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HOW WILL ESPN PRESENT "REPLACEMENT BASEBALL TONIGHT"?
Published March 24, 1995
Last night, ESPN aired its season premiere of "Baseball Tonight," the nightly baseball news and highlights show. With owners ready to open the season with replacements, the media's presentation of the sport is being closely watched. Yesterday, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with Bob Rauscher, Senior Coordinating Producer of "Baseball Tonight," about the editorial decisions they face and their plans for dealing with viewers' high level of skepticism. THE DAILY: What is the editorial policy toward showing replacement baseball highlights on "Baseball Tonight"? Do you plan any changes from last year's telecast? RAUSCHER: Right now the policy will be, for lack of a better phrase, to cover the story. We will show what is happening in baseball. At the moment, we will show what is happening with replacement games, what is happening with the strike negotiations, and what is going on with the players who are out on strike. Our coverage will cover the entire spectrum of what is happening in Major League Baseball. THE DAILY: Is there any pressure for the show to not take sides? If you show replacement highlights, do you feel that legitimizes the game and works to the owners advantage? RAUSCHER: No, I think that we are coming at it as a news event. There was a game happening and we are showing it. We are not passing judgment on whether they should be or should not be played. We just think they are being played. It is obviously a fine line to make sure our presentation plays it straight. THE DAILY: When covering plays made in replacement games, will it be noted that there is a difference in the level of talent? And, isn't it possible that "Baseball Tonight" could turn into a nightly bloopers reel? RAUSCHER: I don't think we want to get into a blooper reel or a slap-stick presentation that says, 'Wow, look at this string of poor plays.' On the other hand, I don't think we are going to be an apologist. If there is a bad play, it is going to be obvious that it was a bad play. So I think we will work very hard to find the right balance between an accurate portrayal of what is happening, and not being too far editorially towards one side or the other. THE DAILY: Are people going to watch replacement baseball and the highlights? RAUSCHER: We hope they will, since we are doing them. If I knew that answer I would probably have the strike solved by now. Our job is to service the viewer. We have promised them baseball shows, so that is what we will deliver. I am not going to sit here and say that I think there will be the same interest for the fans. But again, for fans who are baseball fans and want to keep up with what is happening in the game, I think we want to reinforce that we are the source of that type of information. The goal of "Baseball Tonight" is to be the daily record of what is happening in baseball. So with that said, I think that is the approach we have to take. There are things that are out of our control, we can't worry about them. THE DAILY: With some outlets not televising games, will that affect your ability to get highlights? RAUSCHER: Yes, it will certainly impact our coverage. We will have to see what games have been cancelled as far as being broadcast, and we will have to make alternate provisions -- or cover them ourselves if we deem it necessary to get highlights from those. THE DAILY: As far as referencing the players, are they replacment players, major league players or scabs? RAUSCHER: The phrase "replacements" has been used and there certainly has been discussion whether that is a management phrase or not -- although it has become an accepted common phrase out there. Certainly once the regular season starts, it gets to a whole other discussion.