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.

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32 comments:

Newracefan said...

Not one of the better shows, I noticed one of the rumors that was left out was the one that Jayski had saying Truex had raised voiced words with Max S about the "leak" to the ESPN reporter. Not exactly the way to help the process if it is what happened. I really don't like the way ESPN presents these rumors, how about a disclaimer or tag or something right in the beginning before this stuff gets reported. The Speed guys always say "the latest rumor in the garage area" say what it is, give their opinion about it. I am OK with it that way. These guys (except Marty)always give me the impression that it's fact (in their mind I guess).

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I was reading the Newton chat today on espn.com and he repeated (in response to a question) that he has confirmed that Newman has signed with Stewart to drive the #4, but since the sponsor contract details aren't worked out there is no announcement now. He said Tony Stewart had the deal with Haas two months before it was announced, but the announcement didn't come until the contract was finalized.

He also said he is absolutely confident that Truex is staying at DEI, whether Martin wants it out in public or not. (And FYI, he said Mears isn't going to RCR in part because General Mills doesn't want a driver who was identified with Kellogg's this year.)

I'm not trying to defend him. I don't have a feeling one way or the other about it (it's all silly season to me until the driver announces it), but he seems adamant that his sources have told him these things as facts.

As far Kyle being a TV analyst, couldn't Newton have meant an analyst like Rusty or Ray? Because that's what they're labeled on ESPN. And I feel quite confident that if Kyle Petty expressed interest in Rusty's analyst job, he'd get it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 7:31PM,

What flavor was that Kool-Aid?

JD

Dwight said...

I went back through the archives, and you wrote a similar article which was very critical of of Newton's speculative Wednesday reporting on June 25, 2008. The story which Mr. Newton had written on that occasion was headlined "With Haas partnership possible, Stewart has eye on sponsorship."

While I too thought he seemed pretty shaky today, the other story panned out, and in a fairly short time as well.

Matt said...

With Ed Hinton on staff now at ESPN.com, maybe it's time to drop Newton as a writer there. He never adds anything to any TV show he's on and appears to be the "well, duh!" reporter. Everything he reports on is everything we already knew was being spoken about. I've never heard him actually "break news."

Anonymous said...

They should have Jenna Fryer on more. She's knowledgeable, good on the air, and as an AP reporter she knows not to peddle rumors and gossip as news. She was on the reporter roundtable recently and shined. They should have her on regularly - and, no, I am not saying that because I have a crush on her (but I do).

More real reporters and less gossip. Bring back Jenna.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I just want to make sure we are trying to stay on the topic and it might be my fault that we got off it.

NASCAR Now has great people on staff, but has been having trouble with content on Wednesdays.

Last season, we urged them to perhaps devote some time to the NASCAR regional series. They responded by trying, but they never followed-up on the stories of the young drivers who are being developed under the Camping World umbrella.

In typical style, ESPN can't stray from the Yankees or the Red Sox. The focus is always on Sprint Cup, regardless of the need to talk about it that day.

Think of the stories they missed last season like Logano and Donny Lia and all the great personalities in both the Whelen Mods and the other Camping World Series.

Someone like Newton can show-up and stir the rumor mill anytime. Remember Open Wheel Wednesday on RPM2Night?

They started that feature to give the regional guys some TV time on Wednesdays when it was slow on the national scene.

Imagine how good it would have been to be here in late July with six months of regional highlights and interviews every Wednesday on this show under our belts?

Instead we get poor old David Newton or Terry Blount who have to come up with a lead story when the rest of the entire NASCAR press corp knows there is absolutely nothing going-on.

Thanks for letting me clear that up, I am getting better at this whole writing thing.

JD

Anonymous said...

The whole ESPN company has turned towards tabloid reporting. If there is no news, they will create it.

Anonymous said...

If and when Newton is right about both of these stories, John you need to give credit where credit is due. Your readers should hold you to it as well. Newton obviously has information despite denials from the drivers. Drivers and teams use these writers all the time to get what they want. What do you expect Newton to do, wait for a release from the PR arm of each team. This is called reporting. Time will tell. And something else, there could be a verbal agree ment in place tonight with DEI/Truex and Newman/Stewart. What he has said could all be true at this very moment. But it could all fall apart tomorrow.

Richard in N.C. said...

I wish they would use someone with more demonstrated credibility like Angelique C. more or, especially, Ryan McGee.

Anonymous said...

Look, Marty Smith is the best there is on NASCAR Now. In fact, he's the best there is on ESPN! He adds more than Brad or Rusty ever do. If he says it, you know he's not just making stuff up. They should have him on every day. Heck, I'd like to see Marty Smith host the show sometime.

Anonymous said...

Daly Planet Editor said...
Anon 7:31PM,

What flavor was that Kool-Aid?

JD

July 30, 2008 7:49 PM

I prefer grape, as it was my favorite as a kid. Get over yourself, JD.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I see you edited your story after my first comment about analysts, to say "That would mean Petty would unseat either Phil Parsons, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace or Jimmy Spencer. Is that really what Newton wanted to suggest? "

You didn't have Rusty or Jimmy's name in there at first as analysts, I brought up Rusty's name, and you also said Newton's comment was "ridiculous", Not "Is that really what Newton wanted to suggest?"

If I'm drinking the kool aid, looks like you had a sip, too. I don't think it's fair that you disparage someone's comment and then change your original topic to reflect a point in that comment.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:31PM,

Credit where credit is due? You mean somehow Newton "knows" this and can report it even though the entire NASCAR press corp is waiting until it is actually announced?

How naive can you get? Of course they all know what is going on with Newman, it is a function of the sport.

The entire point is why would you show up on a Wednesday and lead the show with it? Answer: Because there is nothing going on.

Anon 9:07PM,

I edited because I used the word "ridiculous" twice in the column and my freelance editor suggested I change it. Any more conspiracy theories for tonight?

JD

Dot said...

Why don't they just call the segment "Rumor Has It....". That way they can say what they want without repercussions.

I agree with the Marty comments. He is the only credible reporter. I believe what he says.

I wish Kyle Petty luck with whatever his future TV plans are. As long as he doesn't replace DJ.

Anonymous said...

I make it a point to watch the Monday NN because of the panel discussion. I catch it other nights on a chance basis because I don't find it nearly as interesting. I don't find the endless reporting, or maybe speculation, on silly season of much interest. I am content to follow the actual racing and let silly season play out behind the scenes.

With a name like NASCAR Now, maybe it's too much to ask to broaden the subjects to include material like the old RPM2nite. I have been a long time follower of NASCAR and NHRA with little interest in open wheel, sports cars, motorcycles, etc. But there is plenty of interesting subject matter in these racing venues as well. I have been a long time watcher of Windtunnel and Dave Despain precisely because he covers the most interesting material from a wide range of motorsports. I also enjoyed RPM2nite's open wheel Wednesday for the same reasons.

I would rather see interesting stories from other forms of motorsports than listen to endless rehashing of the same old stories from the NASCAR cup world. Even if they stayed within Nascar, NN could make a significant improvement by including more stories and personalities from NASCAR series other than cup racing.

I don't think much of most TV network executives/producers. They seem to believe that more is better. More gimmicks, more camera angles, more commentators, fancier sets, fancier graphics, louder music, and on and on. I'm a race fan, and I tune in to see the races. All the bells and whistles are mostly distractions from the racing I want to see.

Less is more. Keep the focus on racing during race broadcast. On support programming, follow the model of John Kernan and RPM2nite and Dave Despain and Windtunnel. Keep it simple and focus on the best material from a variety of racing series. Endless rehashing of rumors and speculation is a poor use of TV time and my time.

Michigan fan

Anonymous said...

ESPN blew it BIG time this past weekend ...

They were in Seattle (err, Kent) for the NHRA ... The Camping World West series was up in Monroe for the Evergreen 500 ... It was the "West" series' 50th visit to the track ...

With the noise ordinance in Kent limiting the racing to a certain time frame, they could've easily sent the crew to Monroe to catch the very first West Series win by "hometown favorite" /ROTY candidate Jeff Barkshire ... Also, Whelen Modified Series director Chad Little was at the race ...

They could've also interviewed Jeff Jefferson about his airborne trick from Sears Point during the West race last month ...

Or interview Bill McAnally (if he was at the track) to find out why he switched from Chevy to Toyota ... as he used to have a driver development deal with Richard Childress ... He won a lot in Chevys, so the switch to Toyota would be interesting to hear "Why" he did it ...



All of this stuff could've been shot & in the can for NN to use on Wednesday's show ...




The problem with Newt & his anonymous sources is that unless he actually names his source, he's no better than the National Enquirer or Star magazine ... It's all gossip and that's NOT what NN or any other show / column should be about ... Jayski's got the stranglehold on the gossip of Nascar and that's where it should stay ... The more one relies on anonymous sources, their credibility goes out the door (esp when the info fails to pan out) ...



The bit with Truex & Siegel makes me even more convinced that the problem at DEI is NOT Teresa, but it's Max ... and has been Max since someone conned Teresa into hiring him ...

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is so much going on with the Camping World Series and the Whelen Mods that could be great on TV this year.

It is just a shame that NASCAR Now chooses to avoid several NASCAR series that play a key role in the sport and have for decades.

JD

Anonymous said...

I can't see Newton as having real credibility among the garage area - now Marty Smith - yes he does.

earl06 said...

Both the Truex and Newman stories have been out there for weeks, Newton's reporting adds nothing more than hype. I don't doubt someone at DEI told him that a deal was hooked up, but he was just getting played. Everyone who would seem to have the best sources has been quietly staying with the story that Truex won't be back.

Rusty Wallace always starts off saying, "I've been talking to a lotta guys in the garage..." Honestly, I can't see anyone telling him anything of importance. He has zero credibility and a TV career that's rapidly drawing to its conclusion.

The reporters that get the real stories are the ones that can be trusted not to spill the beans too early and to get the story right without a bunch of hyperbole.

ESPN has Marty Smith, who, along with Ed Hinton, has the most credibility on their staff. Notice he's been quiet on these two silly season issues. Think he knows something?

Anonymous said...

"It is just a shame that NASCAR Now chooses to avoid several NASCAR series that play a key role in the sport and have for decades."

I disagree with this. Does Baseball Tonight regularly cover A, AA, and AAA baseball? Does NBA Fastbreak regularly cover the D-League? Nope.

Based on the attendance and ratings of each series, most people are interested in Cup, with some interest in Nationwide and Trucks, and NASCAR Now should play to that.

I do think they could do a much better job of covering Cup and its drivers and teams during mid-week. NFL Live and College Football Live, who only have games once or twice a week like NASCAR, manage to show some in-depth filmed stories to fill up some of the time during the week along with "breaking news" of the day.

There are rarely any in-depth or unusual stories on NASCAR Now, just some kind of "breaking news" and analysts who repeat their opinions of that breaking news ad nauseum. It's as if NASCAR Now is too scared (or too cheap) to leave the confines of the studio and the satellite interview and actually have a pre-filmed story of interest.

Shayne said...

Is it not a story until ESPN (Edited & Spun Per NASCAR) puts it in print or on the air?

We've known about these "so-called" stories for weeks.

Shayne

Dmo said...

Anonymous said...
"It is just a shame that NASCAR Now chooses to avoid several NASCAR series that play a key role in the sport and have for decades".
I disagree with this. Does Baseball Tonight regularly cover A, AA, and AAA baseball? Does NBA Fastbreak regularly cover the D-League? Nope.


B-ball and Baseball are not fair comparisions as those sports host numerous games a week. Football is a bit closer as it is played fewer times a week - there, college football is liberally covered.

The fundamental difference between NASCAR and stick-n-ball sports is that every team plays the same game at the same time in the same place once a week. If NASCAR received similar coverage to other sports, SportsCenter would feature highlights and stats from every car that competes, including video clips from iso'd cameras on each. Once that disparity is acknowledged, then the media will see the need for daily NASCAR programming throughout the week. Until then, we are stuck with David Newton dropping bombs on Wednesday nights to kill time...
-D

red said...

what i'm perplexed about is: how is anything that newton reported considered news? we've been hearing about newman going to the #4 at stewart-haas racing since we had the original announcement about stewart joining with haas. and truex has been working this dei contract for months now.

as an outsider looking in, it seems to me that mr. newton may or may not have been fed correct info by his sources but i'm pretty certain they intended for the information to get out for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with him. i believe that comes with the territory and it's up to the reporter to decide what to do with the information. mr. newton ran with it; others apparently have not. that seems to be a pattern of late. i'm not saying he's wrong and they're right. i'm just wondering why it is that he, of all the media who cover nascar, is the one who is regularly "breaking the news." maybe he's more gullible; maybe he's considered more trustworthy by the parties involved; maybe he has different sources who are more willing to talk to him under the cover of anonimity. dunno. i just remember a president who was appalled that there were leaks coming from his white house . . . until it turned out that he authorized some of them himself. playing the media is nothing new.

bottom line: it's silly season. i learned a long time ago that it's best to just be patient and wait for the official announcements to begin to roll. reporters are being fed information in the hopes that it will move the way the party involved wants/needs it to go. but until it comes from the principals involved, it's just a guessing game, one that i'd rather not see nascar now waste time on each week.

red said...

and i have a media question, jd, in regards to anonymous sources. in the non-sports print media at least, the identity of the anonymous source is generally given to the editor in charge and vetted for reliability. it's not foolproof, of course, but at least there's an effort to have a second set of eyeballs on the information before going with it.

i'm assuming such is not the case in sports reporting? or is it that a story has to rise to a certain level of significance before such an overview happens and these don't meet that standard? when anonymous sources were quoted in the grant lawsuit reporting early on, did someone other than the reporter have the actual identities of those sources?

just looking for clarification on the use of anonymous sources in the our sport.

Daly Planet Editor said...

red,

Stop thinking about journalism and start thinking about TV.

You have to fill thirty minutes on a Wednesday and there is nothing going-on.

Your choice is to invest in getting regional highlights and working to show fans more of the sport...or calling Newton and getting him to "break" another story.

How many Wednesdays can this happen before fans understand this is the way ESPN worked it last season that caused so many hard feelings in the garage?

One switch in direction by the executives can end this need to "break" stories that just make the Charlotte NASCAR media laugh.

Why not show us some racing-related content?

JD

Anonymous said...

"B-ball and Baseball are not fair comparisions as those sports host numerous games a week. Football is a bit closer as it is played fewer times a week - there, college football is liberally covered."
-------------
College football is covered on its own daily ESPN show, not the NFL show. So the NFL programming doesn't focus on its "junior league" except where it pertains to who might be drafted from CF.


"If NASCAR received similar coverage to other sports, SportsCenter would feature highlights and stats from every car that competes, including video clips from iso'd cameras on each. Once that disparity is acknowledged, then the media will see the need for daily NASCAR programming throughout the week."
--------------------------------
NASCAR Now doesn't even bother to report details or present features or interviews on all 43 - 48 cars in Sprint Cup. They have the time during the week - but they don't use it. They report on and interview the same 10-15 drivers in rotation, including the same 3 or 4 guys from the Nationwide series. Why should SportsCenter do it if NASCAR Now won't? There are some Cup drivers whose names haven't been mentioned on NASCAR Now in weeks or months, except to say where they line up in the race.

Not every baseball team or basketball team gets the full package of highlights on SportsCenter, so that's what the daily shows are for, to make sure everyone gets covered in detail.

Tracy said...

"Think of the stories they missed last season like Logano and Donny Lia and all the great personalities in both the Whelen Mods and the other Camping World Series."

I stopped reading when I hit this paragraph from TDP. This is what I've been saying since I found this blog. I skip Wed. NN without a qualm. However, if they used the spot to focus on the zillion other racing stories out there, I'd Tivo and save the deal.

Ditto what everyone else said about Marty Smith. After the article on Jr. for ESPN Magazine, I have real respect for him. Only if an interview respects and is comfortable with a writer's honesty will s/he open up so completely and honestly.

red said...

Daly Planet Editor said...
"red,

Stop thinking about journalism and start thinking about TV."

hey jd. so, is it your position is that the two are mutually exclusive? hmmm. we've had this discussion before, yes?

bottom line is that you & i are in agreement here (for the most part): this is nothing more than laziness on the part of ESPN and a pattern of sloppy work that brought them such disdain among the nascar community last year.

as tracy said, i've stopped watching nascar now on wednesday night b/c it's just irresponsible rumors being put out there as "reporting" and re-hashing what's been said without adding new information. now, if they could use that time slot to focus on something else in the sport, i'd be a loyal viewer. there is a plentitude of choices but each requires something more than a group of talking heads on a set, chewing over old and/or unsubstantiated reports.

by the way, on her blog, krissie newman has the follwoing to say:
"July 30, 2008

Don't Get too Excited Just Yet
Don't believe everything you read on the internet! There have been some recent articles posted that reporters have put out that sound factual. However, Ryan has not verbally agreed to anything and is still working on his 2009 and future plans. It is funny how much speculation has been going on about Ryan's future. Everyone will know when the deal is signed, the i's are dotted and T's are crossed. Sorry to disappoint, just don't want anyone to jump to conclusions. . .
. . . then we came to PA to spend a little time with my family before the race weekend craziness. Which is now going to be more insane thanks to an ill informed reporter from ESPN. Sorry, if you can't tell I was a little ticked."

doesn't sound as if the newman's will be talking to "an ill informed reporter from espn" this weekend in pocono, does it now?
(she also has comments for rusty . . . )

joe said...

hey are telling me you just found out that ESPN is a bunch of bafoons, please! want to read the best yet read Terry Blount's artical "Tire issues aside, at least NASCAR put on a competitive show" this guy is the biggest nascar ass kisser i have ever come across. every nascar fan should get together and sue nascar then maybe that would get there attention. the race at indy was no different then the race at Talladega in 1969 and i think they gave out free tickets to the next race there to the the folks who got jipped.

speedangel said...

Are the hard feelings in both the garage area and with the fans that episodes like this create worth it for the content for one day's show? In my opinion, no. ESPN had to make some big moves to regain their footing with the fans, and probably a lot of the competitors as well, after their comeback last season, and moves like this only erode at it.

Richard in N.C. said...

It does seem to me that many commentators at ESPN are suckers for interesting rumors - facts be damned. At best it will be a long time before I give the same credence to inside "news" reported by Chris Mortenson that I did before he broke the story of Bill Parcells' going to the Falcons. I would not put it past some in the garage to feed a reporter a story of unknown truth (or no truth) just to see how the reporter responds.