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McKay’s Legacy an Example for Sports TV

Jun 15, 2008  •  Post A Comment

“The live television reporter is also a storyteller whose function is to point out the twists and turns of the plot that is unfolding, and to alert the viewer to the thing that may happen as he watches. In addition, I think he has the responsibility to communicate some of the emotion he feels as an eyewitness. At the end of the telecast, if the viewer knows as much as I do and feels the emotion that I feel, then I think I’ve done a good job.”
—Jim McKay, “The Real McKay: My Wide World of Sports”
Jim McKay set the mold for the best elements that persist in sportscasting today. In the finest TV moments of current lead talents like Bob Costas and Al Michaels, we enjoy the reverberations of Mr. McKay’s work. The television community last week mourned the passing of Mr. McKay and rightly paid tribute to a pioneer whose reputation for fairness, accuracy, dedication and grace never cracked. We join that chorus, and offer condolences to his family and colleagues.
The 24-hour-a-day TV sports world reflects the culture at large, just as other TV genres do today. The tone is more grating, sensationalistic, ill-informed and mean-spirited than it was during Mr. McKay’s prime. But the characteristics that made Mr. McKay’s work impressive in his day endure even in the crasser times we now occupy. First, he got it right. Second, he made viewers feel a story with their hearts as much as they understood it with their heads. Third, he did it all with dignity.
We want to recognize the sportscasters who are continuing in the pattern set by Mr. McKay, who first appeared on TV in 1946. We urge them to pass along the best lessons from Mr. McKay. He taught those lessons on-air: telling the story of the abduction and murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, covering horse racing and golf, introducing to audiences unusual and offbeat sports through “Wide World of Sports.”
We are preceded in applauding Mr. McKay’s body of work with ABC Sports by a parade of journalism organizations. He racked up more than a dozen Emmy Awards, as well as a Peabody Award and a roll of other recognitions.
Mr. McKay had a satisfaction few people experience in their professions: Living up to their own standards of excellence. n

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