Faldo has six major championships to his credit and was one of the best players in the world from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. He started his broadcasting career at ABC in 2004 and drew rave reviews for his subtle, British sense of humor as well as for interesting and insightful anecdotes from his playing days. Faldo joined CBS in 2007 and has also worked for the Golf Channel since that time. Because of their contrasting styles, the straight-ahead Miller and the sly, witty Faldo were expected to be quite the pair. Instead, the duo proved to be nothing special.

During Friday’s opening round coverage, it took only a few minutes for anchor Dan Hicks to try and engage them in a little banter. The initial attempt fell flat as Faldo and Miller each seemed to be trying way too hard to say something funny. From there, they spent the next few minutes stumbling over one another as if each were racing to get the first word in after the shot was hit. Following the first commercial break, things calmed down a little bit, however Miller provided most of the analysis with Faldo contributing little in the way of substance. There were still zero funny or insightful exchanges between the two.

After about 50 minutes, the network made what I thought to be a curious decision when they pulled Miller from the booth and left Faldo with back-up anchor Terry Gannon—who relieved Hicks. For those who watch golf consistently, such a move is not all that unusual, as networks frequently rotate on-air talent to keep everyone fresh during the 5-6 hour broadcast. However, I thought Golf Channel might try and leave Faldo and Miller together for a longer stretch of time in an effort to develop some sorely-lacking chemistry. Miller returned to the booth after an hour, but the spark viewers had been promised was still missing. The only attempt at any sort of byplay was made by Faldo when he awkwardly poked fun at Miller for the stack of notes he had in front of him (It should be noted Faldo came to the booth armed with little more than a coffee cup). After about 10 minutes together, Miller left the booth again, and would not return for yet another hour. For hour three, they were back together again—this time with Hicks—for the rest of the broadcast. Again, Hicks tried often to set them up, but again, nothing much came out of his effort.

Overall, the tandem of Faldo and Miller fell far short of the expectation level the Golf Channel created for its viewers. While there was no detectable animosity between the two, they just did not have anything resembling a spark. Their back-and-forth exchanges felt stiff and forced, which disrupted the flow of the broadcast. Both were at their best when they operated as they would for a normal broadcast—allowing their individual styles to flourish uninhibited. Fortunately for the Golf Channel, most fans were probably watching the NFL playoffs anyway. They will have a few more tournaments to tinker with the format.