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SBD/January 18, 2012/Media
Newsweek Questions Whether ESPN Has Become Too Big For Its Own Good
Published January 18, 2012
BALANCING ACT: Summers reports in order for ESPN to “maintain favorable access to athletes, teams, and entire leagues, it is widely accused of downplaying stories that cast sports in a negative light.” Live games may “lead fans to watch ESPN more and more, but they’re seeing less and less of the network they fell in love with.” Today, there is often “excellent journalism to be found in the ESPN empire, from its 'E:60' and 'Outside the Lines' programs -- to documentary fare like '30 for 30.''' ESPN The Magazine distinguishes itself “with investigations, and ESPN.com is a go-to destination for breaking news.” This kind of coverage “is crucial to the network’s reputation,” but viewers “do expect ESPN to bring them the truth about the athletes and coaches in whom they invest so much.” ESPN has “always kept an awkward balance, somewhat unique in broadcasting, in that it covers sports leagues journalistically at the same time it pays them billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast their games.” Similarly, the net “covers athletes as news figures at the same time it benefits from their promotion.” Summers writes this conflict of interest “can result in gratingly off-key programming choices.” If ESPN has “taught us one thing about broadcasting sports, it’s that storylines matter: matchups are more riveting when there are heroes and villains.” Having played the “underdog for the first half of its corporate lifetime, ESPN has, to many, become the dynasty it feels good to root against” (NEWSWEEK, 1/16 issue).