Market Watch Examines ESPN's "Pattern Of Recklessness"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

ESPN has been through the ringer over the past year after the emergence of blogs and even mainstream media not always buying what the "Leader" was selling. There were multiple on-air, print and "roast" instances and there was even a Power Point sent around that tried to deter advertisers from working with the network. It's tough when you're at the top, whether the criticism is justified or not.

Well you can add the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch to the list of critics and they don't seem to be pulling any punches....

It's one thing for a journalist to see a quip fall flat, but it's another when people feel abused. To ESPN's shame, some of its employees have insulted the audience on several occasions with lowbrow or boorish behavior.

(Lists Jacobson, Jemele Hill and Bonnie Bernstein as examples)

John Walsh, executive editor of ESPN, cautioned me to "consider the volume (of content that) our company produces" and said: "I don't think it's a cause for a pattern or trend." ESPN's staff shouldn't try so hard to be controversial. The network would have fewer embarrassments.

"We'd rather the scoreboard says none," Walsh said. "But if the scoreboard says three (examples), we endure." He called them "three separate instances" and added: "Trying to group them together, I think, would not be a wise thing for you."

Then call me unwise, Mr. Walsh. I'm not buying your argument.

In the news business, journalists will chalk up something out of the ordinary as an aberration. But when it happens twice, we wonder if it is a pattern. By the third time, it can reasonably be called a trend.

ESPN rejects the idea that there is a pattern of recklessness in its ranks, but I'm not so sure.
The whole thing is really a fascinating read and even looks back at what ESPN used to do well and how it has changed over the years. The interesting thing to note for the future is, as more and more mainstream publications continue to lambaste the network, how will they respond? It seems like the network will take a couple steps forward (new Sports Center format, V Foundation work, Euro 2008, changing S.A.S' role) and then just leap back (NBA/NFL Draft, Titletown, continuing to employ Joe Morgan), so much so that they seem worse off than they were before.

I do somewhat agree with Mr. Walsh that incidents will undoubtedly take place with all the coverage that the network has. The issue though is the degree to which those incidents have hurt individuals or groups in the past. Up until recently most hadn't been punished and probably weren't even addressed. The question now is whether ESPN listens to its critics or just ignores them and plows ahead for that almighty dollar ultimately turning the network into Sports' version of MTV.

No entity, company, or medium is perfect. Not TV, newspapers, radio, or blogs. But if you're going to claim to be the "Leader" of anything.....you should try and come as close to that level as possible.

ESPN: The sports leader in embarrassment (Market Watch)

4 Comments:

Nobody is perfect...except for Joe Buck.

GMoney said...
Jul 9, 2008, 4:11:00 PM  

I'm sympathetic to complaints against the "WORLD WIDE LEADER," but this column seems like weak sauce to me. Let's see we've got Jemele Hill invoking Godwin's law, a drunk lady at a celebrity roast, a commentator on a radio show lamenting modern martyrdom, and the vague perception that "when you turn on ESPN, you're likely to see people shouting mindlessly at one another on one program or another." Forgive me for not calling my senator, but when I turn on my TV in general I'm likely to see people shouting, particularly if we are talking about the sort of daytime fare that competes against the most brash ESPN programing: notably First Take, Around the Horn, and PTI (and these, particularly the latter two, are openly comical forms of entertainment and punditry). The Price is Right, for example, is damn fine television but it is literally an hour of mindless yelling inter-spaced with commercials. And I hope this gentleman has his very strongest panties on before somebody clues him in to the judge-shows and paternity test programming on in the late afternoon, because god only knows what sort of twist he said undergarments would have to endure.

Anonymous said...
Jul 9, 2008, 9:55:00 PM  

I'm glad I am not the only person who's afraid they'll wake up one morning and find that ESPN has stopped showing live sports, and have truly joined MTV on the dark side of culture. A cultural word in our name, but none of that on our network.

Pip said...
Jul 10, 2008, 8:37:00 AM  

The worst thing about ESPN is the unrelenting glibness of the SportsCenter anchors. I long for a genuine human being just telling me what happened.

Taylor said...
Jul 10, 2008, 3:22:00 PM  

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