SBD/Issue 221/Sports Media

Deford's NPR Commentary Tackles ESPN's Hold On Sports Media

Does ESPN Claim Too 
Much Credit For Stories?
On his NPR commentary, Frank Deford today offers a tough take on ESPN, saying the company “rules the land, the seas and the firmament of sport, and ESPN sees that it is good.” Deford: “What it covers is so often what it owns the rights to -- in almost every major sport. ... ESPN can make you. ... In no other significant part of American culture does one media entity enjoy such domination.” Deford acknowledges being paid in the past by ESPN and that he “enjoyed working there.” Deford: “I don't come to criticize so much as to just nestle up to the elephant in the room and ask, perhaps, that it act with a wee bit more humility and a lot less self-promotion.” He states ESPN “has a very unbecoming habit of subtly claiming it alone uncovers all the news. Typically, a valid report will come out, but hours later, ESPN will declare that it has ‘confirmed’ such-and-such. That's kind of tacky stuff. Exclusive: ESPN hereby confirms that it is Wednesday.” ESPN is also “known to cozy up to the very superstars it purports to cover. Just suppose that CNN regularly had cutesy commercials for CNN starring Nancy Pelosi, John McCain and Rahm Emanuel. Well, that's the equivalent of what ESPN regularly does with top sports personalities. The practice is, simply, a journalistic disgrace, and, because ESPN is so powerful, it diminishes the integrity of all sports journalism.” Deford concludes, “ESPN does so much quality work, but at a certain point, in whatever field, if you become omnipotent, and if you are secure, you stop being a conceited smarty-pants and start exhibiting a measure of grace” ("Morning Edition,” NPR, 8/5).

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