A Clarification from the ESPN Ombudsman

Awful Announcing emailed the ESPN Ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber concerning her statements that blogs were mostly responsible for the propagation of rumors and ESPN was, in a way, a victim for pushing unverified claims because the blog pushed them first.  Ms. Schreiber was kind of enough to offer a response clarifying her earlier thoughts:

On 10/2/07, Le Anne Schreiber wrote:

Thanks, AA. I was not misquoted, but I garbled my own thoughts by speaking too casually toward the end of a long interview with a former Times colleague. I don’t in fact blame ESPN’s mistakes on blogs. I do believe the internet and blogsosphere has had a large impact on how mainstream journalism is conducted. Rule of thumb in mainstream journalism used to be, you did not print rumors, period, even if they were labeled rumors, even if you were a columnist. You didn’t put it out there, label it rumor, then wait to see if it was true or not. Idea of writing columns citing “rumor mill” as source of information would have been inconceivable. Idea of building opinion on top of rumor, speculation or unverified information was inconceivable. But pressure to fill 24/7 cable and online news, and pressure to satisfy curiosity stirred by rumors from blogs and other non-mainstream sources of info, who need not and often do not follow mainstream guidelines re rumors, has gradually led to mainstream journalism getting lax about how it handles unverified information. How many times have you heard or read mainstream commentators deliver opinions preceded by, “If this is true, then….” ? By the time something is proved untrue, the damage has already been done. What bothers me is that the lines between sourced reported information, opinion, speculation and rumor are getting very blurry, and my position is that rather than succumb to pressures to compete with non-mainstream approach to information, mainstream journalism needs to hold the line.
Best,
Le Anne
PS. I should never have said 90%, way too offhand and subjective.
PPS. If this makes sense to you, go ahead and post it as reply to your direct email.
______________________________________________________

—– Original Message —– From: Awful Announcing To: Le Anne Schreiber Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2007 1:55 PM Subject: Re: Pilot Interview

Very well put. That makes much more sense to me than what I gathered from the interview. Not being from that school of thought it’s easy for me to gloss over the integrity that you speak of. The only issue I have is that ESPN (and others) started the “rumor” trend you mention. The trades they speculate at deadlines of any sport never come to fruition and for all we know they could be making them up just for viewers/internet clicks.

It is a strange and ever-evolving environment and I think there’s room for both mediums, but that doesn’t seem to sit well with Mainstream Media.

Thanks for your response and I look forward to the next article.

Brian Powell- Awful Announcing

First of all, credit to AA for taking up the cause of responsible sports bloggers and challenging Ms. Schreiber’s interview statements.  And kudos to Ms. Schreiber for responding in a candid manner, especially in regards to the “90%” assertion and the impact of blogs in the current media environment.  As I stated earlier I honestly believe Ms. Schreiber has an extremely difficult job being ESPN’s journalistic integrity monitor.  It is clear based on her monthly missives as well as her thoughts in response to AA that she is truly invested in high journalistic ideals.  Given how much conflict of interest we see in Bristol coupled with incessant hype and narrative driven analysis I would imagine her job is tough row to hoe.  That being said I still think even in this email response she is still assigning some blame for ESPN’s failure in journalistic integrity on blogs.  I am convinced ESPN abdicated it’s responsibility to journalistic integrity a long time ago and not because blogs behaved a certain way but rather in response to the 24/7 news cycle and the bottom line.  In this way, ESPN is no different than CNN, MSNBC and other cable outlets who report first and confirm later.   At the same time I think Ms. Schreiber is very aware of the problems at ESPN regardless of who might be to blame.  Whether she can actually change the culture in Bristol is another story altogether.

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