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ESPN and The Poynter Institute last week announced plans to participate in The Poynter Review Project, an 18-month process "in which a group of Poynter faculty will review ESPN content across all platforms and publicly comment on ESPN's efforts," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Poynter President Dr. Karen Dunlap and Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride discussed the partnership at length, and excerpts from the Q&A are below.
Q: Why did Poynter want this assignment?
McBride: I think the reason Poynter agreed to this is it offers three opportunities: One, is to help ESPN get better, and if we didn't really believe they genuinely embraced the idea of critique for the sake of self improvement, I don't think we would do it. The second thing is to develop teaching material. ESPN is this massive organization in that they are out there in so many different ways. They have so many arms on this octopus and our job is to understand where journalism is going. ... The third reason is for us to develop some expertise ourselves.
Q: Have you been assured by ESPN that you will have complete independence?
Dunlap: We will follow pretty much the track of the other ombudsman. That is, we will work with an editor who we understand is very much understanding of the independence that is expected. We feel we'll have the level of independence we need.
Q: How frequent will Poynter file ombudsman-like columns?
Dunlap: The general rule is it is a monthly column. But there is also the stipulation of when things come up, we might decide to write something additionally.
Q: Have you considered using social media as part of your charter with ESPN, to speed up the metabolism of responses if the situation warrants it?
McBride: Yes. I have, and we still have to talk about that. I use social media all the time in my work here at Poynter. It makes complete sense but we have not talked about how. I don't think it is whether we will use social media, it is how we will use it (SI.com, 3/3).
THE INSIDE JOB: St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans in a special to SPORTSJOURNALISM.org wrote the ESPN/Poynter partnership "raises an uncomfortable question." Will ESPN "transform itself ethically with Poynter’s guidance?" Or will ESPN "cloak itself in the school’s credibility while largely ignoring its advice?" ESPN Exec VP & Exec Editor John Walsh said, "We want to be held accountable. We want to be transparent. In this ever-expanding age, we think we can improve ourselves. And if an in-house critic helps us do that, that’s great." Walsh noted that ESPN execs "began discussions with Poynter at the end" of '10 as Ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer's 18-month tenure was nearing its end. Deggans noted an issue for Poynter could be determining "who exactly is a journalist at ESPN." Walsh said that ESPN is "working on that issue right now, standardizing job descriptions and pulling together its ethical policies for various corners of its business into one form." Walsh "disagreed with many criticisms leveled against ESPN" and called the "notion the company might co-opt Poynter’s credibility 'preposterous.'" He added, "We’ve had three ombudsmen, we felt some of the matter was repetitious, why not try something different? ESPN always operates on the premise we can be better" (SPORTSJOURNALISM.org, 3/3).
SETTING A GOOD PRECEDENT: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes ESPN's partnership with Poynter "couldn't have arrived at a much more pertinent time." In a "constantly transforming sports media world where lines are constantly crossed, the dwindling voices of nonpartisan sports-media critics that somehow stay employed in a cutback economy will always try to stay relevant." Hoffarth added, "That said, we expect a media think-tank such as Poynter, which describes itself as something that 'exists to ensure that Americans have access to excellent journalism,' to do a much more thoughtful and thorough job of staying on top of these kinds of gray areas and dissect them in a more timely basis. And with far more multimedia backbone" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/4).
Action sports network Fuel TV will offer 24 hours of live coverage from the '11 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series. It is the first time the series has ever had consistent coverage of its entire season. Fuel TV, which cut a deal with motocross series operators MX Sports Pro Racing and Alli Sports, will offer two hours of live coverage for each of the series' 12 races plus 15 one-hour recap shows from each race every Thursday. Alli Sports, the MTV- and NBC-owned company behind the Dew Tour, will cover production costs. Fuel TV will pay a rights fee, and Alli Sports and MX Sports will have some commercial inventory in the broadcast. Fuel TV GM C.J. Olivares said, "We've been continuing to take steps into the motocross category the last few years, so this is a big step for us in not only motocross but also in live programming. There aren't that many opportunities (in action sports) to go live. This was too good to pass up." Alli Sports President Wade Martin: "This makes sense for both of us. As they move more in the motorsports space and we look to position motocross more in the action sports genre, this is a good step." Fuel TV made its first foray into live programming two years ago with the Billabong Pipemasters from Hawaii.
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. NASCAR Sprint Cup: Subway Fresh Fit 5002/27Fox3:00-6:30pm5.9 NBA: Lakers-Thunder2/27ABC2:29-5:00pm2.4 WGC Accenture Match Play Championships: Semifinals2/26NBC2:00-6:00pm1.7 WGC Accenture Match Play Championships: Final2/27NBC2:00-6:00pm1.7 NCAA Basketball: BYU-San Diego State2/26CBS2:00-4:00pm1.6 NCAA Basketball: Florida-Kentucky2/26CBS4:00-6:00pm1.6 NCAA Basketball: Indiana-Ohio State2/27CBS4:00-6:00pm1.3 NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh-Louisville2/27CBS2:00-4:00pm1.2 NCAA Basketball: Syracuse-Georgetown2/26CBS12:00-2:00pm1.1 "NBA Countdown"2/27ABC2:00-2:29pm0.9 "ESPN Sports Saturday"2/26ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5 "Supercross' Legends: The Races"2/27CBS1:00-2:00pm0.4 Global Golf Adventure (taped)2/27NBC1:30-2:00pm0.4 "From the First Tee to the First Family" (taped)2/27NBC1:00-1:30pm0.3 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA: Knicks-Heat2/27ESPN8:00-10:45pm2.74,213 NBA: Heat-Bulls2/24TNT8:00-10:40pm2.03,159 NBA: Celtics-Nuggets2/24TNT10:40pm-1:10am1.62,572 NCAA Basketball:
NASCAR Nationwide Series:
Bashas' Supermarkets 2002/26ESPN25:30-7:55pm1.32,112
NBA: Thunder-Magic2/25ESPN8:06-10:45pm1.32,071 NCAA Basketball:
NBA: Hawks-Trail Blazers2/27ESPN10:45pm-1:15am1.21,740 NBA: Nuggets-Trail Blazers2/25ESPN10:45pm-1:31am1.01,632 NCAA Basketball:
ESPN CHICAGO's Jon Greenberg wrote as the Bulls have "evolved into a must-watch team," TV analyst Stacey King's calls "have become cult classics." The Bulls have "created a soundboard on their website with his greatest hits, such as 'Stop it!', 'I want to go higher!' and 'Mouse in the house,'" and 8,000 people "like" the soundboard on Facebook. King also "started a Twitter account a month ago and has more than 7,000 followers" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 3/3).
CUPS RUNNETH OVER: Tennis Channel has extended its rights agreements with the Int'l Tennis Federation and the USTA, allowing it to remain the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of all Davis Cup, Fed Cup and Hyundai Hopman Cup matches. As part of the deals, Tennis Channel will have rights to all U.S. Davis Cup matches through '13 and all other matches in the three tournaments through '15 (Tennis Channel).
FIVE-STAR RECRUITS: In Houston, David Barron writes Univ. of Texas fans "could hardly have gotten more fortunate" with ESPN choosing VP/Programming & Acquisitions for College Football Dave Brown and Senior Coordinating Producer Stephanie Druley "to head up the new ESPN Texas network." Brown said that the net "will sign on in mid- to late August." The "mix of studio shows, event shows and non-sports programs has yet to be announced," but Brown said that the channel "will be as live as ESPN can make it" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/4).
PARTNERING UP: Rogers Sportsnet has reached a three-year agreement with the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps, and as part of the deal Sportsnet will broadcast 21 Whitecaps matches this season, more than any other network in Canada. Rogers Sportsnet Pacific and Rogers Sportsnet One will broadcast 20 of the 21 games, all in HD. Sportsnet will televise 24 Whitecaps matches during the '12 and '13 seasons (Rogers Sportsnet).