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Volume 26 No. 225
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Column: ESPN Lacked All-In Approach With NBA-China Story

ESPN's coverage of the NBA-China controversy "has been more confusing than authoritative" as the company adheres to the "apolitical nature" stressed by President Jimmy Pitaro, according to Ben Strauss of the WASHINGTON POST. There have been "no detailed reports about how front offices were dealing with the fallout or extended analyses of how the NBA's business might be affected, no primers on how the league arrived at this crucial point." There also have not been "think pieces on the league's handling of China through the lens of its past progressive social justice stances." While ESPN analysts and guests "talked about some of these issues on the network's airwaves, its reporting notably did little to move the story forward, a departure from its usual NBA coverage." The net "featured a number of stories on the topic" online, but many of them were "without bylines and attributed to ESPN's news service, or simply 'ESPN.'" Additionally, ESPN's Zach Lowe "attempted to host an expert from the Council on Foreign Relations on his podcast, only to be told he couldn't." Strauss notes ESPN "didn't ignore the story," as it was discussed on ESPN shows like "First Take," "High Noon" and Will Cain's afternoon radio show. However, what was "less prominent was analysis on the context of the Hong-Kong-China dispute." One place to "address the larger issues of Hong Kong could have been on 'Outside the Lines,' the network's flagship news show." Host Jeremy Schaap said that he "attempted to have a China expert on the show last Tuesday," and while ESPN supported the effort, none of the guests "were able to appear because of logistics" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/16).