Bob Costas established himself years ago as a terriffic host with accomplished interviewing skills. For years his work at NBC, in sports and when sports stories made the Nightly News, was held up to the media world as some of the best.
So much so that CNN has asked Costas to occasionally sub for Larry King. Costas was scheduled to do just that last week until he learned that the network had planned another hour devoted to Natalie Holloway, the missing Alabama teenager. Costas suggested alternatives for the program. Producers held firm. Bob Costas walked away. A fill-in named Chris Pixley hosted King's timeslot.
Our industry has taken several well deserved hits recently for the allocation of valuable airtime to stories that simply that may or may not deserve it. This case has several points that merit discussion.
Of course, if this were one of my daughters who was missing, naturally, I would want everything known to humankind done to try and find her, including extensive media coverage. Yet I hope there would be minds smarter than mine making those decisions.
The pain of Natalie's parents is beyond my comprehension, but we've missed a chunk of this story which is puzzling.
I have yet to hear the question asked, "Who are we as Americans to force our laws, our justice, our ways of investigating on another sovereign government?"
Or when I hear, as I often have on the 24-hour networks, friends and family of Natalie angrily stating, "Aruban authorities haven't done enough! We're angry! They should do more!"
According to who?
I have been fortunate to travel and report from more than a dozen countries around the world. Since my first foreign assignment I was sternly told, "You are a visitor in a foreign land. It doesn't matter that you're an American. You play by their rules."
What a valuable lesson.
I don't know what questions Bob Costas would have asked had he hosted the hour. We'll never know, but it causes one to speculate. Would CNN have balked at this line of questioning?
Taking a stand in a newsroom is not easy. Never has been. Never will be.
But it is often the right thing to do.