SBD/September 26, 2012/Media

ESPN's Poynter Review Project Examines The Net's "Football At A Crossroads" Series

ESPN's "Football at a Crossroads" series of investigative reporting and feature stories was “an ambitious and effective display of journalism and storytelling, told with every arrow in ESPN’s quiver,” according to Jason Fry in the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project. With the NFL “facing a growing number of lawsuits" on the issue of concussions, ESPN.com NFL Senior Deputy Editor John Banks "proposed a late-summer series exploring the issue.” ESPN has been criticized before for “struggling with the conflicts between its journalism and its multibillion-dollar business relationships, but this package showed its journalists doing unflinching work despite such challenges.” The series showed that ESPN “can be an effective advocate, using its resources to explore a subject many sports fans want to ignore.” Poynter has previously “challenged ESPN to use its pre-eminence in sports information and journalism to shine a light in dark corners and encourage real change.” ESPN "has a role to play" in regards to the concussions issue. The question is “what that role should be and where to draw the lines between investigation and advocacy.” ESPN "could have made its efforts more effective in a couple of ways.” For one, the package “lacked a natural entry point and overview.” In addition, ESPN should “weigh in more strongly on how to make football safer -- and what should happen if that proves impossible.” ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha offered 10 suggestions, but “his take should be the beginning of that effort, not the end.” Fry: “We’d like to see more radical proposals and a vigorous debate involving players, physicians, parents, league officials and others, presented under the Football at a Crossroads banner and made easy for readers to find.” ESPN Senior News Editor/Enterprise Reporting Dwayne Bray said that ESPN “considered holding a television town hall on the subject but had to abandon the idea based on logistics as the season approached.” Reviving that concept “would be a terrific next step” (ESPN.com, 9/24).
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