Comcast Drops the Ball in Snyder Interview
Tuesday, September 25, 2007; 10:58 AM
To understand why broadcasting companies should avoid allowing themselves to become the official station/network of the Washington Redskins or any other professional sports organization; we bring you this past Sunday night's "exclusive" interview with Redskins team owner Daniel Snyder on Comcast SportsNet.
CSN, of course, is the official cable partner of the Redskins in the Washington market, but instead of having one of its own more-than-capable sportscasters -- versatile anchor Chick Hernandez, or bulldog Redskins beat reporter Kelli Johnson, among others -- conduct the rare interview of the media-reclusive Snyder, former Channel 4 sports director George Michael was brought in to handle the assignment on a freelance basis.
That was a mistake on many levels, in my humble opinion. I've always praised Michael for producing the best and most comprehensive sportscast on the air for so many years until his recent retirement. But he also happens to be one of Snyder's "guys" and hardly the proper choice to interview another guy who rarely in recent years has subjected himself to some tough one-on-one questioning by members of the local or national media.
Michael has always had more access to the owner than virtually any media person in the local market, going back to the days when Channel 4 also had an "official" relationship with the Redskins. He's been a guest in the owner's box on game days, and Snyder clearly considers him a friend, at least according to Redskins public relations man Karl Swanson.
I specifically recall a telling scene related in a Washington Post Magazine story in 2002 when Snyder was sitting with Michael over breakfast one morning during training camp in Carlisle, Pa. Peter Perl, now an assistant managing editor at The Post, was the writer of that revealing profile, and at one point, Michael turned to Perl and said of Snyder, "this is a good man. He's a good man. I'll tear you apart if you trash him (in the ensuing magazine article.)"
Conversations this week with several people in the local sports broadcasting business evoked the same initial reaction I had to CSN's choice of Michael. We all were certain that the owner surely must have hand-picked him to do the interview, knowing full well that his buddy probably wouldn't ask him the really tough questions the owner has been ducking for years.
"I guarantee you it was no George, no interview," one veteran broadcaster said.
But Swanson, Snyder's personal gatekeeper at Redskins Park, insisted that was not the case.
"We had no input into who did the interview," Swanson said. "Comcast asked if they could do the interview. In the past, (Snyder) has done interviews with our partners. It's part of the partnership."
In an interview Tuesday, CSN General Manager Rebecca Schulte said it was her choice, and hers alone, to ask Michael to handle the assignment. She said she had actually approached Michael this past summer about possibly doing some future feature or interview work for the cable network, and that he seemed amenable.
"He said 'I might be interested,' and that when we got a big interview to let him know," Schulte said. "Dan was interested in doing the interview with us. I thought he'd be comfortable with George, and when I told the Redskins about it, they thought it was a great idea. I was the one to say I wanted George to do this interview, not them.
"And this was not just aired in the Mid-Atlantic. It was available to all our networks, New York, Philadelphia. We picked a national talent. From a national perspective, it made sense to have (Michael) do it. I thought George would get the most out of Dan. And I thought he did a good job on it."