ESPN Ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber has her latest column up today.
Issues discussed include outrage over Lou Holtz invoking the name of Hitler, coverage of the Presidential campaign, and ESPN’s decision to ignore the allegations that Brett Favre had called the Lions to offer assistance in game planning for the Packers as reported by Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com.
I found the comments from ESPN’s senior vice president and director of news (and former Boston Globe Sports Editor) Vince Doria about the Favre coverage interesting.
“This wasn’t about not respecting or not wanting to credit Jay Glazer,” Doria said. “We have credited Glazer on many stories. If this had been a routine trade or injury story broken by another news outlet, we would have run it, attributed it to the other outlet, then tried to confirm and advance the story. But when a story involves criminal allegations or issues that impugn character, and when there is no track record of similar behavior by the individual targeted by the story, we don’t report it without further confirmation on our part.
“We felt this story called Favre’s character into question, and we couldn’t confirm it. Favre had a text exchange with [ESPN senior NFL analyst] Chris Mortensen, saying it wasn’t so, and the Lions said they had no knowledge of it. We couldn’t go to Glazer’s sources, because he didn’t name them, and the original lack of detail about what was said suggested to me they were secondary sources. They could have been anybody in the NFL.”
Why didn’t ESPN just report Favre’s denial to Mortensen?
“When allegations are made against somebody,” Doria said, “with no confirmation or evidence on our part, and you go to the person and get a denial, and then use the denial to you as justification for putting the allegations out there — to me, that has always seemed an unethical way to get a story out if it involves a matter of character.”
Gee, now if they had only applied those same standards last season, or last February, for that matter…