If it's a sporting event and it's on television or the radio, chances are Bob Raissman will have an opinion on the way it was broadcast.
Raissman has been covering the world of sports media for the New York Daily News in his "Tuning In" column since 1987. He spoke to PRWeek about the sports broadcasting world.
PRWeek: How did you get involved in covering sports media?
Bob Raissman: When I first got into the business I wanted to do sports, but it's hard because a lot of people want to do it. I started writing about sports marketing at Advertising Age in the early 80's and I developed a niche there.
PRWeek: What are the challenges of writing an everyday column on sports media in New York?
Raissman: The biggest one is coming with an idea that's different. If you look at the networks they just like to hype what they have coming up, but I tend to stay away from that, so I wind up watching a lot of television and listening to the radio just to see if I can come up with something with a different angle, or something that's more newsy and gives me a chance to give an opinion.
PRWeek: Do you watch more TV or listen to more radio during a regular week?
Raissman: It depends. With the New York Knicks going through their struggles, I try to key into that and see how the announcers are handling that, and talk to people on that beat so I can try to come out with a media angle for the angle of the Knicks. So I'll spend a lot of time watching their games. Today I'm watching the World Baseball Classic coverage and listening to the Barry Bonds coverage at the same time. I try to drift and go to where the news is.
PRWeek: What do you like about covering sports media?
Raissman: I like it a lot. The people involved in it are interesting. The fans have very passionate opinions about what the announcers say, what radio talk show hosts say and what writers write, so you get that instant feedback, which is good. And the challenge of coming up with something different every time is also something I like. It never gets old and you never find yourself thinking, 'Oh I'm doing this again.' It's always different. I get a lot of leeway to do it the way I want to do it. Sometimes editors will give me an idea or ask me to do something, but for the most part I come up with my own ideas and do it my own way. And that's something anyone in this business would appreciate.
PRWeek: What don't you like about today's sports media environment?
Raissman: There's a lot of things. If I didn't see a lot of things I didn't like I don't think I'd have a job. There's been a trend now with broadcasters for teams to take more of a sway toward the team itself. It's kind of covert in that they say they're never told what to say, but it's what they don't say. Recently, in a Knick game there was a play where the Knicks' Stephon Marbury got his shot blocked at one end of the court and he started arguing with the ref because he thought he got fouled. The ball ended up in the hands of a Chicago Bulls player at the other end who hit a three-point shot to put Chicago ahead late in the game. The Knick announcer said that Marbury got there late to cover him but he didn't tell you why he got there late. It's the little things, and maybe I'm crazy to look at things like that, but I feel that people watching the game see that stuff happening. And that kind of thing bothers me. I think we have a thing going on here that we have to pay attention to. The New York Yankees have their own network, which I have written a lot about, and the New York Mets are starting their own network this season and these are things we have to watch and see how they're handled. And it's part of the job to be a watchdog on these things.
PRWeek: Do you think there are too many media outlets, specifically in New York, covering sports?
Raissman: There are a lot of them, and it gets to the point for me where there is a lot to cover just in New York, but I guess that's the nature of the times we're living in.
You have traditional media, print and electronic, and now you have all the bloggers. You look at a sport like boxing that doesn't really get covered by the mainstream media as much as it used to, but there are so many different Web sites that cover it, and if you go to a boxing press conference, the majority of the people there are from these sites. It's all competition, so I guess it's good.
PRWeek: How has the landscape of sports media changed for the better?
Raissman: There's more of it, obviously, and I don't necessarily think that's bad. I think people might get into the print business with an eye on going into television... but if you're going to be a reporter on this level, I think you should give it some commitment.
A lot of people are down on sports radio, but I think it's become a place where you can check the pulse of sports in a city, and despite all the critiques I might deliver on some people in sports radio, I think it's a very helpful thing to have in this business.
PRWeek: What makes a good sports PR person?
Raissman: A person who understands their business and understands your column. Someone who knows what you're looking for and knows what you write about and when you write, and someone who is willing to talk with you about something other than their own self-interests.
PRWeek: Are there any networks or personalities you like covering?
Raissman: Not really. I'm kind of a day-to-day guy. I can like somebody one day and rip him the next.
PRWeek: Is that the best part of your job?
Raissman: Having that freedom to go either way is great. You have to look at it this way: I can't do a great job every day and neither can an announcer. Over the years, I try to let certain things go that, years ago, I would have been all over. Now, I'm more into the integrity of what he/she is doing, if they're giving me the news and seeing that they're not making the broadcast about themselves. It's good to not be locked into anything. I never say to myself that I was positive today so I have to be negative the next. Things just hit you.
PRWeek: Anything you would like to see changed in the sports media field?
Raissman: I would like to see more people who aren't ex-athletes get the chance to be analysts. But I think there are a lot of ex-athletes who do a good job as analysts.
PRWeek: Do you think ESPN does a good job of covering sports?
Raissman: I think ESPN has become all-consuming, and I think it's too self-promotional. They do some good stuff, but the line has been drawn where they're more about entertainment, and more power to them. But just don't try to have it both ways.
PRWeek: What's the most interesting story you've seen recently?
Raissman: It's what's happened at Madison Square Garden under Cablevision, from the networks to the teams - the whole thing. It's kind of sad in a way, but it's also interesting to see how something can be turned around this drastically in a negative fashion and watching how a big company can do what it wants to do.
PRWeek: Who serves as their own best PR person?
Raissman: The best one now might be right in New York: Tiki Barber. You can't find many people that will say anything bad about him. His story on the field is good, and he's a good communicator and he's pretty much setting himself up for another career, and he comes across as a genuine guy. He did get in a little hot water with his comments about his coach (Tom Coughlin) after their playoff this past year. But that was very unlike him.
PRWeek: Who is the worst?
Raissman: [Knicks player] Stephon Marbury. I think he needs some coaching, but I don't think he really cares though. [Knicks Owner] James Dolan: Who could believe his last state of the Knicks address?
PRWeek: What did you think about the Olympic coverage?
Raissman: Honestly, I didn't watch much of it. If I found something that I really wanted to write about, I would have. But it seemed every time I turned it on to watch, there was a commercial on.
PRWeek: What recent story wasn't covered the way it should have been?
Raissman: The whole Al Michaels situation where he broke his contract with ABC to join NBC and do Sunday night football is one. Too much emphasis was put on the fact that NBC gave up this cartoon as part of the settlement, and didn't focus on the fact this guy broke a contract. He signed a contract to stay and do Monday Night Football on ESPN, and then he broke it. This is what bothers me a lot, the hypocrisy of the media and the hypocrisy of the network guys. Al Michaels can get on Monday Night Football and pass a judgment on a player being unhappy with his contract. Everyone is saying 'Oh man it was a trade, it was a cartoon.' No, they let this guy off the hook. He's full of shit. He broke a contract. But he's got no problem getting on someone else. He, to me, is even worse than players like Terrell Owens, because Owens is what he is. Owens made no bones he wanted out of his deal. This was more of media being used. That might have been a slick PR move. I'm not saying this was a big story, but I think [the media] missed the point. It was just disappointing he's got to do what he's got to do. It's his life. But he can't expect to not get criticized for that, and I think he probably did expect to get criticized for that.
PRWeek: What's the most interesting story you've seen recently?
Raissman: It's what's happened at Madison Square Garden under Cablevision, from the networks to the teams, the whole thing. It's kind of sad in a way, but it's also interesting to see how something can be turned around this drastically in a negative fashion, and watching how a big company can do what it wants to do. I don't think they care what's said about them.
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