Baltimore Sun TV/Media critic, David Zurawik, speaks Friday about the NBC Today interview with Ray Rice and his family conducted by Matt Lauer.
Updates at end with more from NBC and ESPN.
If NBC News is telling the truth in how it got the interview with Ray and Janay Rice, what a difference between NBC and ESPN.
I swore I would never use journalism in the same sentence with ESPN again after the way it gave up all editorial control and any sense of journalistic integrity in getting LeBron James to announce his move to Miami in a shameless prime-time special in 2010, "The Decision."
But even I didn't think the so-called leader in sports news would so easily and cheaply trade away any credibility it has to get an interview like this.
Here's the editor's note ESPN ran with the interview:
Editor's Note: This is Janay Rice's story, as told to ESPN's Jemele Hill. On Wednesday, Nov. 5, Jemele interviewed Janay for three hours at the home of Janet Rice, Ray Rice's mother, in their hometown of New Rochelle, New York. Ray Rice was not present. Janay's account of what happened in Atlantic City, and in the months that followed, was written from Jemele's extensive interview, as well as a phone follow-up. No questions were off limits. Janay Rice was given approval over its content and release date.
What does it matter if "no questions were off limits" if Janay Rice had final approval over what ESPN could publish. All she had to say was "no" to certain questions and/or answers and it is as if they were never asked or answered as far as the listener, viewer or reader would know.
And she controlled the release date on this interview that took place on Nov. 5 - more than three weeks before she allowed it to be published.
Are you kidding me?
In effect what ESPN did is surrender editorial control to Janay and Ray Rice and their attorneys and publicists. ESPN handed over its many platforms to Janay and Ray Rice and their handlers and loaned out one of their reporters to record and help Janay tell her story "in her own words."
Wow. I hope it was worth it in page views and plays.
On the other hand, a spokeswoman for NBC News told me Saturday night that there were no concessions, payments or deals made with the Rice family for the interview by Matt Lauer that will air Monday and Tuesday on the "Today" show.
Here's the response from NBC to questions I posed in an email about restrictions, approval, concessions or payments:
"No - there were absolutely no restrictions or conditions and NBC did not grant approval or any concessions," the spokeswoman wrote. "There was absolutely no payment."
Again, if NBC is telling the truth, good for them in getting this interview.
As for ESPN, I wonder how some of the sports journalists who left newspaper jobs to work there feel about the price paid for this interview.
UPDATE: A source with knowledge of the NBC interview with Rice said Monday that NBC interviewed Janay and Ray Rice earlier in November and agreed to hold the interview until the federal judge ruled on Rice's peititon for re-instatement in the NFL.
The source said NBC did not give final approval or agree to any of the editorial controls that ESPN said it did in its editor's note.