SBD/April 24, 2013/Media

Lipsyte Says He Plans To Focus On Conflicts Of Interest While ESPN Ombudsman

Lipsyte noted ESPN is sports' most important presentation and media entity
It is "hard to know where a new ESPN ombudsman should begin," but Robert Lipsyte, who will take over the role on June 1, indicated that his "central theme will be ... conflict of interest," according to Marc Tracy of THE NEW REPUBLIC. Lipsyte said he will focus on the "interface of ESPN’s fiduciary relationship with the leagues and its commitment to coverage, to journalism." He added, "I’ve spent 50-odd years in the business, believing that sports is one of the main currencies of communication in America, and still an important moral and social crucible, and that the media is critically important in the way it presents that. So here you have the most important presentation and media organization -- and they both happen to be the same entity.” Lipsyte noted that ESPN Exec Editor John Walsh "approached him a few weeks ago about the job." Lipsyte: "It’s an amazingly interesting and challenging and possibly difficult job -- unlike anything I’ve ever done before. And in some ways a kind of, probably, final job in twilight.” Tracy reported the "main differences" Lipsyte sees between his role and that of other media reporters is he will be "more sensitive to readers and viewers' complaints." He said, "I will try to explain what happened. If it turns out to have been some minor mistake, fine. If it turns out to be a major ESPN f***-up, then that’s the story, too.” He also hopes he will "get answers from ESPN that outside reporters might not." Lipsyte: "I’d like to think that they have to talk to me. I think that they would answer my phone calls, simply because, y’know, how could you not answer your ombudsman’s phone calls? That’s like a guilty plea” (, 4/23).

CAUTIOUS APPROACH TO TWITTER: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Lipsyte will be the "first ESPN ombudsman to do online chats," though he will limit some other social media outlets. Lipsyte: "The only thing I'll be careful about is using Twitter. It seems like the ombudsman should wait a beat to weigh in there" (USA TODAY, 4/24).
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