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September 14th, 2014
12:20 PM ET

Do TV contracts block NFL reporting?

USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan and former ESPN The Magazine editor Gary Belsky talk about whether television network business relationships with the NFL impact those networks' news reporting about the league.

Here's how Brian Stelter introduced the segment: "Are sports journalists too soft on the leagues they cover? Or, to put it another way, how did TMZ obtain the Ray Rice elevator video, but not ESPN?"

"Any time the NFL is the story, the networks' coverage of the story is very closely watched, because ESPN, CBS, NBC, and FOX all have multi-billion-dollar contracts to carry NFL games. Their news divisions have to cover the news, but their parent companies have to protect their investments in football."

The questions are legitimate, as Stelter and CNNMoney's Frank Pallotta wrote on Thursday. But it's important to note that there has been a lot of aggressive reporting about the NFL by the big networks.

Belsky said he attended high-level editorial meetings at ESPN for eight years, and not once during discussions of big investigations "was there after a consideration of not approaching it or not doing it" due to league relationships.

Stelter said there's plenty of room in the "media ecosystem" for both insiders like ESPN and CBS and outsiders like TMZ.

Brennan added that "there are young journalists out there, being pumped out of schools today, that so want to break these stories. I'm not at all concerned about that. I just think that when you get close to a team and a league and have been around too much, it's almost like every sports editor should switch beats, because anyone who gets too comfortable - and I have seen it in all my years of covering sports - it's just time to break that up and make everybody uncomfortable again. They will do better journalism."


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