Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Anonymous Sources Rule Wednesday
The barren wasteland of Wednesdays continues to haunt the NASCAR Now gang in 2008. The last race is long since done, the previews don't make sense until Thursday and the industry news is slow. What to do?
ESPN2 has tried to answer this question over-and-over again on this NASCAR show. One solution is apparently to just make things up. When NASCAR Now needs that, they summon David Newton. Even after Newton's recent public relations disaster with Martin Truex Jr. and DEI, there he was front-and-center once again. Here is the Truex reaction to Newton's original report.
On this Wednesday, Newton stated exactly the same thing about Ryan Newman that he had said about Truex. Newton's assertion was that Ryan Newman had signed with Stewart-Haas Racing. He knew this from an anonymous source. He also knew that there were lots of details that needed to be worked out, so there probably would not be an announcement about this topic for a long while. How convenient.
While on-camera, Newton spoke quickly and nervously about this topic. He sometimes spoke so fast it was hard to understand what he was saying. Host Ryan Burr was quick to interject that a Stewart-Haas spokesperson had denied Newton's report by saying talks were on-going with several drivers. Burr actually said "that is their reaction to your news today."
Newton was next quizzed about Kyle Petty's future since the announcement that he would sit-out Pocono and Michigan. Newton said he "talked to somebody in the garage" who told him Kyle was contemplating what to do next season. Newton said Petty was considering becoming a full time (TV) analyst next season. That would mean Petty would unseat either Phil Parsons, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace or Jimmy Spencer. Is that really what Newton wanted to suggest?
Burr was not letting Newton off-the-hook and the experienced news anchor had a lot more questions. Next up was the Truex fiasco and Burr asked Newton point-blank if "anything had changed" since Newton's original story and Truex's angry denial. The answer was once again that the reason Newton's story had not been confirmed was that "there are details to be worked out."
During this entire segment, it seemed that Burr was questioning Newton's credibility. In fact, when Brad Daugherty was brought-in to the program, Burr's first question to Daugherty asked about "Newton's report" of a signed Newman contract. Unfortunately, new Sprint Cup Series owner Daugherty ran away from the issue at a very high rate of speed.
"I think its an outstanding opportunity." said Daugherty side-stepping the question. Daugherty referred to the potential combination of Stewart and Newman as the "dynamic duo." It was Daugherty's assertion that things between these two would go fine, unless the cars did not run well. Sometimes, Daugherty just misses the mark in this solo role as a commentator.
Burr was still not done with Newton's credibility. NASCAR Now next played-back a videotape of Newman shot Wednesday while he visited the Buffalo Bills training camp. On it, Newman is asked about Stewart. "He has his stuff to do and I have my stuff to do and there are other options out there," was his response.
"That doesn't necessarily seem like a guy that is 100% committed," said Burr of Newman. Burr asked Daugherty about this issue and again Daugherty ran for the hills. His response was about Roger Penske's ownership history and the fact that if Newman made the move to Stewart-Haas, he would be starting from scratch. As most fans know, Haas is one of the most well-equipped smaller teams and Newman would be getting, among other things, a wind tunnel.
This show had almost a creepy dynamic to it as Newton made his way through his NASCAR stories. That feeling grew as the host openly challenged one of ESPN.com's own NASCAR writers about the validity of his "sources" and the information that resulted. When is the last time we have seen that?
Last season, ESPN's reporters provoked strong reactions in the garage with their tabloid style of journalism. All three of those reporters, David Amber, Bob Holtzman and Wendy Nix were quietly removed from the NASCAR beat this year.
NASCAR Now has enjoyed a re-birth since February and has been one of the best surprises on the NASCAR TV scene. Now, things seem to be taking a turn for the worse. Long before ESPN returned, NASCAR had an extensive network of experienced journalists working full-time on the sport's top circuit.
Today, between 24 hour radio channels and thousands of websites, NASCAR is one of the most well-covered professional sports in America. To simply believe that Newton can develop and then report stories before other Charlotte-based media members is ridiculous.
The reality is simply that he is being allowed to report them on-the-air without the verification that experienced journalists would require.
Judging from the internal tension on Wednesday's NASCAR Now, perhaps this practice will cease before drivers and teams decide that talking to any ESPN reporter for the rest of the season might be a bad idea.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.