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Report on racial slurs lacked required balance

Reports about NFL coaches using racial slurs shouldn't be reported in the same manner as trade rumors or player acquisitions.

Yet the news ESPN's Chris Mortensen delivered on Los Angeles Raiders coach Art Shell Sunday didn't vary greatly from any of the other inside information he doles out on the network. Mortensen, in the middle of discussing a sideline tirade between Shell and quarterback Jeff Hostetler during the Oct. 16 Dolphins-Raiders game, reported that Shell made racist comments a part of the argument.

Neither Shell nor Hostetler was given an on-air chance to respond. The story should have included that and a presentation separate from the rest of Mortensen's report.

Granted, it might have been hard to get the two on camera the day of the game, but when Shell's reputation _ and possibly his career _ can be adversely impacted by a news story, he deserves a chance to defend himself fully when the network airs the story. Mortensen said he spoke with Shell before his report, but the broadcast didn't reflect the balance needed for a story that may drive a wedge between Shell and his players and eventually cost him his job.

"I am standing by my story about what happened in the heat of the moment," Mortensen said in a prepared statement. "I presented my report, Art Shell then said what he had to say, and Jeff Hostetler said what he said.

"It's not the first time a news report has been denied."

Of course, follow-up news conferences and denial statements easily can be labeled damage control. Many believe Shell made the comments, and maybe he did. But the fact that sources volunteered information to ESPN should raise the possibility of ulterior motives.

Still, the issue is in how the information was presented. In this day and age of political correctness and racial sensitivity (and insensitivity), Shell deserved that much. And so did the Raiders.

Brady farewell: You might hear former WTVT-Ch. 13 weekend sports anchor Dan Brady on a sports talk radio station in the future.

That's one of the possibilities for Brady now that WTVT made his dismissal official. Brady, a self-described "work in progress," hopes to bounce back from his departure by catching on with another TV station or becoming the next opinionated voice on the airwaves.

Another TV job in this market may be hard to come by. There's a new news operation at WFTS-Ch. 28, but its sports team has been tabbed: Drew Soicher from Los Angeles' KCBS-TV and Kyle Kraska from WRGB in Schenectady, N.Y.

Radio could be a local possibility with two sports talk stations on the AM band, but it's hard to say what the future holds for the market's most visible sportscaster of recent memory. Brady's bombastic approach had instant appeal with some viewers, but stations may be leery about taking a risk with Brady.

Whoever ends up with Brady will certainly have a talent who believes in his abilities.

"When the red light came on I didn't have a peer in this market," Brady said. "Day in, day out, week in, week out, I had some of the most interesting weekend shows in this market, not only in this market but in the nation.

"But I'm unemployed and I have to look at why. Hopefully, I can learn from my mistakes in the future. I'm going to make more of an effort to get along with management, to be more politically correct."

At his worst _ Lorena Bobbitt jokes shouldn't be part of a sportscast _ Brady was at least different. At his best, Brady was a refreshing change of pace for the indistinguishable sportscasts of others in the market. He stood out because he tried to enhance the appeal of sports with his brand of humor. He took risks, but risk-takers deserve to be rewarded because they're trying to entertain, not just spit out scores and pick up a paycheck.

Fine tuning: Viewers will get their first look at the new WFTS sports team _ Soicher and Kraska _ on Nov. 13 when WFTS broadcasts two Fox games in the afternoon, then picks up ESPN's broadcast of the Bucs-Lions game. WFTS news director Bob Jordan said Soicher and Kraska likely will appear between the 4 p.m. game and the Bucs game at 8 p.m. TNT begins its live NBA coverage Tuesday with a two-hour special titled A Salute to Michael Jordan, during which his No. 23 Chicago Bulls jersey will be retired and an 11{-foot statue will be unveiled. NBC Sports' NFL ratings are up 24 percent over the first eight weeks of last year and continue to show a slight advantage over Fox. In its Oct. 28 issue, Entertainment Weekly produces a "Power 101" entertainment index that lists Fox Sports president David Hill at No. 68, just behind No. 67 Jim Carrey and just ahead of No. 69 Demi Moore.

Up next:TODAY'S QUIZ

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