Poynter Review Examines Knight's Kentucky Omissions, Trayvon Martin Coverage
In the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Jason Fry wrote ESPN college basketball analyst Bob Knight went “too far recently in covering the early rounds of the NCAA men’s tournament,” as he went “out of his way” to avoid saying “Kentucky.” He instead referred to UK as only “that team from the SEC.” Knight in ’09 said that he “couldn’t understand why Kentucky’s John Calipari was still coaching since he’d ‘put two schools on probation in Massachusetts and Memphis.’” Knight followed that up last spring by “criticizing the policy allowing players to go to the NBA after a single season," saying that UK had “started five players in the NCAA tournament games that had not been to class that semester.” Fry noted that statement “wasn’t true, and Knight soon apologized.” Readers and critics “pounced on Knight’s circumlocutions, and rightly so.” Fry noted with a “media furor in full swing, something interesting happened.” Knight on March 21 appeared on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show to discuss Saturday's Kentucky-Indiana rematch, and “mentioned both teams by name multiple times.” ESPN Senior VP & Managing Editor of Studio Production Mark Gross in an e-mail said, “Our production staff has had conversations with Coach Knight on the topic. On this past Wednesday’s appearance on ESPN’s 'Mike & Mike,’ he talked extensively about Kentucky, a week after he specifically discussed Kentucky on his March 14 'Mike & Mike' appearance. Our focus now is on our upcoming coverage of the NCAA tournament and Final Four.” Fry wrote for a coach to be “petulant and flaunt grudges is part of the theater of sports; for an analyst to do so is unprofessional behavior.” This gets to a question that has “bedeviled ESPN before: Do its star analysts get to play by different rules than the rest of ESPN’s talent?” In Knight’s case, ESPN “moved relatively quickly to intercede and, one hopes, to prevent further damage.” But it “shouldn’t have had to do so in the first place” (ESPN.com, 3/27).
DRAW A LINE: Meanwhile, Poynter Institute Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride examined ESPN employees’ handling of Trayvon Martin’s death, a Florida teenager who was shot and killed Feb. 26 by a neighborhood watch captain. ESPN.com’s Jemele Hill “did a very nice, tight column this week explaining how the lives of professional athletes are connected to the life and death” of Martin. That was contrasted with ESPN’s “bouncing back and forth on whether its talent can post a photo of a ‘hoodie’ via social media in solidarity with the family” of Martin. As a journalism organization, ESPN “should do more work like Hill’s and less like the self-expression of several others -- including ESPN anchors Trey Wingo and Mike Hill, NFL reporter Michael Smith and Grantland writer Jonathan Abrams -- who donned hoodies in their Twitter avatars.” McBride wrote Hill “practiced journalism,” and it is “so much more effective than pulling up the hood on your sweatshirt and taking a picture.” McBride: “If you want to make a difference, explain the story, don’t become part of it” (ESPN.com, 3/27).