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Dan Levy
Sports Media Guru

Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

ESPN Arrogance?

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The question of 'what is news' has been a troubling one for me this week. Is a woman in a hotel room being illegally filmed, news? Does the fact that she's famous make it news? Is the way the story is covered, news? I have no clue what standards are anymore.

And that's not a cop-out -- I really don't know what journalistic standards are. So while everyone is reporting that Ben Roethlisberger is in a heap of trouble stemming from an alleged incident with a Lake Tahoe hotel employee, we internet dwellers sit back and crush ESPN for not reporting the story.

ESPN will not report civil cases, unless they are in some way tied to a criminal case or the party involved speaks about the case. Logically, this standard makes little sense for a news organization to employ, but journalistically, if that is their standard of coverage, shouldn't we respect the fact that they won't compromise that standard because the person involved in the story is a famous athlete? Or should this situation shed more light on the arbitrary nature of ESPN's standards, and in the 'sue you, sue everybody' world we live in today, Big Ben getting in trouble -- for whatever reason -- is news.

Yesterday was the first day ESPN didn't produce a Blog Buzz segment on their morning SportsCenter and internet conspiracy theorist took to their keys to claim coverup. Was the coverup the fact that they didn't want to report on the terrible, on-going situation Erin Andrews is faced with right now? That story has become, much to the chagrin of many of us in the business, a news story. But nobody expects ESPN to mention that story on the air. Ever. Somewhat connected to that is the fact that ESPN never reported the news of Roethlisberger's legal troubles, which was also a story that the blogs devoured. Even if ESPN didn't want to cover the story, the Ben story would have been at or near the top of Blog Buzz.

Was it coincidence that the Ben story happened on a day that ESPN was throwing a blanket -- figuratively -- over one of their own? Perhaps. The most confounding issue with the World Wide Leader was that throughout the day, more and more questions arose as to why ESPN wouldn't cover the story.

Again, ESPN will report on civil suits if the person named in the suit speaks. Why, then, won't ESPN report on this story if Roethlisberger's own attorney has commented? Isn't he speaking for his client? Isn't a statement by an attorney for his Super Bowl-winning client --heck even fighting a speeding ticket -- worth reporting on?

I don't understand standards.

The most confounding thing of all is that ESPN still had not reported on it when the TV news outlets had begun to pick up the story. Fox News had Mike Florio from Pro Football Talk on the show to talk about the situation. Heck, even ABC News, part of the Disney family with ESPN, covered the story. It's a news story. It should be covered.

Unlike the Andrews story, where one of their own is the story, the Roethlisberger situation has people wondering if ESPN is protecting its interests with the league, or even with Ben himself. It can't be the league because even NFL Network discussed the situation on their air last night. So is ESPN in Ben's pocket (or vice versa) or is it more?

One has to wonder if ESPN's arrogance is getting in the way of coverage. As we know, ESPN has a tendency to over-inflate its own importance in the industry (see: ESPYs). One media insider said that the WWL feels they determine when something becomes a big deal -- when they decide to report it.

Well, ESPN, this is a big deal. And unlike the other terrible incident that took place in a hotel room recently, there was no reason not to report it.

By Dan Levy  |  July 22, 2009; 11:52 AM ET  | Category:  Crime , Dan Levy , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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There is where the "junk journalism" comes in - the mere claim that Ben Roethlisberger "got in trouble". That suggests immediately that he did something. He has no control over what some obscure person says about him. If one of your readers suggested that you molest children, does that mean you "got in trouble"? And how would you feel about the phrase then?

Posted by: EMPeay | July 22, 2009 5:14 PM

This "obscure person" is not mere suggesting that he sexually assulted her, she has filed suit--not the same thing.

Posted by: Beingsensible | July 23, 2009 8:53 AM

She may have filed a civil suit, but I find it troubling that, while she has an attorney, she has not filed a criminal complaint. No doubt she is aware of the different standards of proof required in civil/criminal cases. I agree that the filing of the suit is news worthy, but until something a little more substantive and a little less National Enquirer-y comes out lets wait before we hold the public (media) trial.

Posted by: overed | July 23, 2009 9:50 AM

What is she supposed to do? It has been over a year and she only now had the courage to come forward. Do you know the victim has been going through psych services since the event? Why whenever an athlete attacks a women everyone assumes she is a gold digger? You sicken me.

Posted by: kellyanna7 | July 23, 2009 10:29 AM

Malarky - Civil suit versus criminal complaint. The man is alledged to have committed sexual assualt. Cover it. It did not stop the media from covering the Michael Jackson's "lawsuit".

Posted by: ILuvUS | July 23, 2009 12:28 PM

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