ESPN and Big Ben
posted at 7/24/2009 4:57 PM EDT
Journalism basics are news to ESPN while covering Ben Roethlisberger civil suit
Updated Friday, July 24th 2009, 11:04 AM Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger vows Thursday in Pittsburgh to fight civil suit, calling allegations of rape by a former hotel concierge 'false and vicious' and 'outrageous.'
No one should be surprised that top brass at ESPN decided it was more important to protect Ben Roethlisberger than report a civil suit had been filed against him, alleging the Steelers QB raped a woman in a Nevada hotel room last year.
When a genius in Bristol created that "Worldwide Leader" moniker, he was not referring to the worldwide leader in journalism. ESPN is, was, and always will be an entertainment company, more show biz than news biz.
It is a company that values its partnerships with the National Football League - and other professional sports organizations - more than it values the truth. It is a company more concerned with protecting the reputations of sports' biggest stars, such as Roethlisberger, than the reputations of its employees.
After all, who ultimately is more important to ESPN's bottom line? Those who know the answer know ESPN's decision to wait until Wednesday night to report the story, more than 36 hours after it broke, was an exercise in protecting the network's self-interest.
Throughout its multimedia platforms - TV, radio, magazine, Web site - ESPN employs many people: Columnists, talk-radio screamers, investigative reporters (who could have looked into the allegations in this civil suit) and analysts working in broadcast booths. Yet, with one command, one "don't dare report this," they all shutup.
They now all must live with one perception: They are puppets.
No one working for ESPN can protest the Roethlisberger edict, at least not publicly. Jobs are hard to come by. The suits who decided the network should sit on allegations contained in the civil suit filed by Andrea McNulty care more about the quarterback's reputation than the rep of a guy such as Bob Ley, who anchors "Outside The Lines."
If ESPN brass truly valued their employees, including the ones they classify as "journalists," they never would have put them in such an untenable position. Instead of sitting on the story, ESPN could have buried it inside "SportsCenter." No big splash was necessary. Just report the suit had been filed against Roethlisberger and move on.
Simple, right? Perhaps this was really all about stupidity. Now, how can ESPN voices ever accuse anyone of stonewalling, concealing facts or covering up without being laughed at? ESPN's designated management mouths offered a number of unconvincing excuses for not reporting the Roethlisberger story when it broke.
The initial ones went like this: "No criminal complaint was filed" or allegations in a civil suit "may not prove to be true." Another excuse was ESPN is "careful" in reporting civil suits "that impugn a person's reputation or character."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/2009/07/24/2009-07-24_while_dealing_with_ben_rjournalism_basics_are_news_to_espn.html#ixzz0MDETZhWy