Admittedly, that’s a good question asked by ESPN’s former ombudsman in his farewell column (and at least ESPN had the decency to publish it). A better question, though, would be to ask why anyone would expect the WWL to do so. You can tell even Lipsyte knows it’s something of a pipe dream.
ESPN’s primary job has always been, as Lipsyte describes it, “putting up those pretty pictures, buying rights, promoting games … selling the spectacular.” ESPN is relatively young and has grown quickly “without any kind of traditional journalism heritage,” Lipsyte says. It has used its considerable piles of money to “buy some really good journalists,” but the network, he believes, “is still trying to figure out how to use them properly.” He calls ESPN a vast empire, and points to the SEC Network as the most mind-blowing part of that empire. “Extensive investigative reporting into the exploitation of college athletes, and the legal battles around that, would seem to conflict with ESPN’s business model,” he writes in his final ombudsman column.
It’s not just that ESPN isn’t a traditional journalist. Or even that it’s been far more invested in the entertainment side than the journalism side. It’s that with these joint venture networks and outright ownership of bowl games, it’s now vertically integrated into the product it’s selling us. And Business 101 tells you that you never crap on the product you’re pushing. (A lesson it took baseball owners, for example, the better part of two decades to learn after the advent of free agency.)
For ESPN, real journalism is bad for business. And that’s why you won’t see Mickey turning over any rocks.
(h/t James Joyner)