We at the ABC could probably play around with the way we handle our political coverage and get away with it. And we know for a fact we can insert finance maestro Alan Kohler into our news bulletins and spark nothing more than a few appreciative murmurs. But then there is sport, the sacred cow.
Suggest an upgrade to our sports coverage and you open the door to shock and horror. That door is ajar at the moment, and flowing through it is a frenzy of half-baked, uninformed hogwash.
We, in ABC News and Current Affairs, caused this free-flow of misinformation - in newspapers and on talkback radio around the nation - by proposing a new approach to covering national and international sports stories in the ABC TV News at 7pm.
It became a classic case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good yarn.
Feasting on a diet of a few media-fed lies and half-truths, politicians, sporting officials and ordinary punters screamed foul.
The Victorian Premier reportedly described the "move" as outrageous. "It's their ABC," squealed the Herald Sun. In Adelaide, The Advertiser declared the ABC was "pulling the plug on local sport".
And so it went on, and still does. Even on the ABC's own radio airwaves.
For those who care, and it seems an awful lot of people do, the facts are these:
For years, ABC News and Current Affairs has been trying to lift its game in the tricky area of reporting sports-related news stories in its prime-time TV bulletins.
We firmly believe we can't afford to simply be an imitator or reflector of the same sort of sports news packaging that goes to air on the commercial channels one and two hours before us. Most of our viewers have already seen a commercial
bulletin by the time they switch to the ABC.
From our point of view, the "commercial" approach is a tired recipe anyway, often not based on the same news values applied during the rest of the bulletin.
And the scripting and presentation standards of our present coverage inevitably vary from state to state, remembering that much of the sports-related news you see on your local ABC actually comes from elsewhere (Brisbane, possibly, or the dreaded Sydney).
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