By: Allan Wolper
JACK MANN, A former Newsday sports editor who once cleaned up the Payola in the sports department, says teams who sell hard-to-get tickets to journalists are trying to bribe them.
“It’s designed to alter your opinion,”” said Mann, now a 71-year-old freelance horse racing writer.
“If that is not bribery, I don’t know what is.””
Mann sees no difference between accepting for free an impossible-to-get ticket to a championship game, and paying for it.
“You are still being given the opportunity to buy it,”” he said. “”You are still accepting something from them. That’s a conflict of interest.””
Mann, who became Newsday sports editor in 1956m said he asked for the job because he wanted the section to become as credible as the rest of the paper.
“We were major league paper with a circulation of 400,000, and we had a minor league sports section, “”he commented.
“Red Patterson, the public relations guy for the Brooklyn Dodgers, used to send us stuff and we’d run it as if it were written by a staff writer.””
Mann once returned a coffee table sent to his office by Madison Square Garden, he said, and another time removed his name from a free-pass list at the local race tracks.
“I didn’t even know I was on that pass list,”” Mann said. “”I canceled all that stuff right away. We starting running everything on the level. And it worked. We had the best damn sports section in New York by 1961.””
Mann unveiled his views on payola Oct. 1, 1961, in an article in the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Bulletin.
Under the headline, “”Whose Bread I Eat, His Song I Sing, “” the article responded to criticism from managing editors who had attacked the ethics and professionalism of sportswriters. Mann asked the country’s MEs to use their authority to end direct and indirect payoffs to sports editors-the most common forms then being dinner invitations for the editor and his wife, a consulting job on the team’s TV show, and a Christmas present in July.
But the “”most pernicious,”” is the junket Mann wrote, “”because it is a bribe not only to the individual reporter who takes the free ride, but to his newspaper, which uses the free dateline.””
The best way to end the sports payola epidemic, Mann advised: pay writers what they’re worth and give them an expense account.
“Some newspapers have tried it and it worked,”” Mann wrote 35 years ago.