SBD/July 19, 2011/Media

Poynter Spreads Blame In Analysis Of ESPN/Bruce Feldman Situation

ESPN execs asked Feldman to lay low while they looked into Mike Leach book
In the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Poynter Institute Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride wrote "nearly everyone involved" in the recent confusion surrounding college football reporter Bruce Feldman's standing at ESPN "bears some responsibility." ESPN, as it stressed in a statement Friday afternoon, "did not suspend Feldman" for his participation in former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach's new book. Instead, ESPN managers asked Feldman last Thursday "to not publish anything online, or go on the air, for what turned out to be roughly 24 hours, while they figured things out." ESPN gave Feldman the "all-clear on Friday afternoon, but Feldman as of Monday morning had yet to tweet or make any public statements, even to explain why he's not saying anything." ESPN VP/Editorial, Digital & Print Media Rob King and ESPN The Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chad Millman said that "at this point, Feldman's silence is self-imposed." McBride noted Feldman's silence on Twitter when news broke of his alleged suspension "was all the confirmation most bloggers and tweeters needed." ESPN has "hundreds of people fully engaged in the virtual space and did nothing to immediately correct the inaccuracy." Still, it is "not surprising that communication is complicated" at a company as large as ESPN. In hindsight, McBride believes ESPN missed "two opportunities to make decisions" regarding Feldman's involvement with Leach's book. After Leach filed a lawsuit against ESPN in '10, Feldman's "involvement with the book became an impossible conflict." But he "failed to seek and the network failed to provide clear guidance." Feldman and the book publisher "changed Feldman's title from co-author to editor, moving his name off the jacket and onto the title page." McBride added, "That changed the appearance of a conflict but not necessarily the actual conflict. ... If ESPN had better guidelines on who can write as-told-to books, this whole thing could have been avoided" (ESPN.com, 7/18).
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