SBD/July 10, 2013/Media

ESPN Ombudsman Examines Dwight Howard Coverage Amid Free-Agency Speculation

ESPN's coverage of Dwight Howard's free agency was examined
ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte in his most-recent column discussed how the company’s “pro basketball cognoscenti such as Stephen A. Smith and Chris Broussard tracked every free-agent movement” of Rockets C Dwight Howard “as if he were a storm center.” ESPN reporters while citing their sources had Howard “changing his mind all day and night Friday, even citing at one point the ‘50-50’ odds of his uncertainty.” Some of Lipsyte's mailbag correspondents “thought it was too much Howard, too much NBA and too many unnamed sources.” ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria in an e-mail wrote, “With a story like this, breaking on live television, you either make some decisions to trust sources that have been good in the past, or sit on the sidelines. Pretty sure we'd be equally criticized for doing the latter.” Lipsyte wrote, “How often does heavy coverage spike the ratings and thus justify the heavy coverage? And what about all those anonymous sources? In situations like this, I’ll give reporters the benefit of the doubt; they are protecting useful insiders rather than interviewing each other or floating rumors.” But he added the coverage “does keep one glued to ESPN” (ESPN.com, 7/9).

PUSHING THE VOTE: ESPN's Buster Olney noted some players on the Braves "expressed anger for what they perceive to be a concerted effort to get" Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig "voted in as the last man" for the NL All-Star Game roster. He added, "In particular, they're not happy with ESPN." Olney: "On the baseball page of ESPN.com Sunday morning, there was a caption that contained a reference to Puig saying 'Vote For Him' with an exclamation point." Olney noted Braves P Tim Hudson "responded to this suggesting the network had an agenda." Olney said, "Now I can promise you that there was not a big memo that went out telling everybody to push for Puig." He added, "The Braves should know that what's pushing Puig now is not a conspiracy, but the excitement that always comes along with the climb of a young player" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN.com, 7/9).

TWO THUMBS UP: SI.com’s Bruce Jenkins wrote ESPN showed “commitment” in its coverage of Wimbledon, and tennis fans “can only welcome ESPN's ever-growing dominance at the majors.” ESPN’s coverage “provides what we don't get from NBC when it tape-delays crucial matches or springs ‘Today’ on an unsuspecting audience.” It is what “vanished so inexcusably when CBS turned over a U.S. Open men's final to ESPN2 in mid-match (2010).” To whatever extent the major-network presence “was missed, fans had to be delighted with the prospect of solid, no-surprises coverage at Wimbledon.” Jenkins: “I thought ESPN did its best work yet, culminating with impressive commentary from Chris Fowler and the McEnroe brothers, John and Patrick, in a three-man booth for the men's final.” Meanwhile, Jenkins wrote the “strength” of Tennis Channel's coverage was “in its studio arrangement” (SI.com, 7/9).
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