Press Should Report News, Not Make It
Dubious Pete Rose Interview
A Rose By Any Other Name . , ,
Now that the infamous Pete Rose interview by NBC reporter Jim Gray on Oct. 24 is fading from our memories, I'd like to resurrect it for just a moment -- not so much to defend Rose, an outstanding baseball player, but to offer another perspective.
If you don't follow baseball, it's possible you are not familiar with the incident, but you need not be a fan to be concerned about what happened that day -- the same day Rose made a triumphant return to the baseball diamond in a ceremony before the second game of the Yankees/Atlanta World Series as a member of the All-Century team at Turner Field.
Despite his talents on the field, which no one can deny, lots of people don't think highly of Rose partially because of his personality, but mostly because of the accusations against him that resulted in his expulsion in 1989 and his banishment from the game of baseball.
Baseball's Hits Leader
Rose, baseball's career hits leader, has been accused of a long list of poor, and even criminal, behavior -- including, primarily, gambling on baseball and even on his own team. He vehemently denies the charges.
But this column is not about Rose; it's about Gray. In my eyes, Gray's behavior is of far greater concern.
For the uninitiated, Gray, in a pre-game interview, persisted in demanding that Rose admit his guilt and confess to betting on baseball (You get the picture, like, "When did you stop beating your wife?")
The questioning, or rather interrogation, was not only inappropriate, but it was poor -- no bad! -- journalism. Worse, commentaries over the next few days by professional journalists often attempted to defend Gray's unprofessional behavior; apologetically referring to Gray's "tough questions."
They weren't questions, they were statements, accusations.
"I'm not going to admit something that didn't happen," said Rose.
Anytime an interview becomes a story about the interviewer instead of the person interviewed, it's prima facie, a bad interview.
The 'Bite Fight'
Gray, coincidentally, is the same reporter who won a Sports Emmy in 1998 for his "relentless interview" with Mike Tyson following the "Bite Fight" with Evander Holyfield.
Rose, by the way, was aghast at the questioning, and so were a number of Yankees who overheard the interview.
The New York NBC affiliate fielded more than 600 complaints immediately following the incident. The public is not as stupid as some people would have us believe.
Incredibly, NBC tried to justify the interview, saying Gray's "questions" were not new, not a surprise.
Whether you believe Rose or not, a reporter should always be objective, not accusatory or prosecutorial, if he, or his news organization, expects to earn the esteem of the public.
Jim Leyritz was one observer who got it right. He was quoted as follows: "I think it's an embarrassment to your profession. Pete's done his time. To come off the field and have that question asked is barbaric. It's disgraceful."
I say Rose should be reinstated to baseball; more importantly, the press should report the news, not make it.