Big-Name Hunt

February 26, 2001

Ahab chased a great white whale. For Lisa Guerrero, a reporter at
Fox Sports Net, the elusive prey was a 7-foot NBA center who in
January announced that he was boycotting the media. "For a few
weeks," says Guerrero, "I pursued Shaquille O'Neal relentlessly."
She discovered that one of Shaq's favorite shows was Fox's You
Gotta See This!, so she procured taped episodes for him. Before
Lakers home games Guerrero made small talk with the Shaq flacks,
agent Leonard Armato and Lakers director of public relations John
Black. After games she made herself visible by stationing herself
by O'Neal's locker. "Finally, as he arrived for a [Feb. 4] game
against Sacramento," says Guerrero, "I sprung on him as he
stepped out of his car and asked him [for an interview]. He said,
'Sure, let's do it this week.'"

Two days later, portions of Guerrero's half-hour sit-down with
O'Neal, the first time he'd spoken with a member of the media in
weeks, aired nationally on Fox Sports Net. "For someone like me
who's not known nationally," she says, "an interview like that
helps establish name and credibility."

"There's a healthy dose of competitiveness when it comes to
getting superstar athletes to do exclusive interviews," says ESPN
anchor Stuart Scott. "Not just between networks. There's
competition within the shop, too." On the Friday of NBA All-Star
weekend, Scott won bragging rights in Bristol when his 30-minute
session with Michael Jordan aired on ESPN's Up Close. Scott
already had established himself as a big-name hunter, having in
the past two years bagged Sammy Sosa, Tiger Woods and Bill
Clinton.

A possible career-maker came last Thursday night when CNN's
Sports Tonight devoted its program to an exclusive with Rae
Carruth, the Panthers' wide receiver who was convicted of
conspiracy to murder his girlfriend, Cherica Adams. CNN/SI's
Leslie Boghosian, 30, who had covered Carruth's trial and
established a good rapport with his attorney, David Rudolf,
conducted the interview. Rudolf had informed Boghosian that he
and Carruth wanted her to have exclusivity.

Boghosian did a terrific job. She's also out of one. Boghosian
was laid off on Jan. 22, a victim of the cutbacks at CNN/SI (the
television arm of this magazine). Why did Boghosian continue to
work for a network that only three weeks earlier had let her go?
"I felt that it was the right thing to do," she says. "But you
know what? A lot of people advised me to use the interview as a
bargaining chip for a new job."

--J.W.

"For someone like me, an interview [with Shaq] helps establish
credibility," says Fox's Guerrero.

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