TV news channels – both sports and general interest – may have a lot to gain from higher viewer interest in sports topics these days. At the same time, they are worried about their journalistic responsibilities.
When it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, one might give the sports journalists a little more credit than they have received. Sports journalists in this country -- and those in Europe, who cover the likes of cycling, track & field and other sports -- have been on the case for a number of years with uneven degrees of success.
But what about figuring out whether someone's girlfriend is alive? That's a different sports beat for sure.
Right now there’s many anger-laced opinions from TV sports journalists who believe they made mistakes by buying into the "myth" around Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o and his story.
What do TV sports consumers really think? That they can't count on sports journalists for real-time news?
Sports journalists -- like all journalists -- do not like being “taken.” But nothing is actually broken. In fact, the Te’o revelations just caused a rubber-band effect by boomeranging viewers back to TV sports and to general newscasts to figure out what happened.
Years ago, I worked for news editors who gathered us for a pep talk about how we were going to break a lot of stories, be aggressive, and "never, never make a mistake." Really. That said, knowing that mistakes will happen shouldn't be an excuse. What is really a problem is when sports journalists -- and other journalists -- aren't ready to remedy the situation with less emotion when those errors occur.
Going forward, some might worry about other TV-derived "myths" -- Te'o or Armstrong. But one thing is for sure: when TV viewers are treated to angry TV commentators, networks will be treated to higher TV viewership.
Look at the higher ratings for OWN's "Oprah's Next Chapter" and her special Lance Armstrong interview. Surely, ESPN is also receiving higher viewership from all of this -- mixed in, of course, with the usual high interest from end-of-the-year NFL playoffs leading into the Super Bowl.
And next week, get ready for higher ratings for the "Katie" daytime syndicated talk show when Katie Couric interviews --on camera for the first time -- Te'o and his family.
If viewers and marketers pay attention to these interviews, they'll be better off the next time around. Until one's TV-supplied memory fails again.