CBS drops the ball in coverage of the Chiefs' murder-suicide tragedy
We live in a Bayless-ian age of hyperbole where can-you-top-this snap judgments are delivered for maximum viewership and page views. So I want readers to know the following sentence was considered with deliberation and thought:
Viewers understand that networks have bills to pay and can tolerate mild product placement. But common sense and decency should always carry the day, and 24 hours after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins (the mother of their three-month old daughter, Zoe),
You didn't need a GPS to realize how far off the opening was and had CBS's producers tuned in to ESPN or the NFL Network earlier in the day, they would have seen a pair of networks exhibiting the proper sobriety at the top of a show following a double shooting involving an NFL player.
Had CBS headed straight into thoughtful analysis and reporting of the story after its opener, it would have saved itself from
Think about that kind of editorial judgment. What did
The host then gave a 90-second recap of the news from Kansas City before introducing reporter Lesley Visser, who was live at Arrowhead Stadium. Visser interviewed Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt on the field and did get off at least one good question: Why did the Chiefs management deem it inappropriate to wear Belcher's number on the players' jerseys? "Under the circumstances, we didn't think it was appropriate to honor just one and not the other," said Hunt, sounding much smarter than CBS yesterday.
But Visser was gone faster than Usain Bolt and followed by CBS information reporter Jason LaCanfora, who reported on the Panthers deferring to the Chiefs for a decision on whether the game should be played. That should have led into some kind of discussion on all the issues at play here, but the
After the crew hawked the CBS-owned Victoria's Secret Fashion Show ("Oooh, Justin Bieber," Brown cooed excitedly of the guest list), the show embarked on its usual segments. Finally, about 40 minutes into the
Unlike ESPN, CBS did not have a graphic to commemorate the life of Kasandra Perkins (they did show a photo of Perkins and her daughter), nor did its viewers learn that Perkins was the cousin of the wife of Jamaal Charles (Alas, CBS would need more than a Garmin GPS to find those reporting details, as well.)
Instead, viewers were treated to business as usual at CBS on a day that was anything but. It was abysmal television and it left me disgusted as a viewer.
(SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the weekend. The first four entries will recap how some of the other pregame shows did on the murder-suicide story.)
Yesterday, on ESPN's
Though Berman at one point misidentified the age of the victim, the show paid her tribute with co-host Tom Jackson reminding viewers not to forget the 22-year-old Perkins. "We hear about what a great teammate he [Belcher] was and how close some of the guys were to him; he is in fact a guy who is a murderer, who has taken the life of Kasandra Perkins as a new mom and left a little girl without her parents," Jackson said. "So, you know, as we look at the outpouring of all of the sympathy that will go toward Jovan Belcher today, I would ask people to remember Kasandra Perkins, this 22-year-old new mom who lost her life to gun violence."
NFLN's executives and its talent have always been aggressive with reporters to counter the notion that they are a house organ for the league. They've also hired journalists on the TV side, including Andrea Kremer to lead a group on player health and safety. So why did the network opt not to go to a live studio format on Saturday morning to cover a murder-suicide involving an NFL player?
Here's spokesperson Alex Riethmiller. "NFL Network became aware of the breaking news in Kansas City shortly before 8 a.m. PT (NFLN's studios are located in California) on Saturday. Immediately, a story went up on NFL.com, which was composed of information from NFL.com reporters Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer, as well as wire services. At 8 a.m. PT, NFL Network broke into regularly scheduled programming (a repeat of
This is true, though incredibly unsatisfactory. Yes, the network doesn't have live programming on Saturday mornings, but given how weighty and newsworthy this story was, you send an anchor in to host coverage. Watching the NFL Network air a repeat of a show with Sharpe and Millen brought to mind the Big Ten Network airing old football games during the live announcement of the Freeh Report. The network did open with the story on Sunday morning and sent reporter Randy Moss to Kansas City to provide live updates and reports. Riethmiller said Moss will remain in Kansas City as long as needed.
Menefee then did something that viewers should really appreciate: He mentioned that Kasandra Perkins was training to be a teacher, a detail no other network mentioned, and one that humanized the victim of a senseless crime. Co-host Terry Bradshaw then followed with a welcome note beyond the usually jockocracy stuff. "Let's not overstate this so much that we forget about the real importance here of what is left behind," Bradshaw said. "We have a three-month-old baby girl who has lost her momma and her daddy. Both of them are gone. Therein lies the tragedy."
Menefee then closed the segment: "When we come back, we'll talk football." Well done, Fox.
Haslam said the cameras have been with the Browns for the last couple of weeks and will be around for the next month. "I think everybody was a little nervous at first, myself included," Haslam said. "And obviously, particularly, the coaches. But I think we did a nice job of laying out the ground rules in terms of when the cameras would be present and when they would not. I think all of us have gotten used to it as the process has gone on."
The owner's nerves were somewhat mitigated by the involvement of his wife, Dee, who runs the production company, RIVR Media. "When we got involved with the Browns, we felt like it was an underdeveloped brand and I think this is a great way to develop what we think is a tremendous brand," Haslam said. "Let's face it, we have a very young team and we have struggled this season, but we have played almost every game tough. We are 3-8 [now 4-8] but we could easily be 6-5 or 5-6. We lost a couple of games right at the end. We just hope it continues to raise the awareness of the Cleveland Browns."
6. Newsday's ace reporter Neil Best recently interviewed Jamie Horowitz, an ESPN VP of original programming and the Bristol executive who oversees
6a. I'll say this about Horowitz: The producers who have worked with him say he's a talented guy. I just wish he'd use those talents for something meaningful. Speaking of flotsam, the
7. Really liked this inventive use of storytelling by the Grantland Network. The producers of
• ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski