SBD/February 25, 2011/Media

ESPN Shifts Ombudsman Duties To Poynter Institute Faculty

ESPN and The Poynter Institute Thursday announced The Poynter Review Project, an expansion of ESPN's traditional ombudsman role. For the 18-month tenure of the deal, a panel of Poynter officials will review ESPN content across all platforms and publicly comment on the outlet's efforts. This will include monthly essays and other more time-sensitive responses. The commentaries will be posted on beginning next month (ESPN). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports ESPN "will pay Poynter, as it paid" its three previous ombudsmen: George Solomon, Le Anne Schreiber and Don Ohlmeyer. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed. ESPN Exec VP & Exec Editor John Walsh said, "When we started the ombudsman, people thought it was crazy and different. This is a little different from the different." Walsh said he believes there is a consensus at ESPN that the ombudsman "made us better at what we do" and "made us reflect more upon the execution of an idea that might have been controversial" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/25). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the Poynter project is a "break from naming individuals to the internal watchdog role" (USA TODAY, 2/25). DAILY VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote, "Give credit to ESPN ... for reaching out to the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalistic ethics and training facility in Florida, to weigh in on the channel's content across various platforms" (, 2/24).
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