SBD/January 28, 2014/Media

ESPN Ombudsman Scrutinizes Grantland's Handling Of Dr. V Transgender Story

Lipsyte described the story as "structurally clumsy and flabbily edited"
ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte in his most recent column addressed the controversial story written by freelancer Caleb Hannan on Grantland entitled "Dr. V's Magical Putter" and wrote the story was not "a conscious persecution of a transgender person as much as it was an example of unawareness and arrogance." Lipsyte: "It was a rare breakdown in one of ESPN’s best and brightest places, and an understandable but inexcusable instance of how the conditioned drive to get to the core of a story can block the better angels of a journalist’s nature and possibly lead to tragic consequences. The story lacked understanding, empathy and introspection." Lipsyte added, "Aside from its humane shortcomings, I still don’t like it as a piece of writing. ... The story itself is structurally clumsy and flabbily edited. Yet Grantland’s gatekeepers -- including Bill Simmons ... and more than a dozen editors in all -- waved the story on through." Regarding the handling of the gender issues associated with the story, Lipsyte wrote Grantland and its editors had "two choices." Lipsyte: "One, the story could have been written without ever mentioning gender. ... Two, the story could have been spiked." He added Grantland is "a promising site" and "a treasure when it's in the right hands, mostly boring when not -- and sometimes, as we've seen, even dangerous" (ESPN.com, 1/27).

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ramachandran, Sharma & Futterman wrote ESPN is "at the forefront of the TV industry's efforts to expand into Internet distribution" and sees its WatchESPN app as "a way to cash in on growing demand." ESPN President John Skipper said although the company has considered a stand-alone broadband offering, "it's not close yet." As for ESPN's end game, Skipper said that it "plans a lot of online experimentation, but its priority is to protect pay-TV profits." He added, "Our calculation right now is we're going to ride this. We're going to ride it as long as it makes sense." Access to WatchESPN "raises the price" for carriers. Court filings show that Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS, which "offer the app to their subscribers, pay ESPN 19 cents more per subscriber each month" than Dish Network, which "doesn't support the app." A source said that DirecTV has "balked so far at ESPN's asking price for streaming video access," but it is "likely to negotiate for those rights when its contract with ESPN expires at the end of this year" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/27).

HITTING A GRAND SLAM: In N.Y., Bob Raissman praised ESPN's recent coverage of the Australian Open. He wrote, "The voices (especially Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez, Brad Gilbert and Patrick McEnroe) didn’t make the event about them and deep-sixed the technical drivel while describing play. Couple this broadcast excellence with aggressive reporting when an issue arose and add ESPN’s solid and varied camerawork, and all in all, it was a pleasant experience Down Under" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/26).
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