Local TV Provided Uneven Coverage for McGwire

By Frohlichstein, Tripp | St. Louis Journalism Review, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Local TV Provided Uneven Coverage for McGwire


Frohlichstein, Tripp, St. Louis Journalism Review


It was an event a television station could plan for, even if it didn't know exactly when the event would happen. Whenever it did happen, the 62nd home run for Mark McGwire would require extensive coverage. And that's exactly what happened on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Of the three telecasts reviewed by SJR - the 10 p.m. newscasts on KSDK (Channel 5), KMOV (Channel 4) and KDNL (Channel 30) - none stood out as spectacular.

Each station had its share of good stories and its share of low points. Comparing the three, Channel 5 had the best overall newscast. It spent less time covering McGwire during the 35 minutes being compared but used its time wisely. Although its McGwire coverage was good, the station apparently recognized that despite the new home run king's popularity, some people do want other news.

Channel 5

Channel 5 began with Rick Edlund showing excitement in his voice and face. Then, in a well-written piece, Deanne Lane described McGwire's achievement as he moved into "a field of his own." St. Louis' top sportscaster Mike Bush then took over. His superior work showed. He was superb as he described the video. He provided background details and statistics that added to what we saw. Bush then turned it over to Frank Cusamano to discuss the radio broadcast call of the homer.

It was a great idea to be in the booth with Mike Shannon as he called the big homer, noting that Shannon was a pallbearer in the Roger Maris funeral and that Shannon said Maris was his best friend. Cusamano also seemed comfortable reporting live in the big crowd.

But after Bush turned over the broadcast back to the anchors, the newscast briefly ground to a halt. In a rare display of confusion, Edlund was lost. He then found his place in the script and read the wrong words. Lane then tried to turn it over to Dan Gray but he wasn't on camera yet. So, showing her professionalism, without missing a beat, Lane introduced Jeff Fowler instead. Fortunately for her, he was ready to go.

Fowler had spent his time that night with people outside the stadium. Channel 5 had video of the crowd going wild outside the stadium as Big Mac hit the home run. Next, Fowler had a piece on souvenirs and talked with fans outside the stadium. Then, Dan Gray was introduced at a bar close to Busch Stadium. Again (more than any other station), Channel 5 had its cameras rolling when McGwire hit number 62. After seeing everyone cheer, several people added their comments about how much they like McGwire. Ruth Ezell in the middle of a noisy crowd covered the covered the manufacture of 62nd homer merchandise and how materials were prepared as McGwire approached the record.

Channel 5 then reported on Roger Maris' widow being hospitalized.

After watching Channel 5, I felt I got much more than I did from Channel 4, although Channel 4 spent more time covering the event. Channel 5 recognized other news was necessary and was the only station to cover several other stories during the normal newscast time.

On the down side, Channel 5's timing was off and it missed the beginning of McGwire's post-game news conference (perhaps the story should have dumped some commercials and cut directly to the news conference). Once coverage began, several times during the news conference, which was broadcast inside the stadium, Channel 5 smartly cut to crowd shots to see them react.

Channel 4

Channel 4 began with Julius Hunter pushing too hard to read his opening McGwire headlines with vigor. He didn't really sound excited and looked funny with the Redbird hat on. Once into the newscast, Channel 4 was flat during the beginning of the story, showing the home run and video from outside the stadium. The wide shots outside the stadium failed to capture the excitement. After about 60 seconds, we finally saw Steve Several following an aerial shot of the stadium and a static shot of people outside the stadium. Sevard ad-libbed a narration of the homer but added nothing that hadn't been said or couldn't have been seen. …

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