The tyranny of the storyline

I don’t think it’s a big secret that I hold ESPN in some degree of contempt for the effort it makes to mold the content of what it serves up to the cable-buying public. Nor do I think I lack company.

In fact, I know I don’t. This blogger puts it succinctly:

… The three featured articles ESPN displayed last week were put right next to their “Ombudsman” Le Anne Schreiber’s article about how the network is often guilty of holding viewers “hostage” with the tyranny of the storyline. This is a fancy way of saying ESPN has an annoying habit of constantly reporting about only a handful of teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Patriots, etc.) and not doing its actual friggin’ job, which is to report SPORTS news for all teams. ESPN is also guilty of creating pre-ordained “storylines” rather than actually reporting what is happening.

As he points out, it’s not just that. ESPN wants to have its cake and eat it, too:

… Also, the fact that ESPN has an Ombudsman is a joke. I know ESPN is an entertainment media outlet more so than a news outlet. It’s just the pretense of making themselves “seem” like a news outlet that bothers me. If you’re about entertainment, then be that! Don’t try and pull my leg with this false gesture of objectivity…

But there’s more than one kind of tyranny in play with the Worldwide Leader.

By now, the story about the reporter from the Louisville Courier-Journal who was live blogging the NCAA baseball tournament from the press box and was told to surrender his credentials and leave because the NCAA didn’t want anyone live blogging the game has made the rounds. Ching has some comments about it here (keep in mind he was live blogging the D II tournament without objection).

I think Ching gets it right. As much as some would like to see this as some sort of freedom of the press matter, it’s really more about crass commercialism and a clumsy, misguided attempt to protect broadcast rights paid for, in this case, by ESPN. The NCAA may have been the organization that gave Mr. Bennett the heave-ho in the fifth inning, but don’t think it acted all on its lonesome. Doubt me on this? Then make sure you read between the lines of this post from the NCAA’s own website by its own director of new media operations.

Keep it in mind every time you read about bowl game expansion, college football on Friday nights, apparently meaningless matchups and brokered games. These are not people who have your interests at heart. They can control your access to events you wish to see. And they have the clout to get their way, whether you want them to, or not.

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UPDATE:  I’m embarrassed to say that it’s possible that I’ve underestimated the stupidity of the NCAA.   I can’t wait to hear the plan for stopping people from live blogging TV.

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