Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ESPN loves Talking About ESPN

One of the best things on ESPN's website is the column by the Ombuds(wo)man Le Anne Schreiber. It's her job to call ESPN on all of their crap, not to mention sift through the e-mounds of complaints that the world-wide leader receives every day. She really does a great job and I highly recommend reading the columns.

The latest piece by Schreiber deals with a familiar practice by ESPN: making itself the story. The column points out four recent incidents in which ESPN reporters or personalities drew the spotlight away from the story and onto themselves. Two were courtesy of everyone's favorite reporters who when they report something you know it is false, Ed Werder and Chris Mortensen. Of course Werder was shoved into the spotlight after all of his unnamed sources made T.O. mad and ESPN followed up with an interview between Owens and Stephen A. where Owens told his side of the story about Werder. Mortensen had a falling out with the Raiders when the Raiders denied that one of his reports was true. Shocking. Morty told the AP that he no longer ran his stories by the Raiders for comment. Awesome.

Another issue was also T.O. related. Cris Carter told a couple different ESPN radio shows that he would deal with T.O. by shooting him. Obviously he was just making a point, but also awesome. Carter, after his second time of the day using the same words said that it was a "poor choice of words." You think? At least the NFL doesn't have a problem with gun violence.

Finally, viewers seemed to take issue with the Vitale-Tirico announcer swap. Well, not so much the swap, but the hours ESPN spent promoting their own employees.

I didn't even know about two of these issues, but I'm not surprised at all. This is common practice for ESPN. Whether it is Skip Bayless arguing, Lou Holtz and Mark May spitting and blubbering on about things, or any of these situations above, ESPN doesn't just report stories, it makes or shapes the story. This is a point that is brushed over in Schreiber's piece. While ESPN tilted the spotlight in its direction in these cases, the issue I have is that the guy moving the spotlight has on one of those ESPN fleeces that everyone got with their subscription to the Mag.

I've seen countless stories by ESPN that only give one side, have misleading headlines to pump up hits, or simply beat a played out story to death. Reporters, producers, and executives at ESPN will routinely choose the flash of Dallas locker room gossip over the substance of...well, anything has more substance than that.

On a final note of this latest rant against ESPN, I've seen extensive coverage on the NFL coaching carousel recently. Is it me, or is the coaching talk starting to overwhelm the playoff talk? I want to float an opinion about this media coverage and the shortened tenure of NFL coaches in recent years. I think ESPN, as the driving force of sports media, is at least partially responsible for the short leash on coaches in all sports. Of course many will say that organizations have developed a "win now or else" mentality, and they have, but this is because anytime a coach struggles, ESPN starts the "Is Bob Stoops on the Hot Seat?" story. Just another example of ESPN shaping and choosing the story so they have something interesting to talk about. We'll have to wait and see where the guy with the fleece points the light today.

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