We’re still trying to understand this one.
Mike Fish of ESPN is an investigative reporter. It means that he investigates things. And so when we noticed that, for the second straight year, a high-profile NFL team was being singled out by ESPN for investigation with a story that made a big splash on the eve of a big game involving said high-profile team, we decided to investigate whether it was the result of coincidence, or calculation.
Specifically, we wanted to know why Fish and ESPN unveiled last Thursday, three days before the AFC Championship, a story regarding a potential link between a former Steelers physician and Human Growth Hormone, even though the item was based on facts nearly two years old, and contained no significant new evidence.
We wanted to know why it seemed that Fish and ESPN were targeting the Steelers with the specter of “cheating,” while at the same time ignoring proof that other teams might very well have been doing the same thing — especially since there’s no test to detect the presence of HGH in a person’s body.
We wanted to know whether Fish and ESPN were hoping to become intertwined with the story, possibly in the hopes of driving more interest and attention to ESPN platforms.
But, as it turns out, the investigative reporter has decided to have nothing to do with our investigation.
After being given the green light to interview Fish, we spent time compiling a fairly lengthy (I’m a lawyer, so sue me . . . actually, please don’t) list of questions, and we submitted the questions by e-mail on Sunday.
The unanswered questions appear below, after the jump.
Kristie Chong of ESPN advised me this morning by e-mail that, after speaking with Mike Fish and his editors, ESPN has decided not to answer my questions.
Instead, we received the following statement from Patrick Stiegman, Executive Editor and Producer of ESPN.com: “ESPN.com’s story about Dr. Richard Rydze was the end result of a 10-month investigation into the connections between the doctor’s departure from the Steelers and his off-label use of HGH to treat tendon and ligament injuries. The investigation included interviews with more than 70 sources. It was posted when the investigative reporting had been completed and a thorough editorial and factual review process were completed. The timing was not influenced by any factors other than that professional process. ESPN.com stands behind its reporting and the timing of the story’s publication.”
With all due respect to ESPN, if they’re going to be in the business of collecting information on an investigative basis, it seems more than a bit hypocritical to refuse to participate in efforts aimed at doing the same thing when one of their stories involves circumstances inviting investigation.
Here are the questions that we submitted:
When was the story about the Steelers physician first published?
When was the first draft submitted?
Was the publication of the story delayed for any reason?
If so, what was the reason?
Was the timing of publication scheduled to coincide with the AFC Championship game?
Was consideration given to delaying the publication of the story until the week or days before the Super Bowl, in the event the Steelers qualified for the game?
Was a decision made to post the story this past week due to the possibility that the Steelers might not advance to the Super Bowl?
When were efforts to interview Dr. Rydze commenced?
When was he interviewed?
What work was done between the interview of Dr. Rydze and the publishing of the story?
After publishing the story, did you or anyone at ESPN receive feedback from the NFL or the Steelers?
If so, what was the feedback?
Were any changes made to the placement of the story on ESPN.com in response to such feedback?
Why did the original story not mention that there is no test for HGH?
Why did the original story not mention that players and coaches from other teams have been suspended for using HGH?
Did you intend to imply that Steelers players were using HGH?
Do you believe that the story implies that Dr. Rydze was giving HGH to Steelers players?
Do you have any evidence that Steelers players were using HGH?
Did you attempt to interview any current or former Steelers players as to whether they are aware of any evidence that Dr. Rydze gave HGH to Steelers players?
If so, who did you attempt to interview, and what did they say?
If not, why not?
We’re still trying to understand this one.