…to bring you this link to the ESPN Ombudsman’s response to the network’s over-the-top coverage of Spygate.
Le Anne Schreiber pulls no punches in analyzing her employer’s coverage of the Patriots taping scandal. The column touches on many of the gripes that New England fans have had about the sensationalistic and speculative coverage dedicated to the episode.
Commenting on the statements made by Mark Schlereth and Cris Carter following the release of the tapes turned in by Matt Walsh, Schreiber notes:
For an hour and 15 minutes preceding the Goodell news conference, this SportsCenter Special was a runaway train of inflammatory speculation that had Schlereth and Carter placing asterisks on all the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins under Belichick.
Several times, Wingo tried to remind viewers this was simply the analysts’ personal opinion, but Schlereth resisted the notion that his opinion was debatable. Nothing short of a flashing red “Speculation” sign filling half the screen for a full 75 minutes would have had any chance of counteracting the effect Schlereth and Carter were having.
She has a quote from former Boston Globe sports editor Vince Doria on the incident:
When I described the Spygate Special to Vince Doria, ESPN senior vice president and director of news, as a runaway train of one-sided speculation, he said, “I can’t tell you your characterization is incorrect. That is just the nature of us sometime, in an unscripted, we-don’t-know-how-substantive-the-news-is-going-to-be, we-don’t-know-when-the-news-is-coming situation. It is hard in our format to come in and out.”
Apparently ESPN had actually made an internal effort to resist putting more speculation out there, but in the end they simply couldn’t resist. This section is interesting:
“What we told columnists,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN.com vice president and executive editor, “was, ‘Don’t jump to any conclusions that we cannot support with facts.’ We wanted to make sure all commentary was based on new information, not new speculation.”
And new information was hard to find.
“There was a lot of rumor and innuendo coming into us,” Stiegman said, “and we were filtering that through the enterprise unit, and through [reporter] Mike Fish, who spent a lot of time reporting on things that didn’t pan out. There wasn’t much new to report after the Super Bowl beyond the status of Matt Walsh’s negotiations with the league and whatever [Senator Arlen] Specter was saying.”
You might recall that Mike Fish was one of the reporters I was most critical of in my post Why Spygate Is The Most Disgraceful Episode In Recent Sports Media History, and the fact that he could provide us absolutely no new information throughout the entire episode. Now we have one of the network executives telling us that Fish “spent a lot of time reporting on things that didn’t pan out.”
It’s nice to have a little validation for what most New England observers felt was ridiculously one-sided coverage by ESPN of the entire affair.
(Approval ratings scheduled for 1:00pm)