Good afternoon everyone ... let's chat.
How does ESPN cover a story about itself? I am thinking of something like the Hank Wiliams controversy. Do you feel the obligation to cover a story like that on SportsCenter or ESPN's website? And do the news reporters have direct access to the ESPN executives making those decisions?
Yes, we reported that story on all of our platforms. We realize that from time to time, we are going to be in the middle of the news. When that happens, we make every effort to treat ESPN as every other newsmaker. As far access, we operate as we would with any news source. Our reporters request access, frequently we get it, at times we don't. We approach the story with the same standards as any other story and do a good job account for the facts. I think we've done a good job on these issues in the past, but they are always a challenge.
I often see ESPN quoting anonymous sources around news reports. Schefter and Mort seem to do this all the time. Why don't you just reveal the sources? Seems people would trust the reports more in that case.
In any newsgathering pursuit, sources with information often request anonymity for a variety of reasons. We can either grant that anonymity and accept the information, or pass. It's a decision the reporter has to make. If he trusts the source, finds it credible, he may well report the information attributed to the anonymous source. In a perfect world, we would identify the source in all instances. But if that was the standard, we would report far less information than we do -- I think that is true for most news organizations. Our job is to gauge the credibility of the source and come to a decision on how or if to report the information. In the cases of Mort and Adam, they have developed a wide range of sources who have proven credible, and they use that information to gauge if a story is ready to report. There are many stories we hear that we don't feel comfortable reporting. Those are stories you never see. We understand viewers would like to know all sources, but practically speaking, we need to use this device at times to get the news out to the public.
Hi Vince. I'm a big fan of Sports Reporters. Why did it move to ESPN2, and any chance it will appear more than just Sundays?
The move to ESPN2 for Sports Reporters and Outside the Lines was a factor of extending NFL Countdown an hour on ESPN, and scheduling a 2-hour SportsCenter to cover the news of the weekend. We know there's great interest in the NFL, and the intent in expanding Countdown was to address that audience. We hope the move will enhance the ratings on ESPN2. To keep people aware that those shows are on ESPN2, in SportsCenter we are running OTL and Sports Reporter segements. Sports Reporters is a fixture at ESPN. We are trying to grow the ratings on ESPN2 and there was an opportunity to do that during the football season. As far as other versions of the show, there are no plans at this time to expand it beyond Sundays.
for television, do you tend to hire TV reporters (like from local news stations) or newspaper reporters? Is there a difference in quality or skills, and if so, how does that factor into your decision?
If you look at our reporting staff, they come from a variety of backgrounds. Ed Werder, Sal Paolantonio, Rachael Nichols were all longtime newspaper reporters. Jeremy Schaap and Tom Rinaldi, for example, come primarily from television reporting. I can't say either discipline produces better reporters. In my experience, the best reporters have instincts about news and they come from both industries.
When you have a series of four games in the baseball playoffs, like yesterday, how do you decide which result is more newsworthy? Seems like the Yankees always lead, and the Brewers are ignorned because they were the late game.
There are factors that go into those news judgments. The Yankees have a very large following in their market and nationally. There may be more interest in them then some other teams. When and where games are played are a factor. A late game just before SportsCenter may gain more attention than an earlier game in which people have had the opportunity see the score and highlights. And the quality of the game matters. How close was it? How dramatic? These all help determine where we play it, how much attention we give it. News judgment isn't a science. Our goal is to determine what is most newsworthy to the largest number of viewers and use that as criteria in making those judgments.
Josh Elliott said that ESPN takes information from other outlets and tries not to give them credit after "confirming" it. Is that accurate?
Josh did a very good job here as a SportsCenter anchor. But I was disappointed in reading his remarks. If you watch our programming regularly, daily we give credit to dozens of news organizations reporting stories. When we have a story and believe it is "our" story we report it in that manner. And there are times when we find after the fact that others, too, have reported it. We try hard to check these things, but given the number of platforms and news entities, this is increasingly more difficult. But the notion that we are "stealing" other peoples' scoops is ludicrous. There are times when entities have reported stories based on sources we don't know, and we frequently report those attributing them to the media outlet ... but also pursue the stories ourselves to confirm it with sources that we can vouch for. When that happens, we frequently report that we have been able to confirm the earlier account based on our sources. We think that's the responsible thing to do. We don't do it to take credit; we do it to inform viewers that we are able to more fully stand behind the stories because we have sources whose identities are known to us.
How can you justify your objectivity in covering Texas considering the ESPN role in the Longhorn network?
ESPN's arrangement with Texas to produce the Longhorn Network is clearly unique. It was a business decision and we fully understand people raising the issue of objectivity. The news and information arm of ESPN is charged with maintaining objectivity while covering dozens of entities with which ESPN has business arrangement. We are rightsholders for the NFL, MLB, NBA, college conferences, on and on. Yet every day, we cover these entities on the news side. I can tell you there have been many occasions in the past when our reporting has not made those entities happy, and we made it difficult for our programming department. While the Longhorn Network presents a new challenge, I believe we are up to it. Recently, we reported on the firing of a long-time assistant Texas coach Mack Brown. ESPN was the first to report on the firing of that coach due to allegations of sexual assault. I would offer that of just one example of our ability to maintain our objectivity even with a large partner of the ESPN business side.
I apologize if this question comes off as snarky - that's really not my intention, but does the NBA make ESPN cover the WNBA? Judging by the numbers, don't you think you'd get better ratings with other sports or shows? I've never understood why the worldwide leader wastes airtime on something that doesn't draw viewers. Thanks Vince
As part of our rights deal with the NBA, ESPN carries WNBA games. We believe there is a market for those games. While not as large as for the NFL or NBA, that is a constituency that should be served. With six domestic networks, and digital networks, we believe have enough platforms to try to serve a wide variety of viewers. Putting the best female professional basketball players in the world on our air seems a logical initiative for an entity that calls itself a worldwide leader in sports.
Vince, thanks for chatting. i sometimes here references to "bureau" reporters for ESPN. Can you explain what that means, and how ESPN uses its reporters?
There are a number of reporters based around the country who we consider as "generalists." They report on a wide variety of topics. People like Mark Schwarz, Bob Holtzman, Lisa Salters, George Smith and others have a different role than those sport-specific "Insiders" such as Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian, Joe Schad, Chris Broussard, etc. All of these people contribute to our newsgathering efforts. In general, the "bureau" reporters are positioned in various locales to provide quick access to stories anywhere in the country. They have a sense of news developments in their respective geographic areas.
Vince, do you miss your days at the Globe? And what do you think is the future of print magazines and newspapers? Has the Internet overtaken them, especially with iPads and mobile phones?
I had a wonderful 15 years at the Boston Globe, and I still maintain close relationships with many people I worked with there. As for the future of print, obviously the landscape has changed dramatically. While newspapers may not be as influential as they once were, given the explosion in number of entities now delivering news and information across all platforms, most of these papers still maintain large newsrooms -- typically larger than others in their geographical areas. Most of them long ago launched Web sites and are working hard to grow that platform, which clearly is able to deliver news and information ia more timely manner than a daily newsprint product. Newspapers will clearly continue to change, and the people producing them recognize that and are addressing the new delivery methods. I don't think we'll ever go back to a time when newspapers are as primary as they were in their respective markets, but the papers still have strong reporters, compelling columnists and most of all, operate with journalistic standards that I believe are worthwhile. If they can translate that reporting power and adherence to standards to the emerging platforms, then names like the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles times, etc., will always stand for great journalism.
What did you think of the fifth season of the critically acclaimed series "The Wire" and how it portrayed the newspaper industry/media?
Yes, I did watch it and I thought the portrayal of a big-city newsroom was spot-on. The conceit of a corrupt police department creating a criminal that didn't exist and the corrupt reporter creating access to that non-existent criminal was a bit far-fetched, but a wonderful story.
How does ESPN decide how much attention to give to a particular NCAA scandal. As an Ohio State fan, I have been following that story closely and the stories ESPN has run multiple stories using old or false information while other colleges have gotten much less attention.
I'll preface this by noting that I happen to be an Ohio State graduate (journalism, 1970). That said, I think we have reported fairly on a number stories involving violations in college football, including USC, Tennessee, North Carolina, Miami, so forth. No doubt we did perhaps more enterprise reporting on the problems at Ohio State. As in the case with most news entities, we feel an obligation to report the news, which I believe we have done with a variety of universities. When looking deeper, there are a combination of two variables. How important in the landscape is the offending party? In the case of Ohio State, it is arguably one of the two or three most prominent college football programs in the country. A second aspect is the type of information you have access to, the sources, the willingness of the sources to provide information, and so forth.
In the case of Ohio State, there were a number of sources we were able to access that we found credible and who were able to advance the story. Fairness obligates us to report the news of wrongdoing at any high profile athletic program. Beyond that, the degree of that reporting may depend on the depth and credibility of source. With Ohio State, we had a number of sources that met that criteria.
What music do you listen to at work?
I'm a country music fan, and while I like a number of the current artists, I can frequently be found riding home listening to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
do cable channels use ratings as network tv historically does to determine the longevity of a show? love dan le batard and his dad. very creative. am concerned that it may not have a broad appeal.
As with all TV networks, ratings are always a criteria. One of our strategic goals is to grow the afternoon programming on ESPN2. To that end, you've seen heavy promotion of a block of programming that includes Dan Le Batard, Jim Rome and SportsNation. We think these are all terrific shows and the hope is the packaging of them will grow the ESPN2 audience. We're big fans of Dan. I've known him a long time, from his print roots at the Miami Herald. I think the concept of his show with his dad is a clever one, and I would note that that show is being produced by Erik Rydholm, who also produces Around The Horn and PTI. Erik is a creative guy, and in combination wiht Dan, they've put together a show that is going to get legs and grow ratings.
Time is up, thanks very much for your questions.