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Thread: US TV Alert - Sunday November 18 on NBC

  1. #61
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    There's pluses and minuses to having Tanith commentating, as long as you know she is Charlie's girlfriend.

    You get some details about the skating of dancers in the Detroit skating community that you just would otherwise never hear. And she is actually an ice dancer who competed in both 6.0 and COP and discuss both knowledgeably.

    Other media outlets of course have color commentators who have a conflict of interest sometimes! Does Tarasova not comment on skaters whom she has worked with (or skaters who compete with those she has worked with). How about Sandra Bezic and choreography7 How about Scott Hamilton and skaters that he has hired?


    Sometimes the strangest dynamics apply: Nicky Slater's mother coached C&L's ex coach. As long as C&L were with the coach, Nicky was a ridiculously huge fan (he disclosed this on air one time).

  2. #62
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    And let's not forget Sandra Bezic commentating during the years when she choreographed so many Olympic contenders: Chen Lu, Tara, Brian Boitano, Underhill and Martini. But often the best commentators are those people who are heavily involved in skating. It's hard to stay dispassionate if you're part of that world in any capacity.

    I wonder if, in Tanith's case, it's meaningful that besides being Charlie White's girlfriend and an American skater, she is also Canadian, and moreover didn't she and Ben train at Canton with both D/W and V/M? What she probably has more than anything else is a North American prejudice, over and above her preference for Charlie and his partner.

  3. #63
    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dorispulaski View Post
    There's pluses and minuses to having Tanith commentating, as long as you know she is Charlie's girlfriend.

    You get some details about the skating of dancers in the Detroit skating community that you just would otherwise never hear. And she is actually an ice dancer who competed in both 6.0 and COP and discuss both knowledgeably.

    Other media outlets of course have color commentators who have a conflict of interest sometimes! Does Tarasova not comment on skaters whom she has worked with (or skaters who compete with those she has worked with). How about Sandra Bezic and choreography7 How about Scott Hamilton and skaters that he has hired?


    Sometimes the strangest dynamics apply: Nicky Slater's mother coached C&L's ex coach. As long as C&L were with the coach, Nicky was a ridiculously huge fan (he disclosed this on air one time).
    When I say other media outlets -- I mean others outside of the sports broadcasting world. For example, Michele Norris of NPR's All Things Considered took a long sabbatical from the program during this election cycle because her husband worked as a consultant on the Obama campaign. And where i live, one of the city council members is married to a newspaper reporter. That newspaper reporter once covered city hall. Once his wife was elected, the newspaper moved him to a different position. The key thing is the media outlets did not want people to even have the perception of bias.

    No matter how many times Tanith discloses her conflict, people are going to have that perception on the back of their heads. Not so much the hard core fans, but the casual fans or the ones who happen to tune in. I still feel she can offer a lot of what you mentioned without having to commentate directly on the senior ice dances, IMO.

    OTOH we aren't talking about covering figure skating as a news outlet, but just color commentary, so perhaps it's a different animal. Still though, I think it's in the best interest of NBC and Co. to keep the conflicts to a minimum.

  4. #64
    Missing Tdizzle and SDiggity golden411's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs. P View Post
    I have to say I agree as well. I was asking about Tanith from a pure commentary standpoint, but I do agree that she has a huge conflict of interest. In most media outlets, such a conflict of interest would be prohibited. Maybe Ice Network can hire her to do the lower-level Ice Dance competitions? Or perhaps she can be used to explain certain aspects of Ice Dance? (How a pattern works, whatever). But I agree that it's not a good idea to have her directly commentating on the dances themselves of a competitive field that includes her boyfriend.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs. P View Post
    The key thing is the media outlets did not want people to even have the perception of bias.
    Yes, I too am rather appalled that Universal Sports is willing to ignore basic journalistic standards in Belbin's case.
    ETA: Strongly agree that avoiding even the perception of bias is necessary.

    And I am baffled that some believe that Belbin and White's cohabitation is no worse a conflict of interest than for a coach or choreographer commenting on his or her skaters.
    To me, the Belbin/White situation is like expecting a mother to speak objectively to a public audience about her child and the child's rivals.

    I think a lot of sports coverage prob. is somewhat "incestuous" -- only in a metaphorical sense.
    But for Belbin and White, it is true almost in the literal sense, and that is not good for figure skating. For one thing, it's more ammunition for those who question the legitimacy of figure skating and ice dance as serious sports.

    (BTW, refraining from overt comparisons to Davis/White when commenting on other skaters does not take Belbin off the hook. It is impossible for her to offer comments in a vacuum.)

    All that said, I do have the impression that Belbin and White are well-meaning in general. I'd be nothing but happy for them as a couple, if Universal Sports were not letting them have their cake and eat it too.

    In addition to Mrs. P's good suggestions, might another alternate role for Belbin be commentary on pairs? Is she a former pair skater too, and is she working with some some junior pairs as coach and/or choreographer?

    p.s.
    The Scott Hamilton issue does bother me, although Belbin/White take wrongness to a whole 'nother level.
    Was Bezic not ultimately forced (by NBC??) to discontinue choreography of competitive programs -- because of her role as commentator?
    Last edited by golden411; 11-20-2012 at 11:40 AM.

  5. #65
    I like pie. Tonichelle's Avatar
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    No besic stopped choreography for competition on her own, because she dislikes the system. She's worked with NBC for decades when she was choreographing for the skaters and hiring/directing for SOI.

    Earlier years NBC had more to do with pro skating competition coverage, and she had a very obvious bias. They had a few years where they did worlds coverage, too.


    This is not the same thing as a journalist covering politics at all where a slant of any kind for any reason is bad. All sports have these same biases pop up - not just NBC coverage. You have commentators in football who played for one of the teams on the field, or coaches who coached the team - and these guys recently left the field for the booth.

    In mushing you have commentators talking about teams that either they contributed dogs to... Or money... Or mentored. Plus they are best friends with others.

    Olympic sports: same thing.

    It's a completely different section of journalism.
    Last edited by Tonichelle; 11-20-2012 at 12:00 PM.

  6. #66
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    I was quite aware that Tanith's conflict would apply when teams other than D/W were skating. I assumed that point was obvious enough that it didn't need to be belabored.

    While I agree that the tie between two people who are dating is closer than that between a coach or choreographer and skater, the former doesn't necessarily produce more biased coverage than the latter. In fact, in Tanith's case it hasn't. I find her quite fair minded and she plainly tries to be objective.

    Whether it is seemly to have someone doing color commentary on her boyfriend's competitive performances is a different issue.


    Edited to add: Transparency is the key issue for me. So long as a potential conflict of interest is disclosed, the viewing public has the information it needs to evaluate the commentary and put it into perspective. The network has an obligation to monitor the situation, obviously, and they need to carefully judge whether Tanith is maintaining objectivity. If she fails to do that, then she should be switched to another function or removed. I do think she is a capable and appealing on air presence, and she brings a lot to the job, so I can understand why they keep her.

    Frankly, I am more bothered by nationalistic bias, which some networks seem to expect or encourage, with the result that it goes unchecked.
    Last edited by LauraV; 11-20-2012 at 12:28 PM.

  7. #67
    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    No besic stopped choreography for competition on her own, because she dislikes the system. She's worked with NBC for decades when she was choreographing for the skaters and hiring/directing for SOI.

    Earlier years NBC had more to do with pro skating competition coverage, and she had a very obvious bias. They had a few years where they did worlds coverage, too.


    This is not the same thing as a journalist covering politics at all where a slant of any kind for any reason is bad. All sports have these same biases pop up - not just NBC coverage. You have commentators in football who played for one of the teams on the field, or coaches who coached the team - and these guys recently left the field for the booth.

    In mushing you have commentators talking about teams that either they contributed dogs to... Or money... Or mentored. Plus they are best friends with others.

    Olympic sports: same thing.

    It's a completely different section of journalism.
    It's true you can't completly avoid bias or be completely objective -- in fact, I learned early that it's better to be fair because nobody is objective. So yes, you are correct in that regard.

    But having a football commentator who once played for a given team is not the same as having a commentator who is dating someone who is currently competing. Again the key word is currently. Again this not a slam on Tanith's commenting abilities; clearly posters think highly of it, but just a question of NBC's hiring practices. Again I stand on the fact that she easily could offer that expertise in other ways that don't involve her commentating directly on the guy she's dating or the couples he competes with.

    Maybe have someone like Judy Bloomberg do the main commentary but use Tanith as a secondary commentator who can just talk about the rules/technical details, etc...

  8. #68
    I like pie. Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I dunno, Matthew Strahan played for the giants until very recently - while they most likely were never bedfellows it's incredible the bond these people have they are "brainwashed" in a sense. He is never objective when he's talking giants vs anybody. But ya know what? That's ok. I may not like him "trashing" my team while making his guys look good, but it's his *opinion*.

    In comparison, tanith is incredibly fair and balanced when it comes to her commentary. She even nitpicks meryl and charlie when she catches a mistake.

    Sports commentary is considered editorial by journalism standards. If you're looking for "just the facts" thats what the sports section of the news broadcast is, or the articles in the sports section.
    Last edited by Tonichelle; 11-20-2012 at 12:48 PM.

  9. #69
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    I don't recieve Universal Sports, so I haven't heard Tanith commentating. But, on the flip side, I'm wondering because she's dating Charlie, if she ever feels pressure from the higher ups either explicitly or implicitly, to be more critical of D&W than she might otherwise be, in order to 'prove' that she's not biased in their favor?

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    In actual news reporting, I agree that even the appearance of impropriety is to be avoided, so I admire reporters who recuse themselves when a spouse or other close family member is involved with political or civic issues. But sports commentary isn't quite the same thing, and the skating world is so small that I don't see how it can be avoided, short of depriving someone of a rather scarce job. Now, if the judges were using the televised commentary as a basis for deciding on points scores, that would be a different thing.

    One interesting parallel I read about recently, being a Mark Harmon fan, occurred when Harmon was playing college football for I think UCLA. His father, Heisman trophy winner Tom Harmon, was the radio announcer for team games. Of course it would be expected that the UCLA announcer would be partial to UCLA's team. But to avoid excessive bolstering, Tom Harmon went in the other direction from Tanith (who always discloses her relationship to Charlie). Harmon Senior would refer to the quarterback without mentioning his name, just citing the plays he made. Again, with football, the announcer has no influence over the plays or any judgment calls by the umpires.

    In the world of general reporting, I think Chris Cuomo holds some sort of position on ABC, and his brother Andrew Cuomo is the Governor of New York I don't know how that's worked out, except that presumably Chris doesn't report on stories involving the governor? I'll have to track that information down and see.

  11. #71
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Actually, it's not uncommon that a coach gets a percentage of the skater's earnings. Consequently, commenting on his student negatively could affect his own pocketbook. Plus, in the US, there's no requirement for a skater to stay with a particular coach. If the coach disclosed stuff about the skater that the skater really disapproved of, or was too complementary to other skaters, that skater might leave.

    In fact, I suppose one key case here is Toller Cranston vs. CBC. It was felt that Toller was not complementary enough to Canadian skaters, and he was fired. He sued and won. Toller was both a coach & a choreographer at the time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toller_Cranston

    Cranston was also a commentator on CBC television for figure skating events. However, in 1991, the CBC fired him, citing concerns from the Canadian Figure Skating Association that his often brutally frank and opinionated commentary was denigrating to Canadian skaters. Cranston filed a lawsuit against the CBC that was eventually resolved in his favor.[8]
    All national TV commentary tends to be pretty biased towards any teams that are in the local federation.

    The joy of the British Eurosport guys is that they seem to find something nice to say about almost everybody.

  12. #72
    “Our blade takes us in the most amazing places.” skatingfan4ever's Avatar
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    Oh my gosh, I had no idea that Charlie and Tanith were dating! For me, though, it doesn't affect her commentary job at all. If she enjoys doing it, which she appears to, she should be allowed to do it. Everyone has biases of some sort. Besides, I don't think non-fans even care which skaters are dating which skaters. Figure skating is not as mainstream as it once was, so I only found out they were a couple from reading this thread. In the Universal Sports broadcasts I've seen with Tanith, no allusion whatsoever was made to her love life. In recent years, I've learned to take all commentary with a grain of salt. NBC doesn't force people to agree with the commentators, so ultimately as fans we all have our own opinions anyway. I personally didn't detect any undue bias for Meryl and Charlie. I think Tanith was able to put on her analyst hat very well. She does have her personal preferences, but she analyzes each skater fairly and has technical know-how that is very helpful to hear as a TV viewer. And when she does express an opinion, she explains it in terms of how the programs are skated.

  13. #73
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Having Tanith comment is probably better than having Karl Rove & Frank Luntz or James Carville & Chris Matthews on as impartial commentators on US elections-something we get all the time.

  14. #74
    Missing Tdizzle and SDiggity golden411's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    In actual news reporting, I agree that even the appearance of impropriety is to be avoided, so I admire reporters who recuse themselves when a spouse or other close family member is involved with political or civic issues. But sports commentary isn't quite the same thing, and the skating world is so small that I don't see how it can be avoided, short of depriving someone of a rather scarce job. Now, if the judges were using the televised commentary as a basis for deciding on points scores, that would be a different thing.

    One interesting parallel I read about recently, being a Mark Harmon fan, occurred when Harmon was playing college football for I think UCLA. His father, Heisman trophy winner Tom Harmon, was the radio announcer for team games. Of course it would be expected that the UCLA announcer would be partial to UCLA's team. But to avoid excessive bolstering, Tom Harmon went in the other direction from Tanith (who always discloses her relationship to Charlie). Harmon Senior would refer to the quarterback without mentioning his name, just citing the plays he made. Again, with football, the announcer has no influence over the plays or any judgment calls by the umpires.

    In the world of general reporting, I think Chris Cuomo holds some sort of position on ABC, and his brother Andrew Cuomo is the Governor of New York I don't know how that's worked out, except that presumably Chris doesn't report on stories involving the governor? I'll have to track that information down and see.
    Wow, was not aware of the Mark Harmon history. In my opinion, that is the only example of non-recusal that rises (or sinks, I should say) to the level of Belbin/White. So during his radio broadcasts, Tom Harmon would give no disclaimer that Mark is his son? That's terrible.
    (During Belbin's first several appearances as Universal Sports commentator in 2010, she did not disclose her relationship with White. I was listening for such an acknowledgment, and the silence was deafening. The good news is that she eventually started making very brief mention once per broadcast. I have not had heard any of her 2012 commentary -- no longer have access to Universal Sports.)

    Yes, Chris Cuomo is an anchor and correspondent for ABC News, and it is a no-brainer for ABC that he must recuse himself from any news coverage of Gov. Cuomo.

    Maria Shriver of NBC News gave up her well-established journalism career when her husband ran for governor. [Her professional sacrifice made his infidelity all the more egregious. :( ]

    And Claire Shipman of ABC News gave up her specialty -- coverage of American politics -- when her husband Jay Carney became press secretary for VP Biden and eventually for President Obama. (Carney was a journalist for Time magazine when they got married.)
    Well before the Obama/Biden administration, Shipman had been White House correspondent for NBC (and CNN prior to that, I believe). Her political expertise is considerable.
    She was one of ABC's highest-profile correspondents before her husband joined the administration. Now her reports appear much less often, and her bread and butter of politics is off limits.

    I'm disturbed that I'm in the minority in this friendly debate, but will try to leave it there ...

    ETA:
    I'm amused that others quaintly describe Belbin and White as "dating". They have been living together for a couple of years now, so "dating" is an understatement. I have read elsewhere that they bought a house together -- if true, that implies to me a longer-term commitment to each other than if they were merely renting a love-nest. In any case, their conflict of interest is a lot deeper than if they simply went to prom together last week, LOL.

    ETA:
    Another way of looking at this issue:
    Would Danny Moir be a reasonable choice for ice dance commentator for CBC's coverage of GP and other competitions? He competed internationally as an ice dancer. Although I admire the Moir family (as I do Belbin and White), I think it would be wrong for Danny to give commentary on D/W, Pechalat/Bourzat, Weaver/Poje, etc. But I guess that many on this thread would find his blood tie to Scott irrelevant.
    If Danny is not available, the CBC could turn to Sheri Moir (Danny's cousin and former ice dance partner) or to Carol Moir (who coaches ice dance) ... .
    Last edited by golden411; 11-20-2012 at 09:46 PM.

  15. #75
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Ultimately, the audience does not vote for ice skating champions, nor does the audience decide the outcomes of football games. IMO the conflict is a lot bigger when journalists & political figures are closely involved and the relationship is not disclosed than in the case of sports figures.

    If Danny Moir wants to do color commentary on ice dance, and Skate Canada wants to replace Kurt Browning, who does a very nice job, I don't see why he shouldn't do it, again provided there is a disclosure done.

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