SBD/January 6, 2014/Media

ESPN Draws Criticism For Tebow Feature, As Conflict Of Interest Questions Arise

ESPN has been accused of self promoting now that it employs Tebow
ESPN yesterday ran a five-minute feature on NFL analyst Trent Dilfer working with Tim Tebow in an attempt for Tebow "to become a viable quarterback," something a former ESPN employee called in an e-mail a "new low for ESPN 'cannibalism,'" according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. An "overwhelming majority of my Twitter followers had issues with ESPN running the feature," and the piece exemplifies "the editorial landscape ESPN must negotiate now that Tebow is an employee." The piece "played too much like an infomercial whether that was ESPN's objective or not." While Fox during its interview of suspended Dolphins G Richie Incognito "opened this door with Jay Glazer interviewing his own MMA clients," Deitsch expects "higher journalism standards from ESPN because they have shown they care about such standards." Deitsch: "If it were my call, this feature would have never run." ESPN "emphatically" said that the feature "was not part of any contractual quid pro quo with Tebow upon his being hired" for the SEC Network. An ESPN spokesperson said that Tebow "reached out to Dilfer several weeks ago because he valued Dilfer's opinion as an expert on quarterbacks," and when Dilfer said that "he wanted to do it for a story ... Tebow agreed" (SI.com, 1/5).

SHAMEFUL SELF-PROMOTION: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes there is "no way to sugarcoat what ESPN ... is doing." The story "was a shameful attempt at self-promotion," the same thing the net did in '12 when it "saturated viewers with Tebow stories despite him rarely seeing the field" with the Jets. The situation "smacks of an all-too-cozy story that violates the tenets of journalism." The blame "isn't on Tebow, who is simply trying to find NFL work," but rather "on ESPN and Dilfer for promoting one of their employees" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/6). DEADSPIN's Timothy Burke wrote the story is "an odd turn from the network, which had previously finally acknowledged that yeah, maybe they went a bit overboard with the Tebow stuff." Now that Tebow is "pulling checks from the Mouse, everybody's back onboard to throat the NFL flameout" (DEADSPIN.com, 1/5).Business Insider's Cork Gaines wrote on his Twitter feed, "I agree with @deadspin that it was a BS Tebow puff-piece. … Also, Dilfer and Tebow have similar religious beliefs/personalities. I hope that wasnt behind Dilfer's overtly pro-Tebow stance." S.F. Chronicle's Ann Killion wrote, "Watching Trent Dilfer on ESPN. Cannot get creepy Tim Tebow segment out of my head. Ew." CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco: "So Dilfer worked with Tebow and fixed his motion. All well and good. But did he teach him how to read defenses? Not fixable" (TWITTER.com, 1/5).

WELCOME TO THE TEAM: Tebow made his on-air debut today as an analyst for ESPN, previewing tonight's Florida State-Auburn BCS National Championship game. USA Today's Nate Davis wrote, "Solid debut for Tebow. Maybe he's found a starting role after all."  Columbus-based WBNS-CBS sports anchor David Wilkinson: "Say what you want about the guy, but I think Tim Tebow is going to be just fine as an analyst. Thought his insight was solid on title game." Fox Sports Wisconsin Digital Content Assistant James Carlton: "Tim Tebow is a phenomenal analyst on ESPN already. His knowledge and articulation are refreshing for a recent player-to-TV guy on ESPN." Bleacher Report's Chris Trapasso: "Tim Tebow's not doing a bad job analyzing the national title game right now. Good for him." Chargers Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships Chris Lee: "Tebow just said he sang kumbaya for 3 hrs before his BCS game, not sure if famous Jameis will. I already like Tebow better on ESPN already!" Boston-based WFXT-Fox' Michael Dyer: "Does Tebow ever say anything interesting? Great guy..but he's vanilla ice cream. Not the makings of a good analyst."
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