SBD/July 13, 2012/Media

ESPN Takes Heat For Putting Penn State Alum Matt Millen On Air To Discuss Freeh Report

Critics claim Millen, a Penn State alum, should not have given thoughts on Freeh Report
ESPN made a "questionable choice" in making college football analyst Matt Millen its main voice during its coverage Thursday of the Penn State scandal, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. That was especially true "immediately after the 267-page report on Penn State's internal investigation into its handling of Jerry Sandusky was released Thursday morning." That was the "time for coverage to help viewers digest the details." Going back to Millen "throughout the day made sense if only for his unique qualification of having played there." The net said Thursday that ESPN analyst and former Penn State football player Todd Blackledge was "unavailable to comment" (USA TODAY, 7/13). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Millen was "too close to the principals involved in this story," and he "could not be objective." His credibility "was shot." Raissman: "Millen’s worst day as general manager of the Lions was better than his few minutes of airtime Thursday. He paid lip-service to [Former FBI Dir Louis] Freeh’s findings on Paterno, directing his heat at, and dropping a dime on, university prez Graham Spanier." Not only was Millen "running interference for the late Mr. Paterno, he was playing viewers for morons." Millen has "always been a straight shooter," but he "should not have been on the air Thursday." However, Raissman writes, "His pathetic, slanted performance got ESPN just what it wanted. A strong reaction" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/13). In Boston, Chad Finn writes the "only purpose ESPN served" by putting Millen on the air "was putting a pathetic face on those in Penn State denial" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/13).

WHAT DID THEY EXPECT?
AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote the decision to put Millen on ESPN "in any form to talk about Penn State or the Freeh Report was ludicrous." For the Freeh Report to emerge "regarding a man he held in such high regard as Joe Paterno has to shake his reality to the core." Yoder asked, "How would anyone react to going on national television and talking about a close mentor or father figure concealing child abuse over many years? It's an impossible task." To expect Millen to go on ESPN "and speak rationally and coherently about what happened at Penn State with proper perspective is fantasy." Millen was "not the right person to react, analyze, or report on what transpired today, or probably any day." It "wasn't beneficial for ESPN," and it "certainly wasn't beneficial for Millen." It also "wasn't beneficial for viewers." There were "countless other options at ESPN's disposal, many of which they employed throughout the day" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 7/12).

TWITTER RESPONSE: Twitter blew up Thursday with reaction to Millen's appearances and comments. SI.com’s Richard Deitsch: “Matt Millen is the absolute wrong person to be your lead analyst on Penn State today. Management is setting him up here.” Author James Arthur Miller wrote, “One wonders how many ESPN execs are on planes now flying back from @ESPYS. Millen should not be constant presence on air this a.m.” WSCR-AM’s Dan Bernstein: "Did Matt Millen really call the #FreehReport just ‘one man's opinion?’ If so, how can he still be employed?” FoxSports.com’s Jason Whitlock: “Does Millen have an agent? His agent should pull him off the air. I like Millen (as a broadcaster). This is career suicide.” WEEI-FM’s Lou Merloni: “Matt Millen should take some time away from TV. He is embarrassing himself.” Deadspin’s Timothy Burke wrote, “Look @ Millen's inability to grasp reality & you can understand how so many PSU people allowed this to continue for so long. Systemic denial.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT: The Freeh Report was front-page news across the country Friday morning, especially in the state of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Inquirer dedicated its entire front page to the report and included the headline, "Damning Judgment." The Centre Daily Times, the newspaper that serves State College, had the headline, "Power Failure." Several papers made bold headlines out of phrases included in the Freeh Report, including "Callous And Shocking" in the Erie Times-News and "We Failed" in the Scranton Times-Tribune. The following are other front-page headlines seen on daily newspapers (THE DAILY).

Chicago Tribune: "Saddening, Sobering' Report"
Dallas Morning News: "Paterno Faulted For Cover-Up"
Idaho Statesman: "Ugly Turth Shatters Paterno's Legacy"
Newark Star-Ledger: "The Failure Of Penn State"
N.Y. Times: "Abuse Scandal Inquiry Damns Paterno And Penn State"
USA Today: "School Culture Blasted In Report"
Washington Post: "Freeh Report Lambastes Penn State Leadership"

TV MONITOR: CBS’ “Evening News” and NBC’s “Nightly News” both led their Thursday broadcasts with reports on the Freeh Report. CBS featured a live interview via satellite with Jay Paterno, Joe Paterno’s son, in its five-minute 35-second report. NBC’s Bob Costas appeared live via satellite from London during NBC’s seven-minute 22-second report. ABC’s “World News” first reported on the Freeh Report 4:22 into the broadcast, after a report on the U.S. Olympic team uniforms being manufactured in China. ABC aired a three-minute 48-second report, including commentary live in-studio from ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams. Friday's edition of both NBC’s “Today” and CBS' "CBS This Morning" reported on the Freeh Report within the first 15 minutes of the broadcast. ABC’s “GMA” did not air a report on the Freeh Report (THE DAILY).
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