After posting our take regarding the SportsBusiness Daily report regarding the decision of ESPN to hire the Kraft Sports Group to sell advertising for Bristol’s new Beantown-centric ESPNBoston.com, we posed a few questions via e-mail to ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer.
Bill responded this morning, but I haven’t had time to post a followup.
Though I don’t really have time to do it now, either, I don’t want anyone to think I’m dragging my feet regarding the publication of information that I expressly solicited from ESPN.
“This will have no impact on ESPN’s editorial coverage,” Hofheimer said. “Kraft Sports Group is simply the local ad sales and sponsorship agent for ESPNBoston.com. We did not have a sales force in Boston and this was a solution for that. ESPN will maintain full, independent editorial control. We have a history of separating business relationships from our news and information division, and this will continue to be the case. We provide coverage — sometimes critical — of leagues, teams, players and others with whom we may have business relationships.”
That’s all fine. And it sounds good in writing. But it doesn’t change the fact that, at a minimum, there’s a reason to question the objectivity of ESPN regarding anything written or said about the Patriots.
Surely, we and others will be watching. So is it really worth it, then, to undermine the credibility of the coverage of one of the primary teams that ESPNBoston.com will be covering, all in the name of not hiring an in-house advertising sales staff?
And though ESPN can claim that there will be no change to its editorial approach, we have a feeling that Mike Fish’s February 2008 reporting regarding the Matt Walsh situation might have been couched a bit differently if Kraft Sports Group were selling ads for ESPNBoston.com at the time.
The current connection also doesn’t hurt the ongoing effort to unruffle feathers of Pats fans who hold a grudge against the Boston Herald and ESPN for the perception that they created a huge distraction in the days preceding the Patriots’ effort to complete what would have been the only 19-0 season in NFL history.