SBD/September 9, 2013/Media

ESPN Ombudsman Compares Net's Coverage Of Riley Cooper, Hugh Douglas Incidents

Douglas (l) was fired by ESPN after a recent altercation with Smith
ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte in his most recent column compared the net's coverage of Eagles WR Riley Cooper's use of the N-word to an incident in which former ESPN host Hugh Douglas reportedly used the word to his "Numbers Never Lie" co-host Michael Smith prior to being let go by the net. Lipsyte wrote the incidents "were very different." Cooper's situation had "witnesses and pictures." It was "an easy story to cover and chew on, which ESPN did incessantly, although sometimes interestingly." The Douglas incident, which occurred during the National Association of Black Journalists' annual conference, "seemed at least as important as a wide receiver’s outburst." Douglas and Smith were "representing a network that offers news and commentary." Lipsyte asked, "Don’t fans have a right to know as much about them as about a 25-year-old backup player caught in what seems to have been a moment of alcohol-fueled frustration?" An "airing out of why corporate decisions were made in the NABJ case was in order -- or at least some discussion" by the likes of ESPN's Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. Lipsyte: "So just why was there little or no coverage or commentary about Douglas on ESPN?" ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria said, "We generally have avoided covering our personnel matters. With higher-profile talent, we have made exceptions when we felt the story has resonated at a certain level. While the Riley Cooper story brought some attention to the Douglas story because of some perceived similarities, we didn't feel it merited coverage in 'SportsCenter.'" Lipsyte wrote, "I disagree. The media’s role is a critical and ongoing aspect of sports coverage. ... Sometimes we need to know as much about the media as we do about the sports it covers if we want to fully understand the sports" (ESPN.com, 9/6).
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