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Volume 24 No. 157
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ESPN Ombudsman Lipsyte Talks Olbermann, NHL, "OTL" In Online Chat With Readers

ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte yesterday participated in a chat with readers, discussing the net's NHL coverage and the return of Keith Olbermann, among other issues. The following are excerpts from the chat:

Q: [Olbermann] seems to frequently attack other media. Is that fair reporting?
Lipsyte: Back in the day, when I actually wrote for ESPN, I often felt frustrated in not being allowed -- even obliquely -- to write about other sports media. I think how the media covers sports, whether live or investigative journalism, is part of how the rest of us consume and understand sports. I was absolutely delighted when Olbermann punched a hole in that wall. I hope he'll do more and I hope other writers and broadcasters on ESPN will follow suit.

Q: With the NHL starting up tonight, I would've thought the "worldwide leader" would have a home page blast on it; but given you have no NHL t.v. contract, not really surprise[d] that there wasn't.
Lipsyte: I don't know that I can fully answer that question without assuming that ESPN has figured out that there's more money to be made covering other sports -- especially in this amazingly critical time when major sports are beginning or ending their seasons. There is digital coverage of the NHL on the homepage and elsewhere, but you have to look for it. But I have to agree with you. There should be more NHL coverage across ESPN.

Q: Jon Gruden is a voice of the Monday Night games. ... But do I also have to see him on commercials for Hooters and beer during games? Why does ESPN allow that?
Lipsyte: It's going to be worth an ombudsman column down the line. I think that those things do feel like a conflict of interest if you think of Gruden as a journalist and not just an entertainer. ... This is a difficult and pervasive problem in the media.

Q: Is ESPN looking to get rid of OTL in the future based on its new airtime? It doesn't seem like they care about it anymore.
Lipsyte: I hope you're wrong. But I do worry about OTL. It doesn't make money, compared to other shows, which is a major priority. And it's a great source of embarrassment in terms of the leagues that ESPN partners with. That said, there is a real feeling within ESPN's news departments that OTL is an important part of what ESPN should stand for (, 10/1).