I have a ton of other things that I should be writing. Yet I have to get this out of my system.
I last wrote about the role of the Poynter Institute in acting as the ESPN ombudsman, back in September. Specifically, about how badly they were doing in that role. I have tried to stop worrying about them, because it is a fruitless thing to let annoy me.
That Poynter wants to take it’s elitist, high-minded, ethical standards and toss them away for ESPN is their business.
Then I saw Awful Announcing’s great takedown on Poynter’s latest defense of ESPN — regarding Tebowmania.
That led me back to the piece written defending ESPN’s coverage as just dandy.
Specifically the closing paragraph.
When a story gets bigger than the sport itself, and ESPN leans into that narrative rather than turning away, some fans throw up their hands and cry, “excess.” But an all-sports network is the very definition of excess. We’re not inclined to fault folks for doing the very thing that’s made them successful.
So much revealed in just a few words. And that reveal is about Ms. McBride and Poynter Institute.
“But an all-sports network is the very definition of excess.”
In the Poynter world, it seems ESPN cannot be excessive in its coverage of something because ESPN’s very existence is excessive.
Does she share that view towards, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and the Sports Business Journal — to name a couple print examples? Considering that there are channels devoted to a single sport — NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL. To say nothing of golf, soccer and tennis channels, it might be time to revise that viewpoint.
That is a big reveal of a bias. That Poynter views ESPN as some giant obsessive fanboy. That the subject to which they are devoted — sports — is not really a big deal. In the big picture, that may be true. But they were hired to be ombudsman for this organization. They can’t cop-out by saying the subject matter is not weighty enough, and because it is only devoted to one subject it is excessive by its existence.
The second part, “We’re not inclined to fault folks for doing the very thing that’s made them successful.” The caveat I imagine be as it applies to what they consider a business decision. I doubt they had the same perspective towards News of the World’s decisions on how to cover a kidnapped child by tapping cell phones.
Remember the topic of this piece was the over-the-top coverage/hyping of all things Tebow. Not the editorial process or reporting. This has been the pattern with Poynter in their ombudsman role. They will defer on “business decisions” by ESPN. Going with a, “they know their business, and the ratings back them up” approach.
They didn’t touch the Craig James aspect of the Bruce Feldman story because it didn’t have anything to do with ethics involving journalism and reporting. That seems to be the only area they feel comfortable critiquing.
That James was a color analyst employed by ESPN who hired a PR firm along with his own position at ESPN to help get a college coach fired. Bad stuff, and lots of messy issues, but nothing to do with journalism. So they had nothing to say since it was a business decision by ESPN to keep him employed.
I don’t know if they don’t feel comfortable judging decisions made by the business side, or they don’t want to sully their hands with that side of the media. It really doesn’t matter. It means that they can’t even do the job they agreed to with ESPN if they are limiting their views to only journalism and reporting at an all-sports network.