The return of the media roundtable brings together John Ourand and Andrew Bucholtz to discuss angst at ESPN and more.

By Richard Deitsch
September 21, 2017

As part of a 77-minute Sports Illustrated Media podcast, Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand said there were ESPN executives he spoke with who wanted Jemele Hill suspended for her comments on Twitter calling Donald Trump “a white supremacist,” among other things.

“Everything is unequal right now and there is no set plan for how they do things,” Ourand said of ESPN talent discipline. “A lot of the decision-makers that I talked to, they wanted to see Jemele suspended, and as more of a statement to the rest of the company. Forget about the White House. They wanted to send a statement to the rest of the company that was like, ‘You can talk about sports’ social issues but let’s remember why you are working for ESPN.’”

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Last week Ourand ran a piece on angst at ESPN and the growing belief among some ESPN management that some of ESPN's problems are not all self-inflicted and that 21st Century Fox is orchestrating attacks against ESPN to bolster the fortunes of rival sports channel FS1.

“All of these sites are figuring out they can make hay bashing ESPN, and Fox is both giving a voice and then getting their own people to do it too,” Ourand said on the podcast. “I think there is definitely a point there and it is interesting to see how widespread this is becoming throughout ESPN, this idea that Fox is after us.”

On the issue of those who call ESPN a liberal organization, guest Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing said, “It is the divide between what people are saying in Twitter and what people are saying on the air. There are points where you can say this is ESPN taking a liberal slant but it is not the majority of the programming and it is certainly not everybody there and it is certainly not the company as a whole.”



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Countered Ourand: “I don’t think [Fox employees] Tucker Carlson and Jason Whitlock invented this ‘ESPN is liberal’ out of thin air. There is certainly a perception out there. Yes, the vast majority of programming ESPN does deals with sports and doesn’t delve into political. When it does delve into the political, it goes left and that is something that is registering out there.”

On the subject of the ESPN public editor, all of the panelists predicted the Public Editor positioned would ultimately be eliminated by ESPN. “I think Jim Brady will be the final public editor/ombudsman and I think that column really does illustrate some of the why,” said Bucholtz. “I don’t think it is producing positive results for them. That column in particular certainly did not mollify any critics; it only made people mad and his further doubling down on Twitter only made people madder and brought a lot of negative publicity to ESPN. I don’t think they will think that is worth it when it comes to evaluating it."

 

PODCAST HIGHLIGHTS

• 3:00-12:00: A discussion of Ourand’s piece on angst at ESPN and the growing belief among ESPN management that some of the problems are not all self-inflicted and part of 21st Century Fox orchestrating attacks against ESPN to bolster the fortunes of rival sports channel FS1.

• 14:30-17:00: Selective discipline from ESPN.

• 17:00: Differentiating between political and social commentary on social media versus what appears on air.

• 21:00: Is Fox out to get ESPN?

• 25:00: What is the long-term future of SC6?

• 28:50: On the idea that ESPN is “liberal narrative.”

• 34:00: Jemele Hill’s comments on Donald Trump and ESPN’s reaction.

• 41:00: Should Hill face discipline?

• 46:00: Linda Cohn, criticizing ESPN, who controls your Twitter feed if you work in the sports media and some ESPN management wanting Hill suspended.

• 51:00: Bucholtz’s column on ESPN public editor Jim Brady and the criticism of Brady’s piece on Hill.

• 55:30: Wondering why the public editor did not talk directly to ESPN-ers?

• 58:00: What will happen to the Public Editor position?

• 1:02:00: Where the public editor role can be valuable?

• 1:04:00: ESPN’s struggle of late to get good stories into the marketplace

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