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Colleagues say it's a 'firing offense' when a sideline reporter makes up quotes

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A sports reporter casually admitted making up quotes when her sources would not or could not talk to her in time for her live shot.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "PARDON MY TAKE")

CHARISSA THOMPSON: I would make up the report sometimes because, A, the coach wouldn't come out at halftime, or it was too late. And I was like - I didn't want to screw up the report so I was like, I'm just going to make this up.

MARTIN: That's Charissa Thompson on the "Pardon My Take" podcast talking about her work as an NFL sideline reporter. But many of her colleagues, both current and former, are not amused. One called it a firing offense, another says the harm done to their entire field is profound. We wanted to ask somebody who has done the job about this, so we called Lisa Guerrero. She was a sideline reporter for ABC's "Monday Night Football," she's now a correspondent for Inside Edition. And she wrote about her experience in her memoir, "Warrior: My Path To Being Brave." Good morning, Lisa.

LISA GUERRERO: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So as briefly as you can - I know this is a crazy question for some people, but for people who don't know, what is the role of the sideline reporter?

GUERRERO: You know, you get just a few minutes during every game to convey a few key points about a player's past. And also, importantly, you interview either the player of the game after the game. And at halftime, you talk to both coaches, typically, one while you're walking into his locker room at the end of the second quarter and the other coach as you're coming out at the beginning of the third quarter. And then the - you know, in my case on "Monday Night Football," Al Michaels would toss down to me and ask, what did the coaches have to say, Lisa, at halftime? And you convey their thoughts.

MARTIN: So these comments made for some intense reaction from people like you who've done the job, and I was wondering why you think that is.

GUERRERO: Well, it was like she threw a verbal Molotov cocktail from the broadcast booth down onto the sidelines. Every single sideline reporter, past, present and future, had really strong reactions because it seemed to disrespect and disregard the hard work that sideline reporters do before, during and after the games. You know, in the case of, you know, what had happened to me on "Monday Night Football" exactly 20 years ago, by the way, I made a mistake on the air, a legitimate mistake.

I misspoke. I correctly - I corrected my words and that mistake immediately, within seconds of making it. But I was fired because people thought, and, you know, the network executives decided that I had lost credibility with viewers because I made a mistake. So it's interesting to me that 20 years later, you see a woman who didn't make a mistake, she intentionally decided to mislead viewers.

MARTIN: Wow.

GUERRERO: And that in itself, to me, is a much more drastic example of somebody losing credibility with viewers.

MARTIN: Do you think that some of this is the fact that so many sideline reporters are women now? And it does make me wonder whether the sense is that women have a hard time being taken seriously in this job anyway, even though it's been 20 years since you did it, and that's part of it. As briefly as you can.

GUERRERO: Absolutely. As soon as she said this, my phone started ringing off the hook from my friends who were sideline reporters or currently are sideline reporters, and we all felt that this was going to damage the credibility of sideline reporters. But even more than that, I'm currently an investigative correspondent for Inside Edition, and I think it hurts the credibility for all of us that are dealing with a society that already thinks we are fake news. You know, the press is your enemy.

MARTIN: Yeah.

GUERRERO: So this kind of thing hurts all reporters, not just sideline reporters.

MARTIN: That's Lisa Guerrero. She is a former sideline reporter, as she told us, and she's now an investigative correspondent for Inside Edition. Her memoir is "Warrior: My Path To Being Brave."

Lisa, thank you so much.

GUERRERO: Thanks, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE VOICELESS' "AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.