By David Skolnick
I like and respect Stan Boney and believe he does a very good job as WYTV’s news anchor.
That’s what makes writing this column tough. But it has to be written.
The local ABC affiliate spent a lot of air time promoting a letter ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. wrote to Boney.
WYTV touted it as the first time the former congressman, who’s been in a federal prison for more than seven years, made contact with anyone in the media.
Traficant makes that point in the first sentence of his letter to Boney.
“I want you to know that you are the only media figure I’ve responded to in over 7 years. The reason? I always thought you were fair, and I liked you!”
My initial thought was to be somewhat jealous of Boney.
Since being hauled off to prison, Traficant has denied all interview requests from journalists all over the world.
After all this time, Traficant, who’s to be released Wednesday, was going to tell his story to another journalist. [I’ve never believed it would be me, but I still have a competitive spirit about such things.]
That bit of jealousy quickly disappeared as I read the rest of the first page and the 14 that followed.
Boney had written to Traficant to ask questions about a book the anchor is writing on Cardinal Mooney High School football.
Traficant wrote page after page after page about high school football.
I wonder if Al Bundy or Jim Traficant wrote this letter? I realized it couldn’t be Bundy because there was no reference to scoring four touchdowns in one game when he played for Polk High School.
Traficant used some of the space to talk about college football including “a belly play into the short side” for a 1-yard gain.
Traficant didn’t write a single word on life in federal prison.
As for discussing it when he gets out, he wrote, “I do not plan to meet with any press when I get back! If, and when I do, I’ll give you the exclusive.”
So what does WYTV do with this letter that is perhaps only mildly interesting to viewers, excluding those who followed Mooney football about 50 years ago?
The station used a classic bait-and-switch tactic.
Rather than promote the letter as Traficant responding to Boney’s letter about Mooney football and barely anything else, WYTV ran commercial after commercial about the ex-congressman breaking his silence to the station.
They built up excitement and anticipation touting the Traficant letter and then didn’t come close to delivering the goods.
Instead of something interesting, viewers got two or three days of excerpts from Traficant reminiscing about high school football.
Honestly, I can’t remember because I stopped watching after the first day and reading the letter on the station’s Web site.
I felt I was ripped off more than anything else.
This was the big Traficant story?
Regardless of whether you love or admire Traficant or you think he’s an embarrassment to this area, there is a lot of interest in his Wednesday release from prison.
There have been and will be plenty of stories in this newspaper and on local TV stations as well as from national media outlets about Traficant.
You can determine the newsworthiness of what you read or watch.
This newspaper, and I personally, will be writing a lot about Traficant in coming days: his release, opinions about him from his friends and critics, and the Sept. 6 “Jim Traficant Appreciation Dinner.”
You can choose to read it, praise it, hate it, want more, want a lot less or ignore it.
But I can guarantee one thing: You won’t read about Traficant’s high school football games. That “story” has already been done.