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Covering the Predictable 

Plus, Crump wins more awards, a Tarheel documentary, and more

It was interesting to observe how Charlotte newsies and sportsies covered a big story that was a foregone conclusion: the firing of Carolina Panthers coach George Seifert on January 7. The sports world is never so know-it-all and smarmy as when it thinks it knows what's going down. The game was barely over on January 6, but the websites for ESPN and Fox Sports were already quoting their "league sources" about Seifert's impending ouster as coach. But adding strangeness to the mix was his post-game press conference where he stated that he intended to be the coach next year. Yet the dogs were not deterred. A morning presser by the Panthers was announced for the next day, and the wait was on.

Time for my armchair quarterback assessment. This ain't brain surgery. At that point, you have a sure thing for the next day. TV stations should assign their main sports guys to be there, radio and TV set up live feeds of the presser. Newspapers assign lots of sportswriters to cover both the straight story and the sidebars for the next day and the website that afternoon. A simple down-and-out pattern. No surprises. You score.

But how did it turn out? The winners were WCNC-TV and WBT-AM. NBC6 had sports director Chuck Howard out in front, and aired both Seifert and Jerry Richardson's remarks live in entirety. Others used morning anchors to intro the feeds.

Ironically, WFNZ-AM, the sports talker that's been riding Richardson's tail for months over the Panthers' crappy performance, had technical problems but nonetheless dropped the ball. I had to flip over to WBT for the live audio feed.

Now we're left with "who's-the-next-coach" speculation pieces (read: Spurrier fantasies).

Too bad no one knew about the big new arena plan debuting before City Council later that night. Now those banker boys, they know how to keep a secret.

*****

Steve Crump strikes again. This time it's a big award from the people who should know something about the subjext of his latest documentary. Crump will be receiving an Eclipse Award next month from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

His documentary, Forgotten at the Finish Line, won the Eclipse Award in the local television category. The hour-long show aired in Charlotte on WTVI last February (how about a rerun, guys?).

Crump produced and hosted the documentary, which chronicled the history of black people's contributions to horse racing as jockeys, trainers and owners. The list of judges was impressive, including Bud Lamoreaux III, whose productions for CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt earned four Eclipse Awards, and Rick Gentile, the former CBS Sports executive producer.

"Tremendous research and great execution went into this documentary," said Gentile. "A very impressive piece of work."

In case horse racing's not your thing, Eclipse Awards are given to recognize the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. Eclipse Awards also are given to horses and individuals. Why are they called Eclipse? He was an 18th-century racehorse who was undefeated in 18 starts, and the sire of 344 race winners, including three Epsom Derbies.

As for Crump, my personal wish is that the economic climate for the indie documentary would improve, and people like him could dump the day job and take their passion full time.

*****

While we're talking local TV producers, former Raycom and JP Sports producer Rick Willenczik has released his first production as an indie, as well. If you love the Tarheels, well, this VHS (and DVD) is for you.

Jerseys in the Rafters is his video tribute to the former UNC greats who've had their jerseys retired (thus "in the rafters"). With cooperation from UNC, of course, the documentary was post-produced here in town with some of our local talented types: Mike Patterson of Wide Screen Antics edited it, Mike Kelley of Limerick Studios-DVD did the animations and DVD formatting, Fred Story of Concentrix Music and Sound Design created the music and Jay Howard Production Audio sweetened the sound.

"I had thought about doing this tribute for some time," Willenzik says. "The idea was reinforced last year when I read that (current freshman) Jawad Williams said he looked up to the 'jerseys in the rafters' on his recruiting visit and knew that UNC was where he wanted to be."

For more info on Jerseys in the Rafters, go to www.jerseysintherafters.com.

COMINGS AND GOINGS AND OTHER NONSENSE The beginning of a new year signals change, as usual, so hang on for some more changes in your friendly neighborhood media outlets:

WSOC's June Noe has flown the coop after over 20 years of friendly PR for the ABC affiliate. A pro to deal with, always. . .

Bernie Simmons is leaving her public affairs post at WBTV at the end of the month. Simmons came here in 1994, and will pursue a degree in public policy. Keep on keepin' on, my sister. . .

Not super fresh, but FOX 18 has lost lead weatherman Dennis Feltgen and weekend sportster Matt Biondi to greener pastures. Phil Werz (late of WCNC) takes over the sports slot, but the weather search goes on. . .

News 14 Carolina (the Time Warner Cable baby) is still filling up its roster. News Director Jim Newman (late of WBTV) has hired Shari Evans Buford as assistant news director from the Time-Warner sister station in Orlando. Newman's completed another steal from WBTV, too, snagging assignment editor Phillis Shoemaker.

Stay tuned. . .

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