Ahab chased a great white whale. For Lisa Guerrero, a reporter at Fox Sports Net, the elusive prey was a 7-foot NBA center who in January announced that he was boycotting the media. "For a few weeks," says Guerrero, "I pursued Shaquille O'Neal relentlessly." She discovered that one of Shaq's favorite shows was Fox's You Gotta See This!, so she procured taped episodes for him. Before Lakers home games Guerrero made small talk with the Shaq flacks, agent Leonard Armato and Lakers director of public relations John Black. After games she made herself visible by stationing herself by O'Neal's locker. "Finally, as he arrived for a [Feb. 4] game against Sacramento," says Guerrero, "I sprung on him as he stepped out of his car and asked him [for an interview]. He said, 'Sure, let's do it this week.' "
Two days later, portions of Guerrero's half-hour sit-down with O'Neal, the first time he'd spoken with a member of the media in weeks, aired nationally on Fox Sports Net. "For someone like me who's not known nationally," she says, "an interview like that helps establish name and credibility."
"There's a healthy dose of competitiveness when it comes to getting superstar athletes to do exclusive interviews," says ESPN anchor Stuart Scott. "Not just between networks. There's competition within the shop, too." On the Friday of NBA All-Star weekend, Scott won bragging rights in Bristol when his 30-minute session with Michael Jordan aired on ESPN's Up Close. Scott already had established himself as a big-name hunter, having in the past two years bagged Sammy Sosa, Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton.
A possible career-maker came last Thursday night when CNN's Sports Tonight devoted its program to an exclusive with Rae Carruth, the Panthers' wide receiver who was convicted of conspiracy to murder his girlfriend, Cherica Adams. CNN/SI's Leslie Boghosian, 30, who had covered Carruth's trial and established a good rapport with his attorney, David Rudolf, conducted the interview. Rudolf had informed Boghosian that he and Carruth wanted her to have exclusivity.
Boghosian did a terrific job. She's also out of one. Boghosian was laid off on Jan. 22, a victim of the cutbacks at CNN/SI (the television arm of this magazine). Why did Boghosian continue to work for a network that only three weeks earlier had let her go? "I felt that it was the right thing to do," she says. "But you know what? A lot of people advised me to use the interview as a bargaining chip for a new job."