Why do people hate reporters?
Unfortunately, there was a prime example broadcast this week to millions of viewers prior to a World Series game.
If you're not a sports fan, you may not have seen or read anything about the flap created by NBC reporter Jim Gray when he interviewed Pete Rose after a celebration of baseball's All-Century team, of which Rose is a member.
Gray confronted Rose on-camera about the player's lifetime ban from baseball for gambling. He seemed to be demanding that Rose apologize, and then badgered him when he wouldn't.
The public reaction favored Rose. The fact that he was voted to the All-Century team shows that fans have forgiven him his transgressions, and TV viewers bombarded NBC with complaints about Gray's interview.
My view is that Gray's questions weren't wrong, but his timing was. I think that's the same reaction as most angry fans.
It's been 10 years since Rose was banned for gambling, but he isn't surprised by the continued questioning of his actions. It happens everywhere he goes, except perhaps for his appearances on cable-shopping networks when he's hawking autographs and memorabilia.
In fact, there were several similar questions at a press conference shortly before the All-Century celebration. It may seem like old news by now, and I'm sure Rose is sick of it. But Rose has steadfastly refused to acknowledge his wrongdoing, so any reporter who can get him to apologize would have a scoop.
That's no doubt what Gray had in mind. He had Rose in his grasp, and maybe he could push Rose into saying something he didn't want to say.
That kind of arrogance dismays me. It makes reporters into something they shouldn't be.
When a reporter goes about his business gathering news, his role should be as a representative of the public. He goes to a meeting, to a fire, to a ballgame so that he can be the eyes and ears of the people who aren't there.
He asks questions they would ask. Maybe he has some expertise in the subject, some background knowledge or has had a chance to do some research, so he asks better questions. Maybe he doesn't, so he asks everything he can think of.
People expect reporters to ask the tough questions. Reporters obviously have some responsibility, and some power, in this respect. They can use that power, or they can abuse it.
At one time, people took some joy in watching a slimeball squirm before the cameras of '60 Minutes.' They got a thrill from the ambush interview - camera blazing, microphone in the face of the startled prey, reporter barking out questions.
Now, though, the shock value has worn off. At some point, people started identifying more with the subject of the TV interview rather than the reporter.
I think that was the case with Pete Rose, as hard as it may be to believe that ordinary folk would put themselves in Pete's shoes. But the fact is, they were as uncomfortable as Rose. Gray had gone too far.
It's much the same all over television. Hard-charging, combative interviewers who would rather shout down their subjects than listen to them are a staple of the all-news networks. They're part of the spectacle, rather than reporting on it. They get paid to be stars, not journalists.
Their excuse? "Hey, people wouldn't watch it if they didn't like it." My response? Hey, Larry King gets twice the ratings of any of you guys and he doesn't yell at anybody.
People don't like reporters who no longer act like reporters. But they really hate the ones who use their bright lights and cameras to beat someone over the head, no matter who it is.
While I'm on the subject of TV and sports, I'd like to get something else off my chest.
Who in the world thinks Paul Maguire is a professional football analyst worthy of putting on national television? I can't figure out why I have to keep listening to this guy, who apparently was a punter and, therefore, should know something about the game.
He hit a low point two weeks ago, when he said: "This is obviously a running or passing down." Well, I guess if there was no punter on the field, then he had a pretty good chance of being right.
Maguire constantly tells us what we just saw. He's from the "that was a great pass from a great quarterback to a great receiver, what a great play" school of meaningless babble.
For contrast, all you had to do was listen to Joe Morgan describe the pitcher-batter confrontations during a World Series game. He knows the players and the strategy so well, he frequently gave clues to what to expect several pitches before it actually happened.
Thanks. I feel better now.
Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.