21 June 2007
First this was a grade-A rant, something I am proud of Dater for. While the tone was borderline maniacal, the reason and thought behind it was spot-on and intelligent. As someone said in The Big Lead's comments (paraphrase) "You can almost see the smoke rising from his keyboard." I really wish the second post he put up, the calmer but still harshly critical one, had been captured.
First the fact that Dater was told it's all about "info-tainment" is really what bothers me about ESPN (well and news in general, but this is a sports and Hockey site). ESPN isn't news, it's entertainment, hell it's been built into their name: Entertainment Sports Programing Network. ESPN. The problem is that they try to dabble in both journalism and entertainment, and it just doesn't work. The problem is 2-fold.
The entertainment aspect keeps the journalism aspect down. How many "reporters" did ESPN have covering Barry Bonds A few years ago? right after the Grand Jury testimony was leaked, Pedro Gomez literally was everywhere Barry Bonds went. Seriously, that's journalism? But who did the dirty work to actually get the testimony, and who actually logged the hours to prove Bonds did steroids... real journalists from the San Francisco Chronicle. For all the money, time and effort ESPN spent on the story (and on steroids before the Chronicle story broke) they didn't do any real reporting on it, all they really have to show for it is a hack job and Pedro Gomez expense report.
The Entertainment also hurts real journalism too. When ESPN does what Dater alleges (and by alleges I mean completely does) is steal scoops from journalists. For example a while back David Aldridge of the Philadelphia Enquirer (and who used to be on ESPN occasionally) broke a scoop on Iverson being traded to the Denver Nuggets. 5 minutes after posting in on the Enquirer suddenly ESPN had it attributed to Marc Stein. That not only undermines Aldridge and the Philadelphia Enquirer, but it undermines, Marc Stein (who may or may not be a "real journalist") and it undermines ESPN's credibility. Can I trust ESPN now? (answer:no)
I saw and heard people say "Who cares who scoops a story?", well maybe I don't care who broke that Allen Iverson is coming to Denver 15 minutes before everyone else knew, but the people who work tirelessly for that scoop are also people most likely to break news that really is important. Like Barry Bonds' grand jury testimony, or Pete Rose betting on baseball.
Who else cares about the scoops. The journalists themselves. Scoops help journalists get jobs. They are basically a badge proving you can do your work. They show you can make contacts, and do good reporting, and the more scoops you get shows you can do them consistantly. That's what gets you better jobs and in turn a better career. When ESPN is taking credit for your work, well I would get pretty peaved too.
It also hurts the ESPN reporters. I have no doubt Marc Stein gets his own scoops. When ESPN attributes a scoop to him that isn't his, his credibility is hurt as well. Now every scoop that is attributed to him is suspect, which hurts him professionally.
Dater isn't completely innocent in this, calling out reporters by name could be construed as slander if those reporters actually do get their own scoops (like I think Chris Mortenson does). He probably crossed the line there, unless he has proof that some of Mortenson's scoops aren't really his. His calling out of Bill Simmons really was over the line too (and Dater admitted as much) because Simmons never claimed to be a journalist, and makes no pretentions of the sort. I actually thought that hurt Dater's argument a litle
ESPN is walking a fine line by claiming they are a sports news network but in reality they are, as one of their people said, "info-tainment." People turn to ESPN.com for sports news (I used to) and real information. Eventually ESPN will get burned by this, because their word will be dirt. Then when they do some real reporting (like outside the lines does on a regular basis) they won't be trusted. Soon ESPN will be like the WWE, a spectacle and entertainment, but not really real, even if they want to pretend like they are.
Another point that Dater touched on is blogs and their relation with the media, This post is long enough but hopefully I will have time to touch on that tomorrow
(PS, notice the lack of hockey examples.. that's cause ESPN ignores hockey)
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