Though we’ve supposedly provided our final word regarding ESPN’s policy regarding the reporting of civil lawsuits not accompanied by criminal charges, we’re still monitoring the reaction to the situation.
John Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Inquirer takes a great look at the situation, including a quote from ESPN vice president and director of news Vince Doria, who confirms that there is no black-and-white rule in these matters, despite an initial (and horribly inept) effort by ESPN to sell the notion that the network was merely adhering to a clear, non-discretionary internal policy.
Doria also told the Wall Street Journal that, in the end, he made the decision to duck the story.
“Those are the things that I think are damaging to reputations, and I think you need to know more about them before you report them,” Doria said. “As it stands right now, today, we don’t think it meets our standard of reporting.”
But did ESPN feel the same way when Mike Fish recently reported the dismissal of a civil lawsuit alleging that Roberto Alomar gave his girlfriend AIDS? Speaking of Fish, did ESPN consider whether it was “damaging . . . reputations” when Bristol went bonkos for the unsubstantiated (and ultimately retracted) allegation that the Patriots had cheated the Rams out of a Super Bowl win?
Here’s the reality. Though his motivations are subject to debate and likely will never be known, Doria got it wrong this time.
And plenty of ESPN employees know it.
“People were going insane,” an ESPN source told Gonzalez. “FOX News was doing the story. The AP had it. And they wouldn’t even let us mention it. You can’t ignore the story. It needs to be on SportsCenter. It makes us look bad. It’s not a topic for discussion, but you have to acknowledge that it’s being reported, that the story exists.”
An ESPN source summed it up more succinctly for us: “This is embarrassing.”
As another person with connections to Bristol explained it, once Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the league “will look into” the allegations, it became a story that ESPN had no choice to acknowledge.
But they didn’t, and to our knowledge they still haven’t.
Regardless of whether they ever do, has it ever been any more clear that we need a viable, national competitor for the self-described “Worldwide Leader”?