In a thorough and eye-opening and much-needed critique of the ever-burgeoning Bristol empire that is finding its personalities, intentionally or otherwise, becoming part of the news that the network covers, ombudsperson Lee Ann Schreiber skewers in her latest montly article the “it’s about us” culture that has evolved at ESPN.
From Chris Mortensen’s sorely (and admittedly) misguided suggestion that the ability of a subject to respond to a story is a “privilege” to Cris Carter’s ESPN Radio shtick regarding the placement of a bullet into the body of Terrell Owens to the Ed Werder/T.O./Stephen A. Smith frolic and detour, Schreiber makes a series of excellent points.
Regarding the Mortensen situation, in which the network’s senior NFL information man said that he didn’t call the Raiders for comment on the potential sale of the team because the franchise had forfeited that privilege, ESPN senior V.P. and director of news Vince Doria said, “A call should have been made to the Raiders.”
As it turns out, a call was made to the Raiders.  Mortensen told Schreiber that he called CEO Amy Trask and apologized.
With respect to Carter, Schreiber chides the NFL analyst for trying to explain the comment that if he were the coach of the Cowboys he’d shoot Owens (made twice in one day on ESPN’s national radio network) as merely “not the right choice of words,” instead of simply admitting that it was a stupid thing to say:  “When an apology is issued for a gross overstatement (i.e., put a bullet in him), the apology should not be worded as a gross understatement (i.e. not the right choice of words),” Schreiber writes.
Regarding the Werder/Owens/Smith fiasco, Schreiber acknowledges the obvious — that Smith is a shill for guys like T.O., willing to cast aside his integrity in order to score the interview, and to be viewed as the only guy at the network who understands troubled athletes.
“Smith’s sympathy for T.O., the quality that gained him the interview, was put to use in a circumstance that undermined his credibility as a journalist,” Schreiber writes.
She also notes that Smith’s failure to engage in meaningful follow-up allowed Owens to get away with calling Werder a liar while at the same time suggesting that Werder was telling the truth, and that his sources had lied to him.  (The distinction wasn’t lost on Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)
After reading Schreiber’s column and reading it again and visiting her achives, we’ve begun to wonder whether ESPN heeds her words, or whether ESPN simply tolerates them in order to create some rough but thoroughly incomplete sense that the network cares about what she has to say.
If ESPN genuinely is interested in accepting the input of a person who provides the voice of the collective viewership, a monthly column touching on a handful of topics doesn’t cut it, especially in an age where things that occurred a week ago might as well have happened a decade ago.
Information is flowing instantaneously and continuously, and ESPN should have an ombudsman who has the ability, in real time, to call out the blunders promptly after they occur, so that those responsible can be held accountable for their errors before the incident inevitably and immediately fades into memory, replaced by other stories and opinions and overall content aimed at keeping the audience constantly informed and entertained.
As it now stands, those guilty of committing gaffes need to suffer through only a minor cringe-inducing moment that comes well after the relevant chapter in the responsible employee’s life has ended.  But if folks face the prospects of being quickly and clearly taken to task for saying things that shouldn’t be said and doing things that shouldn’t be done, real lessons might be learned and real changes might be made.
Ideally, the full-time, real-time ombudsman eventually would have nothing to do.  As it now stands, guys like Mort and Carter and Werder/Smith filled up so much of her monthly space that she couldn’t even get to what was in our view the most disturbing ESPN-related development of the month:  the profane and condescending treatment that an ESPN producer directed to a consumer of ESPN products.


  1. For those who haven’t figured it out yet, ESPN jumped the shark years ago. They saw how successful the WWF and WWE has become by creating mini dramas and scenarios with multiple personalities and decided to model their business after it. All their ‘reporters’ have an agenda or ‘script’ which involves some kind of schtick. They’re asked to be funny, demean and trash players, coaches, owners in hopes that it fuels some controversy and its this controversy that drives viewers and angry emailers which in turn drives ratings and ability to sell advertising. They’ve in essence become the TMZ of sports reporting and the equivalent of MTV which is also a shell of its former self.

  2. I used to worship ESPN. Did I just grow up or did it used to be as good as I thought it was? I only watch live games now, but I’m guessing Sports Center still sucks.

  3. ESPN has just become too big and powerful for its own good. They manufacture stories out of thin air and their ability to sort out fact from fiction is almost nonexistent.
    I used to check their website religiously and now I rarely feel the need to go there on a regular basis. (Aside: Florio, please do not ever make this site so that videos automatically play as soon as the site loads, whether we want to or not.) I still like a few of ESPN’s writers, but the number of their writers I have to read are dwindling fast.
    I don’t know what can be done to fix ESPN. I mean they have the difficult position of trying to be all things to all people while appeasing the most die hard sports fans.

  4. IMO it went downhill in 1998/1999.
    Sure Stuart, Rich, Chris & Dan had a humorous shtick – but how many comedians crack the same damn joke night after night and can afford rent? This isn’t really new or surprising. ESPN is no longer relevant. Think about it: how many of you guys hit PFT multiple times a day? How much more news (rumors) do you glean from this site alone than from watching SportsCenter? Is a 45 second discussion about the demise of the Cowboys satiate your football appetite? And when it exceeds 45 seconds, do you not sit in constant disbelief that these ‘journalists’ (since when are anchors journalists anymore – they read teleprompters of material they rarely, if ever, write) have nothing original to input? I mean, we’re talking about a network whose primary NFL analyst for many years has been Sean Salisbury!?
    ESPN found a good formula once upon a time beat it death and is now raping the dead carcass left behind.
    Not take a debate off-topic but the advent of the NFL Network and NFL Total Access has been a godsend for me.
    ***I can honestly say I have not watched ANYTHING on ESPN except a football game since.*** and I miss NONE of it.
    P.S. – I like the TMZ analogy. I’m surprised a Brady fan could think of that! 😉 But seriously, he’s absolutely right – they stir the pot for the saking of finding a hot button to push – NOT because such news already exists in the first place they’re reporting.

  5. Who cares about ESPN? I remember once I was on iTunes and saw they were charing $1.99 to downloads their SportsCenter ads. That to mew was hubris, thinking that their commercials were so cool people would pay to have them on their iPod.
    I do watch ESPN News, which is nice because I can get what I need over any half hour slot of the day. I don’t watch SportsCenter anymore, especially after being subjected to those 10 minute or more features on (gay, minority, female, pick your P.C. label) athletes that I could just not stand anymore.
    I do watch NFL Live, which is great, and The Blitz, along with Baseball Tonight. That’s about it.
    One other thing. Because they own the rights to that joke that is the NBA, they talk way too much NBA. Personally, I don’t care about what basketball players are doing. And judging by the ratings and the attendance figures, few others seem to as well.

  6. Am I the only one who sees that the sports reporting blogosphere is to ESPN what ESPN is to T.O., Pacman, etc.?
    Also, I’d like to ask bradyswingman something. If ESPN is the TMZ of sports reporting, what is PFT? I don’t dispute the notion that ESPN is highly sensationalistic; sports reporting literally is entertainment news. Let’s just be realistic about ourselves as consumers of this “news.” We don’t log onto this website to debate journalistic ethics. We come here to read things which may or may not be true, because we are entertained by speculation and rumor.

  7. She didn’t mention Josh Elliott wondering aloud, and seemingly pretty pissed, why ESPN was promoting Air Jordan’s during what was ostensibly a news segment.
    And she didn’t note that disgusting clown Korny pulling some really lowdown snake-in-the-grass shit on Romeo Crennel during an MNF game.
    TK: imagine being Romeo Crennel and having to see reports on television and even in newspapers, one day they’re giving the job away the job to Bill Cowher, another day they’ve given it away to Marty Schottenheimer, that’s what you have to go through every single day of your life.
    RJ: I spoke to Marty Schottenheimer, he spoke to no one in the Browns organization, so who starts the rumors Tony?
    TK: Not me.

  8. eyespy says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 2:04 am
    That’s “To Affect real change”, not Effect.
    Affects produce effects.
    Florio has it right. In this usage, “effect” means to bring about.
    ESPN is a joke. The first poster hit it perfectly.

  9. ESPN sent S.A. Smith for a comment from Pacman before they aired the report of his alleged connection with the shooting in Atlanta. Smith spent more time explaining that it was his job to ask him this tough question, “did you do it”? Pacman’s response, “no”. SAM’s response, “OK”. Are you kidding me? Diane Sawyer thinks Smith is a pansie.

  10. So the upshot is that ESPN is hardly different from any other cable or broadcast TV news station. At least it’s only sports. When CNN or CBS or MSNBC et al. assassinate a character for ratings it can mean the difference in international or domestic policy or worse, it can hit us in the pocketbook in the form of taxes.

  11. After reading this article, I’m guessing that Mr. Florio is not allowed to legally ask Lee Ann Schreiber to work for PFT.
    That aside, it seems that ESPN follows the same mode as CNN and other mass media. They find what will entertain, not what will inform. Remember Baby Jessica? ESPN also creates these same monsters they think should be shot or fired. If T.O. stopped getting these interviews for being a douche balloon, he’d knock it off and we could all enjoy football with healthy shenannigans.

  12. Any “news” show that ESPN runs is not worth watching at all. They don’t cater to sports fans anymore, they cater to pop culture addicts, gossipers, and ambulance and police chasers. No matter what spectacular thing happens in sports, if a big name gets in trouble that is, without a doubt, going to be the lead story. It’s very upsetting to someone who loves game analysis and highlights.
    As for, there is only one section that I go to now, and that is the boxing section because most of those guys are still in love with the sport aspect of it and not the drama.

  13. are you serious?the last thing I read when I go to espn is the ombudsman fact I never look at it and think it is a waste of space.

  14. It’s no wonder most refer to that network as ESPiN. They have agendas and try to persuade opinions instead of reporting the news. I always love how they give you some story about how some team or players is so dominant and maybe the greatest ever, then run a poll and ask “is this the best ever”. Of course 75% of the sheep that just watched the piece vote yes.
    ESPN is absolutely awful, and if there was a good 2nd choice sports newtork they’d lose major ratings. People watch ESPN for SPORTS and not for ESPN. those assclowns need to realize this!

  15. The only reason to watch or listen to the “WWL” is for games.
    Thankfully, I now have satellite radio and don’t have to listen to the local ESPN radio station pimp their upcoming events any longer.

  16. How they handled the “Spygate Fiasco,” should’ve been a bell-weather for how ESPN operates. Perfect example of how sensationalism has replaced journalism!
    How come the DA in Philly doesn’t indite Harrison, I mean he shot somebody! Spectre calling in favors? Dave Meggett is running around raping women. Vick was running a dogfighting ring. Half the Vikings D-line should’ve been suspeded. Saved by the local judge! Almost every week, somebody gets popped for DUI.
    I don’t see ESPN dealing with the hard news, that’s usually reserved to the print journalist, ie John Tomase Boston Herald. You know they only print the truth!

  17. this post touches on it perfectly – ESPN has no interest in really addressing its mistakes, or improving itself, or in taking an honest look at its work. ESPN thinks they are the world wide leader, and they can do whatever they want. Want to put Rush Limbaugh on an NFL pre-game show, fine. Want to have a running segment on who is next and ask only celebrities, that is fine. Want to get rid of NFL Primetime, maybe the best show the network does, that is fine too. The ombudsman is a a farce. She does as good a job as can be expected, but for her to matter, the network must care about what she writes. They clearly don’t. It is obvious when in some columns, an ESPN exec will comment, and each time, that exec will come up with an excuse for why ESPN acted like it did. What, ESPN allowed a columnist to make a hateful comparison in an article? Well, according to the exec, ESPN is just held to a higher standard.

  18. ESPN Sucks. They lost it many years ago. On the football-side they’ve morphed into “sports personalities”, many with personal agendas, where it’s more about them than it is about football reporting and news.

  19. What a laugh…the freaking cauldron calling the kettle black! Florio, the Rosie Perez of NFL bloggers, calling out ESPN…You post wrong information that damages people, you jump to wild ass conclusions based off of same bad information, and happily admit to engaging in rumor mongering, you let your personal biases run wild, and you then feel you have the moral high ground to call someone else/another organization out??? HYPOCRITE!!! Go read the Wikipedia entry about this site sometime. I read this site regularly and comment. For the most part it is interesting and timely. Your can be pretty funny sometimes Florio. Maybe you are on onto something here. But perhaps PFT itself needs an ombudsman! Either that or shut the ____ up about stuff like this. Or just point it out, laugh, and drop the holier than thou.
    PS – Send Bradshaw my regards.
    PSS – What is an ombudsman? LOL/JK

  20. Getting to the top isn’t nearly as difficult as staying on top once you get there. ESPN worked it’s way to the top of the sports world by giving us information and insights into the sports we loved.
    But a few things happen once you make it to the top. First, you are now the target. Other networks and sports personalities want to bring you down. Second, being number one attracts business people to you who care less about sports than making money. Let’s face it, the early days of ESPN was run by sports fans for sports fans. Now we have shows like “Cold Pizza” “1st and 10” and others… shows that are more about the people on them than the topics discussed theirin (here’s lookin’ at you, Skip and Stephen A.).
    ESPN just needs to refocus and get some real sports fans making decisions rather than the same people who probably introduced pink hats and ballpark dating shows.

  21. ESPN is full of hacks. These are some examples.
    Howard Bryant
    Jemelle Hill
    Skip Bayless
    Stephen A. Smith
    Emmitt Smith
    Cris Carter
    Stuart Scott
    The two Stu’s on 1st and 10.
    Woody Paige
    Jay Mariotti
    Kevin Blackenstone
    That is off the top of my head.
    If you think any of them have talent, you are a retard.

  22. Lord I hate ESPN. They ridiculously hype their own products, spending hours on end previewing the game they are going to air and then discussing the implications of said game afterwards. They’re a shill for the league and the players, and hiring an “ombudsman” to address minor issues like these is a condescending joke, just as much as referring to Stephen A. Smith as an actual journalist as if he has any journalistic integrity at all.

  23. I no longer watch espn with the sole exception of when they are broadcasting an NFL game and it is in progress. Their endless unacknowledged mistakes, made up stories, and on air a-holes drove me away. The are the worldwide joke of sportscasting as far as I’m concerned.

  24. ESPN is unbearable to watch. From sreaming hosts (“He. Could. Go. All. … shut up already!) to blinking lights and twirling graphics, has led to sensory overload. Couple that with annoying talking heads and you have an empire in decline.

  25. I usually end up driving a lot of working and actually enjoy Torico on the radio, SVP is o.k. Torico seems to actually know what he is talking about of the most part and SVP usually doesn’t shy away from asking what a normal sports fan would want to say/ask the guests they have one.
    That being said, I rarely watch anything on any of the eight ESPN channels, other then some college games. Even that is annoying, when you have Dick Vitale yelling random thoughts that come to his mind after every play.

  26. Tom Brady said it best about ESPN when all the Spygate thing was going down. He called them MTV of sports.
    Another thing I have noticed a lot recently is that on their website they will change stories without acknowledging the initial story was wrong. The most recent example I can think of is a story that Dom Capers was the next Broncos D-Coordinator. All of the sudden that story disappears and one about Mike Nolan comes up. It may seem as if I am reaching but that type of thing happens all of the time.
    Comments on the ESPN personalities are so true. What happened I think is that way back when all of these wannabes saw Dan Patrick, Olbermann, and Kilborn have success being their quirky selves, which lead to assholes like Josh Elliott, Skip Bayless, and countless other gasbags trying to develop a schtick that will get them noticed.

  27. Who really cares about ESPN? Mort was justified since the Raiders are repeat offenders of spinning any news story they dislike. Carter was completely out of line and should have been reprimanded for it.
    I do not blame the producer for acting condescending to the Cowboy fan. The guy was being a jerk. This is typical left wackiness. Free speech does not mean you can shout over others and disrupt meetings or broadcast in order to shutdown their right to free speech. Is this difficult to understand that encroaching and obstructing on others free speech is a violation of our Constitution and laws? How many of us would act differently if some low-life blowhard came to our work and razzed us?

  28. You mean having an ombudsman burried somewhere on the “new” reviewing mundane aspects of the company and receiving as much air time as pre-season NHL highlights isn’t adequate?

  29. This will eventually catch up with ESPN. People will grow tired of there noise and turn it off. Unfortunately they have a grip on High School and College kids. It takes a while to realize there is not much more than hype and speculation to 90% of their reporting and that their on-air talking heads are just idiots.
    Thank God for PFT!!!

  30. eyespy, alewatcher and touchdown run guys….
    right on!
    And, Florio, I know you’re throwing big bucks at scribes and stringers but save a little money for some periods.
    Those are ENORMOUS sentences you’re writing!
    This story has a bunch of one one sentence paragraphs. In fact the shortest paragraph had the most sentences!
    I had to reread the first couple ‘graphs a couple times to figure out exactly what affect/effect (!) you were effecting/affecting (!!)
    oh, and guck ESPN; the network, the radio, the magazine….

  31. Shuxion, don’t forget the print authors, like that vampire Greg Easterboook, ESPN’s Expert Conspiracy Theorist and Matt White’s and John Tomase’s best friend who kept trying to build a story and invent new conspiracies when there was nothing there. When it was proved that there where no walk through tapes he quietly moved on to other hack “journalism”. ESPN sucks.

  32. The only way to fix ESPN,
    IMHO is to create another
    sports network that will adhere to true journalism. To hire only credible sports journalists without the big names and to hire respectful executives who won’t garbage down the network to get the big ratings. The ratings will take care of themselves due to the trust they will ceate among the sports industry OR to fix it another way is simply boycott the network.
    ESPN is vile and should be fined with each lie, with each mocking and with each favoritism it lends out to their teams i.e., New York teams.

  33. Wow. Look at everyone complaining about ESPN….. yet still with a lot of working knowledge about their product. Just proves that ESPN is doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re getting people to watch the shows and the ads on them. Just like Mr. Florio here with Sprint. Complaining about PFT just proves that you read it.

  34. ESPiN has become a garbage tabloid sports network. I rarely even watch anymore. It shouldn’t be the policy of a network to take a stance on a given issue and ESPiN does it all the time. They should be reporting the news, not making the bulk of their programming editorial content dressed up as news content. I would’ve liked to see the Ombudsman call them out for their constant apologizing for Brett Favre as well.

  35. I used to like ESPN from the beginning but they lost their way in the 1990’s and I only watch ESPN for a live sporting event. I follow all sports but the NFL is the only one I can’t get enough of, thank god for NFL Network!
    ESPN The Magazine is a total sham and looks like it was put together by a group of elementary school children with ADD, it can’t be turning a profit.

  36. “I do not blame the producer for acting condescending to the Cowboy fan. The guy was being a jerk. This is typical left wackiness. Free speech does not mean you can shout over others and disrupt meetings or broadcast in order to shutdown their right to free speech.”
    “Free speech” doesn’t mean just the speech that you agree with. You want to allow Ed Werder’s right to say what he wants, but not “Cowboy Chris”? You obviously do not understand the concept of free speech. The First Amendment guarantees that you’ll face no government sanction for saying what’s on your mind, so long as you’re not infringing on anybody else’s rights in doing so. It doesn’t mean that you have to shut up when Werder’s talking on camera, and it doesn’t mean that Werder’s right in sending a flunky dickhead over to try to intimidate you if you don’t!

  37. im so sick of epsn. just look at the marvin harrison ordeal. if that happened to be terrell owens who mind you hasnever been arrested or accused of doing anything unlawful, it would be all day 24/7 TO coverage. they set a double standard.and they make it too obvious who the heroes are (brett favre) and who the villians are (TO)

  38. “Florio has it right. In this usage, “effect” means to bring about.”
    No, he doesn’t have it right. And neither do you. In this case “affect” is the verb, as it almost always is. In this case “effect” would be a noun that cannot act to produce the subject of the sentence, “change.” There are almost no circumstances under which it is appropriate to use “effect” as a verb, and this certainly is not one of them.
    Big. Red. Check. Minus one letter grade for mechanics.
    I have a degree in English, teach the subject twice a week at a Top 50 college and just backed it all up with a peek into my CMS.
    If you don’t know what a CMS is…

  39. Hey Vox, we’re still waiting for your apology to Ed Werder for accusing him of “making up the story” about Owens/Witten/Romo. He was right, you were wrong. Now man up and admit it.

  40. Did the “professional liar” have to kiss Al’s pinky ring, and lick Amy’s boots too.
    BSPN blows.

  41. Mike: for an ombudsman to do a credible job there must be fact finding. I’m not sure how quickly you want the criticism publicized. It seems that the rest of the sports media took it upon itself to make Mort and Carter admit their mistakes and in the case of Mort, to personally contact the person that he had dissed: Amy Trask. I know you wouldn’t stand for an ombudsman who hadn’t done all the homework necessary to issue a report that requires backtracking on the part of ESPN. I wouldn’t either. It seems that there are enough gaffes on the Worldwide Leader to keep this woman’s calendar full. It takes a league like the NFL a few days to do its due diligence on a matter before it makes a statement. And they have a staff, not just one person. Who knows how many people the ombudsman has at her disposal? Maybe that is the constructive criticism should be, get her a staff.

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