With Jimmy Johnson's supposed "big announcement" on Sunday
on whether he will stay in TV or return to coaching next year,"
Larry Stewart of the L.A. TIMES writes, "Sports television has
given new meaning to the term checkbook journalism. ... Fox is in
a ratings war with NBC, and the network knows it will win big on
Sunday, beating its rival at its own game with a bought-and-paid-
for 'exclusive.'" "Fox NFL Sunday" producer Scott Ackerson, on
last week's skit in which Johnson wore Eagles and Buccaneers
hats: "We were spoofing oursleves" (L.A. TIMES, 12/16). But one
NFL GM was not amused: "It stinks. It's totally non-
professional. This league is not a circus." In Washington,
Leonard Shapiro writes, "Journalistically, Johnson's decision
ought to be the lead story in Sunday's pregame show. ... Then
again, Fox Sports has never claimed to have anything to do with
journalism" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/16). On HBO's "Inside the NFL,"
Johnson addressed the hype he helped create: "I'm enjoying what
I'm doing and if I decide to stay in television, that's what I'll
do. ... If I decided to go back into coaching, I'd like to have a
team prior to the Super Bowl" (HBO, 12/15). HBO's Nick
Buoniconti: "Jimmy's having his cake and eating it, too. He'll
get a new deal from Fox for $1 million (up from $650,000). I'm
sure HBO ($250,000) will up the ante, too." Fox Sports
spokesperson Vince Wladika denied the million dollar figure:
"It's not that high" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 12/16).
KNIGHT-RIDDER's Nelson & Raissman write that a Turner-NBC
merger would create a "sports giant" -- with the broadcast and
cable rights to the NBA under one roof, as well as NBC
properties: the AFC, golf, The Baseball Network and Notre Dame
football (MIAMI HERALD, 12/16)....Warren Buffett bought a 4.9%
stake in Gannett, causing Gannett stock to immediately jump 8.2%.
The move coincided with Gannett's naming of David Mazzarella of
the new Editor of USA TODAY (WALL STREET JOURNAL,
12/16)....Executives at ESPN, ABC and NBC said it is too early to
speculate on what will be done if the MLB season opens with
replacement players (Mike Jensen, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/16).