“How do you turn over the rocks in the Southeastern Conference, for instance, while owning the SEC Network?”

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)

33 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

33 responses to ““How do you turn over the rocks in the Southeastern Conference, for instance, while owning the SEC Network?”

  1. heyberto

    The question I have.. Can a broadcast based, dedicated sports journalism entity exist? Is it financially sustainable? I think removing the term journalism from anything ESPN does is probably fair… but can say, Sports Illustrated give us the equivalent of a ‘Headline News’ (basically, Sportscaster 24 hours a day, but without the financial conflict of interest with some ‘outside the lines’ type shows that get into sports issues and investigative journalism) without getting into the business side of sports itself?

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  2. Beakerdawg

    Tom Rinaldi (Vienna boys choir sings softly in the background…) will be the closest thing to equal “journalism” for WWL.

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  3. Scorpio Jones, III

    Nobody at ESPN would know where to look for a rock to turn over if there was an interest in that sort of thing.

    ESPN is the same business model as HBO or Netflix…just more money.
    And a lot more viewer interest.

    Mickey may be a fuckwit, but he do like that money.

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    • Union Jack

      Actually, ESPN is the opposite of business model for HBO or Netflix. HBO/Netflix are producing content without sponsorship/advertising. You would never see this on ESPN:

      HBO is able to do this because they are not beholden to anyone. Netflix is producing content that never would air on a network because the subject hits too close to home for advertisers or public interest groups.

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      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Point taken, Jack…I guess the only correlation is that the products are on TV. 🙂

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        • Jack also brings up a bigger issue, that investigative journalism now seems to be only really discussed within the wrapper of entertainment (its got to be a very juicy/heartwarming story or I’m not paying attention) or comedy (I’m only interested in Superpacs or net neutrality when Stephen Colbert or John Oliver talk about them). Our attention span is shortSQUIRREL!

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          • Union Jack

            Scorpio – that is what it makes so sad. Journalism, when done well and without interference from all constituencies, is a valuable foundation of democracy. However, the financial pressures of running media companies in the digital age severely impacts true unbiased journalists from collecting and reporting stories. As a result, stories can be killed or watered down by sponsor relationships or a competing news organizations will offer up an alternative story because they have a better relationship with the subject/ sponsor or a different bias or they simply want the eyeballs to monetize a “hot” story.

            Twist – there a lot of reasons for why the majority of investigative journalism goes unnoticed but I think culturally the public is at point where not a lot shocks us. Even if it does shock us or anger us, it usually it doesn’t motivate us to do anything about it. There so many things that people want the public to be outraged or shocked about but a lot become noise. What Colbert, Stewart, and Oliver do really well is to let the subject use their own statement/voice to point out the absurdity and audacity of their own actions or the absurdity and audacity of the system, or the absurdity/audacity of the public to allow individuals/organization to do this to ourselves.

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            • Union Jack

              I am actually surprised that there are not more “journalists” adopting the practices of the Daily Show/Last Week Tonight on a local level. I get that those shows have a ton of writers and producers, etc. but the essence of the stories is they get people to look outrageous using their own words. Satirists have long been staple of magazines and print journalism at the national and local levels – not sure why it has never caught on locally on television.

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              • Good point. I think the reason it hasn’t caught on locally is that it is a really hard gig being a funny political satirist. And journalists aren’t stand up/improve comedians. When they try, it is usually a train wreck.

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  4. sectionzalum

    and that’s nothing new. there was no network more complicit in baseball’s steroid era than espn.

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  5. The other Doug

    Professional wrestling.

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  6. DC Weez

    I don’t think journalism exists any more. ESPN is problematic but what about CBS, NBC, ABC and others? And we only have to go so far as the AJC to question print journalism. Journalism is dead.

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  7. Reservoir Dawg

    In 1979 I was living in a fraternity house on Milledge Avenue. After months of begging and pleading, we got the cable company to hook us up. They didn’t want to initially because there was too much “public” access to their precious product but greed won out over their corporate integrity. It was great. We had a big ole 27″ Mediterranean console color tv that stayed on 24/7. HBO, Skinemax, soft-core booby movies.

    One weeknight about 1:30, I wandered in drunk and found one of the fellers watching a guy sitting behind a desk talking about basketball. In September. I asked him what is this? ESPN he said. What the hell is that? I says. Entertainment Sports Programming Network he declared. 24 hours a day of nothing but sports. What kind of asshole would watch that all day? I asked. He just shrugged his shoulders and went back to intently learning about Indiana’s chances to attend the Big Dance. That shit’ll never fly I said. Where will they find stuff to talk about all day long? Basketball during football season? Jeezis, some people need a life. He kept watching. Then they started in on NASCAR and threw in some Brazilian soccer nonsense, finishing up with pennant race news. I was confused and then I went to bed.

    It has kept on insinuating its way into my life. 35 years later I can’t keep my kids off the damn thing. I still regard it with disgust and revulsion but I’m damned if I can’t not watch it, if only for the games I couldn’t otherwise see. I wish I had seen that coming. I would have gone to Connecticut and burned that bitch down.

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    • Dog in Fla

      And that was the first time the subliminal sounds of the 70’s permeated the brains of the bros in the frat houses

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  8. mg4life0331

    They are a shameless liberal censored propaganda machine like certain bloggers. Or something. OK I tried senator but I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity.

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  9. DawgPhan

    So many “get off my lawn” comments.

    Journalism isnt dead, it just isnt on ESPN. You have to find the people doing the work you are interested in and support them. It isnt spoon fed to you by some old white guy while you eat your dinner.

    The quality and depth of reporting today is far greater than it has ever been. You just have to find it and the signal to noise ratio is certainly higher.

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  10. DWDawg

    I just don’t get the “old white guy” thing. Nothing is any better or more accurate coming a young black gal or a middle-aged asian woman or a teenage latino. Jeez, can we just check race and age at the door?

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  11. PTC DAWG

    IF a game I want to see is on Espn etc, I will watch…otherwise, I never go to it.

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  12. Soccerdawg

    I think some of the 30 30 pieces are good journalism. The one I thinkmof first is the Two Escobars.

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    • Scorpio Jones, III

      Yes, actually they are, very good journalism…too bad they seem to have quit doing new ones…I can almost recite The Mannings word for word.

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