Guilty: WRC-TV-4 sports reporter Rick (Doc) Walker, whose partner in a Virginia restaurant is a man he interviews on the air frequently, Washington Redskins wide receiver Art Monk.

Guilty: WUSA-TV-9 sportscaster Glenn Brenner, who for 15 months before this past April had an interest in a Maryland restaurant with Sugar Ray Leonard and Leonard's attorney, Mike Trainer.

And the verdict around town on these indiscretions? A collective, "So what?" yawn from the local broadcasting industry. In a city in which information is its daily bread and water, no one seems to care if the ration comes a bit tainted -- especially if it only happens to be sports.

"I don't have any problem with it," WRC-TV-4 sportscaster George Michael said of Walker's business relationship with Monk. "Doc's not afraid to ask any of the Redskins anything . . . No one can get better or more insightful information on the Redskins in this town than Doc Walker."

"I think Doc Walker would do the same interview with Art Monk whether he's partners or not with him. They're friends. They're teammates," said Brenner, who ended his restaurant interest in April when Leonard and Trainer pulled out. " . . I was uncomfortable {with the Leonard deal} because other people were uncomfortable. I tried to be up front about it. I didn't try to hide the fact that I was in business with Ray. I figured: a) do my job; b) let others be the judge of whether I'm objective."

"I don't have any problem with that situation," WJLA-TV-7 sportscaster Frank Herzog said of Walker. "Plus, Rick Walker is not trying to sell the public a product that he's some hard-hitting journalist who's got lofty principles and is telling it all."

The common thread of thought, it seems, is this -- we're not talking Congress or an arms summit here, just football, and what's the big deal if an ex-Redskin who regularly interviews ex-teammates happens to be business partners with one of his old buddies?

Sure, we're just talking silly old football here, but people expect honest coverage of a newsworthy item. Can we expect a reasonable viewpoint from Walker? This is a man we've seen interview Redskins players who wear baseball caps that advertise his restaurant. And just the appearance of a conflict of interest often can be as damaging as the conflict of interest itself.

Would local news directors allow a news anchor to invest in a venture with a councilman or a cop?

"That's altogether different," Michael said. "It's absolutely absurd to compare the two. This is nowhere close to being a conflict of interest."

"There's no doubt it's a thorny question," said Channel 4's news director, Bret Marcus. "You encourage reporters to develop sources and you fear them getting into bed with them. But I think there are some differences here. The Redskins are not public officials. Doc covers only the football team, and part of his expertise is that he was a member of that team. Doc asks tough questions. Keeping an eye on it, I can live with it."

It is understandable that local stations hire ex-Redskins -- they're popular and highly visible. But contrast the way WMAL uses Ken Jenkins with the way WRC uses Walker. Jenkins is a full-time sports reporter who covers everything (including the Redskins); Walker is solely associated with the Redskins. Jenkins, in time, may become more detached and dependable in commenting on his former team. At Channel 4, however, Walker is encouraged to develop strong ties with his former teammates at the expense of anything else, and in that type of atmosphere, it's not that big of a jump to allow the reporter to share a business venture with a player.

The hope here is that if Rick (Doc) Walker continues his career at WRC, he'll end his partnership with Art Monk -- or otherwise step aside from his Redskins-reporting responsibilities.

Another curious tradition of the Washington TV sports scene is that nearly every news station has a Redskin it pays to appear on Monday broadcasts. This year, WRC uses Coach Joe Gibbs, WTTG uses Jeff Bostic, WUSA uses Jay Schroeder. (WJLA passed on a Redskin this year).

The bottom line is: In a very competitive market, it's difficult to survive in the ratings without top-of-the-line coverage of the biggest news story in town.

"I'm not uncomfortable with it," WUSA's news director, Dave Pearce, said of the policy of paying for a Redskin. ". . . In essence, we're paying someone to guarantee they'll be with us live at a certain time. It's important to have someone locked up, particularly in a town like this with the interest in the Redskins. If it costs money, then it costs money."

"You're talking to a guy who, when he first came to town, said: 'There's no way I'm going to get involved with that,' " Michael said. "So I didn't have any Redskin in 1980, '81, '82, '83, '84, '85. And I got kicked every Monday {in the ratings}. Now, I do it. I got tired of being in last place on Mondays."