SBD/Issue 98/Sports Media

The A-Rod Story: MLB Net Praised For Coverage, Roberts Interview

Any fear that MLB Network would "try to paint the league in an exclusively positive light was eradicated Saturday" with its coverage of the Sports Illustrated report that Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in '03, according to Will Leitch of NEW YORK magazine. The network’s coverage, featuring Bob Costas, Matt Vasgersian, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci "was gripping, tough, fair, and completely on point." Leitch: "The MLB Network is no house organ." If MLB Network "ends up being a success, Saturday’s breaking-news coverage of A-Rod will be its Hugh Grant on Leno moment” (NYMAG.com, 2/9). In DC, Jim Williams writes there are "defining moments that established when a network makes it to the big time," and for MLB Network, that moment "came Saturday" when Costas interviewed SI's Selena Roberts, who along with SI's David Epstein broke the Rodriguez story. Any thought the net "would run away from controversy was silenced" with the interview. Credit must go to MLB Net "for getting Costas on the air with Roberts and showing anyone who had any doubt that they would be a force in the marketplace when it comes [to] breaking news in baseball" (Washington EXAMINER, 2/9). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote MLB Net was "all over" the SI report, and Costas' interview with Roberts was "one highlight" of the coverage. Best: "So much for concerns the mostly-MLB-owned MLB Network would be reluctant to tackle uncomfortable stories" (NEWSDAY.com, 2/7). THE BIG LEAD writes "what a move by MLB Network" to get Costas to sit down with Roberts. While the net "isn't likely to break any news on the steroid front, the mere fact that they were reacting so quickly to such a negative story was rather impressive." THE BIG LEAD: "Guess the network won't just be a PR arm for the sport" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 2/9).

MORE KUDOS: On Long Island, Ken Davidoff wrote the SI report is a "disgrace for our government, which couldn't protect this very sensitive information." But the report is a "journalistic triumph" for Roberts and Epstein (NEWSDAY, 2/8)....The EXAMINER's Williams writes ESPNews also was "all over the story," as ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y.'s Andrew Marchand did a "masterful job of getting listener reaction" (Washington EXAMINER, 2/9).

TV MONITOR: The SI report on Rodriguez was covered by all the major network news shows that aired. Saturday’s edition of CBS’ “Evening News” led with Rodriguez, with 5:29 of total coverage. Following a taped report, SI’s Tom Verducci appeared live via satellite to discuss the situation with anchor Jeff Glor. Saturday’s edition of NBC’s “Nightly News” first reported on Rodriguez at 4:57 into the broadcast, with 2:45 of coverage. Saturday’s edition of ABC’s “World News” first aired a report on Rodriguez at 7:30, with 1:46 coverage. On Sunday morning, NBC's “Today” featured the co-hosts discussing Rodriguez at 0:48, with 5:56 of coverage. Following a taped report, N.Y. Times columnist William Rhoden appeared live in-studio to discuss the issue. ABC's “GMA” featured the co-hosts first discussing Rodriguez at 1:56, with 3:05 of coverage, while CBS’ “CBS News Sunday Morning” first aired a report on Rodriguez at 3:50, with 0:19 of coverage. Rodriguez also was the main story on several news Web sites, including CNN.com and MSNBC.com, for a large portion of Saturday afternoon (THE DAILY).

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