Thursday, July 3, 2008
TV Partners Strangely Quiet Where Grant Is Concerned - UNTIL NOW
UPDATE: ESPN has revealed that they have Mauricia Grant as an exclusive on-camera interview as a part of the Outside The Lines series. They played excerpts from Grant today on ESPNEWS and also during the live Nationwide practice session at 5:30PM. This issue relates directly to the Nationwide Series. More info will follow shortly
Just when things seemed to be quieting down about the Mauricia Grant lawsuit, an article by veteran NASCAR journalist Matt McLaughlin has come along.
Most fans have read the original story, the follow-up interviews and even the response from NASCAR.
At The Daly Planet, we tried to suggest that the sanctioning body stop allowing Brian France to speak directly to this topic until he was better informed. No such luck, as this column details.
The number one thing that NASCAR wants to do at Daytona is walk-out the door on Saturday night with Ms. Grant and her lawsuit never having been a topic. Judging from the NASCAR media's response to the issue, that is entirely possible.
This is a new area for the NASCAR Internet, radio and TV bunch to deal with. These veterans have handled racing stories of tremendous success and horrible tragedy with professionalism and maturity over the years. As a group, they originate hundreds of stories a week and many hours of both radio and TV content. The Grant lawsuit is very different from their regular "news beat."
Here is the link to the McLaughlin story. The key element for us is the following paragraph:
"In his handling of the allegations, France has once again shown himself to be the Great Bumblini. The racing press may be willing to sweep this one under the carpet but the mainstream attack media, folks like 60 Minutes and 20/20 will not. Doubtless they smell blood in the water and potential Emmys for investigative reporting on the “Good Old Boy” culture of NASCAR. It ain’t going to be pretty."
McLaughlin's point is that right now the issue of the lawsuit is in the laps of the traveling NASCAR media. While others may write to the topic, they do not have access to the key individuals involved in the lawsuit and knowledge of the overall culture that has been called into question. Eventually, this will change.
Lurking behind the familiar faces of David Poole and Marty Smith and Wendy Venturini is an entirely different group of reporters. They do not care about Joey Logano, how the COT turns or the overall health of the sport.
What they care about is primetime TV ratings for their own individual shows. They will do and say almost anything to win the TV ratings race. Many of them make millions of dollars a year and enjoy the publicity that their high-profile media positions have brought them.
What used to be called the mainstream media is now a fractured group of Internet-dominated TV personalities who are challenged to fill 24 hours a day both online and on the cable TV news networks. Despite the reality of the world, the media monster must be fed and Mauricia Grant is looking like a lot more than just a snack.
As McLaughlin intimates, the damage that can be done to this sport by programs like 60 Minutes, Dateline and even Nancy Grace on CNN is simply huge. Looking at this story from outside the sport and reading the allegations in the lawsuit make it a great target for a wide variety of TV programs from news magazines to tabloid series.
In the business world, we see professionals called-in to handle public relations crisis management. We see media professionals enlisted to manage the messages that are communicated worldwide on TV and the Internet. This is a specific set of skills that is learned with time and experience.
While it has been Internet stories that have played a major role in this issue to date, things are about to jump over to the television side of the media and that change is going to be dramatic.
Perhaps, before something very ugly happens on TV and a media feeding frenzy begins, NASCAR might consider bringing in some professionals to manage this issue for the overall health of the sport in this very tough season. In the veteran perspectives of several public relations professionals, the clock is ticking.
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