BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Up until a week before the announcement that New York had been selected as the U.S. nominee to host the 2012 Summer Games, many locals were unaware that the city was actually in the running at all! Though organizers insist that New Yorkers are overwhelmingly in favor of having the Olympics, some still have questions about the cost, the traffic and where exactly they're holding the Pentathlon. As the public tries to get answers about hosting the world's most celebrated sporting event, they're finding an unexpected source of skepticism -- the New York sports media. On the Media's John Solomon reports.
JOHN SOLOMON: It didn't take long after New York won the right to bid for the 2012 Olympics for local sports talk radio to turn the thrill of victory into the agony of victory.
CHRIS RUSSO SFX: Outside of the Olympics being here which does d-- which does-- I don't really care about one way or the other myself -- what, what exactly am I getting out of it down the road?
JOHN SOLOMON: Chris Russo, along with Mike Francesa, host the city's top-rated sports talk radio show, "Mike and the Mad Dog," on WFAN.
CHRIS RUSSO: They're just going to have trouble convincing me that all these things that they're building outside the Olympic Stadium is going to be that beneficial to the average New York citizen.
MIKE FRANCESA: That's the question to me is who is going to dip into their pocket and pay all of this money?
JOHN SOLOMON: Their qualms have been shared by an overwhelming majority of local sports columnists which is at odds with the mostly favorable coverage in the other parts of the paper as well as by the local TV stations.
PHIL MUSHNICK: The response from the New York City electronic media on that Saturday night was essentially just gratuitous chauvinism, cheerleaderism, boosterism.
JOHN SOLOMON: Phil Mushnick is a sports columnist at the New York Post.
PHIL MUSHNICK: New York won! We won anything! We're, we're number one! We're Miss America! We're Miss Congeniality! We won something! We could have won, you know, the Iraqi Parliament elections and to the people sitting there watching it were sitting there, I, I surmise, saying "What the heck?! What's this all about?! Who asked for this?!"
JOHN SOLOMON: In a Newsday on line survey 73.5 percent of the "jox populi" agreed. The letters printed in the Daily News's Question of the Week feature also ran 7 to 2 against the bid. But a survey taken by the NYC 2012 organizing committee found that 84 percent of New Yorkers favor hosting the Olympics according to the group's executive director Jay Kriegel. In addition, the bid has the support of every top area elected official. Kriegel doesn't think the city's chances will be hurt by the criticism of the sports commentariat.
JAY KRIEGEL: For whatever reason, these guys on their soap box are doing this, so who are they speaking for? So there are guys who are unhappy about it. But let's both be clear about one thing -- it is a very uninformed discussion. Whether that's our fault or theirs is not the point. Objectively, though, there isn't anything intelligent. They don't know what, what they're talking about. They haven't studied the bid, and they know nothing about the history of Olympic Games. So it's a rant right now.
JOHN SOLOMON: NYC 2012 has dealt extensively with the city's newspaper editorial boards, speaking with them up to five times, and it has paid off. All four major dailies have written editorials enthusiastically supporting the bid. The newspapers have also made significant financial contributions to the organizing committee but have chosen not to disclose that in their pages. The Post's Phil Mushnick says that's a serious oversight.
PHIL MUSHNICK: Not only should newspapers make it clear that they've contributed money to this endeavor, but they should make it clear that they have entered a per se conflict of interest and furthermore should admit that - to being ashamed of themselves.
JOHN SOLOMON: The New York Times donated at least 300,000 dollars in cash or in kind services according to the NYC 2012 web site. Times' spokesperson Kathy Park says that it is the paper's policy to disclose that in editorials when quote "the company has a financial interest in an issue we're writing about." She goes on to say "We don't necessarily mention when the company has made a charitable contribution or otherwise has given money in its capacity as a corporate citizen." No matter how altruistic the Times' motivations, should New York get the Olympics, the paper will no doubt see an increase in circulation and advertising as happened with the Atlanta Journal Constitution during the '96 games. One of the few local sports media personalities who has come out in favor of the bid is Al Trautwig who hosts the Angles talk show on the Madison Square Garden cable network and has covered 9 Olympics. He says that the press box pundits are geared much more towards the major team sports.
AL TRAUTWIG: People who have lived their lives as fans of mainstream sports have never really bought into, you know, watching the Olympics and seeing the joy of Johnny Moseley , you know, winning a gold medal. They've never done that.
JOHN SOLOMON: According to Trautwig, Olympic events like Moseley's freestyle skiing don't create much controversy -- the lifeblood of New York sports media.
AL TRAUTWIG: Let me ask you a question -- what makes more sense if you're trying to generate readers and viewers and listeners -- does it make sense to come on and go "Oh, this is a great idea! Okay, next caller!" It doesn't make sense to do that. It makes sense to bash it and hammer it and kill it -- because you can go off on a harangue in that way.
JOHN SOLOMON: Critical sports talk host and columnists were not something that the Beijing organizing committee had to deal with on the way to their successful bid to host the 2008 Games. Olympic Committee executive director Jay Kriegel would obviously prefer unanimous support, but he's armed with answers to all challenges as the process moves forward to 2005 when the site is finally chosen. Answers like these -- that the games will pay for themselves; that the traffic will be expertly managed; and that the Pentathlon will be held in the Bronx. For On the Media I'm John Solomon.