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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

Sean McManus hoping audience finds Katie Couric

(Credit: Watchdog)

I spoke to Sean McManus on a couple of occasions in preparing Friday's column, and he said some interesting stuff I didn't have room for in the newspaper.

Click below for the leftovers.

This is my last post for a few hours. Bob Knight is supposed to be calling me any minute. Seriously.

Enjoy the 2006 Steve Cunningham-Krzysztof Wlodarczyk bout on MSG Plus at noon.On juggling his two roles: "It’s gotten a little easier. I still spend the vast majority of my time in news, because in many ways on an ongoing basis it’s more challenging right now. We have a lot more to accomplish in news, and sports is in many ways a very well-oiled machine with long-term deals in place with both our events and our on-air talent.

"Our relationships with our rights-holders, whether it be Augusta or the NFL, the PGA Tour and the NCAA are about as good as they’ve ever been, and our production underneath Tony Petitti is running as smoothly as you could imagine.So there’s not a lot of day-to-day maintenance I have to focus on.

"I’m more focused on the larger issues, larger strategic issues, larger negotiations, and on news I’m really involved in the day-to-day operation of the Evening News, the Early Show, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours and trying to continue to make progress on those broadcasts."

On whether he has any regrets over adding the news post in 2005: "No, no, no. I get discouraged when we don’t make as much progress as I would like to in terms of the ratings in news, but I came to the conclusion when I first got the job all we can control is the quality we put on the air, and if the viewers come, which hopefully they will, then our ratings will go up and if they don’t then the ratings won’t go up.

"But it’s an enormously, enormously challenging business for all of us involved in the news business, not just CBS News. But I have no regrets, no. We still have an enormous amount of work to do, but I think we’re making really good progress."

On how much time he spends in news: "About 85 percent on news. Obviously during the next month with the Masters and the NCAA basketball championship, it’s much closer to 50-50. But I’m also blessed that I have a really good senior management team in news and a really good senior management team in sports.

"So it’s not as if I spend an entire day on news that sports is going to have an issue, or if I spend an entire day with sports that news is going to have an issue. So I’ve got two good teams in place that cover for my absences when they have to."

Is sports more fun? "Well, the subject matter in sports is a lot more fun generally speaking than news. Although what’s happening in the primary season is about as exciting as any sporting event I’ve ever covered. The ebbs and flows and shifts in momentum are very similar to covering a sporting event.

"The only difference is, the primary season lasts for months. Even the longest sporting event, which for us is the NCAA Tournament, lasts 2½ weeks. So the grueling nature of covering a primary is much more demanding than even covering a Super Bowl. But they’re very similar . . . [The election] is a blessing. It’s a blessing for all of us involved in the news business."

On Katie Couric: "I feel good about what we are broadcasting every day, I feel good about the job Katie is doing, I feel good about the broadcast. We’ll know how many viewers we can attract in the future. But we’re going everything we possibly can. If there were something I could point to and say we’re not doing as good a job in this area we would address that. But I think we’re waiting for our audience to discover and decide they want to get their news from Katie."

On Roone Arledge: "I think about him all the time. I ask him for guidance. Sometimes he gives me good guidance, apparently. Sometimes he doesn’t. I think about him a lot. He was operating in a much different world and a much simpler world where there were only three news gathering operations.There was no CNN, MSNBC or Fox, and the enormous investment in the production capability and innovative ways used to cover the news hadn’t been exploited by the other two networks. So Roone was the first to do that. So in many ways he had a more wide-open field ahead of him than we do at CBS."

On his father, Jim McKay: "He helps a lot, both with news and sports. He’s a news junkie so he helps with both. I get a lot of solicited and unsolicited opinions from him. For an 87-year-old man, he’s a lot sharper than I am on a lot of days."

On his hectic schedule: "I’m sort of used to going back and forth and I actually really enjoy it now. I think probably if I just had one division to worry about I’d be bored now. There is so much variety and stuff happening. A lot of it is grueling and difficult but a lot of it is enjoyable, too."

On initial skepticism of him from news people: "I'm sure there was. I imagine there was, but hopefully I’ve managed to show them I care a lot about the news and spend vastly more of time worrying about the news division than the sports division."

On lagging ratings for the Evening News obscuring some of the more positive developments in the division: "Until we solve the issue of getting our numbers up at 6:30 that’s going to be the overriding perception people have of CBS News. That has to be fixed, and we’re working on it very hard."

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