Will ESPN Learn From Its Latest Disaster?

The process of breaking news is obviously a complicated one. How much information do you need to have before you go with a story?

In the case of the Outside The Lines reporting this week, it seems that the reporters involved came up woefully short.

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ESPN put the spotlight (literally in this case) on Jim McNally.

ESPN is without an Ombudsman at this time, so we won’t have an internal reaction on that front as to how those involved came to the conclusion that the information that they had was worthy of smearing a part time employee from coast to coast.

It’s worthy to check the writings of the departed Ombudsman, Robert Lipsyte for some prescient insight on how ESPN views journalism, and perhaps how they should view it.

In his final entry, Lipsyte writes I think that improvement is most needed in ESPN’s inconsistent execution of journalism, which does not appear to be the highest of company priorities.

He suggested a central news desk with a dedicated staff whose entire job would be breaking actual news. Currently the network just sort of taps into resources here and there as needed amongst its personnel.

This incident seems a perfect example of the flaws in the ESPN way of doing things. The initial report seemed so incomplete and raised many questions, but the main reporter, Kelly Naqi, (who is no rookie, she’s been at ESPN since 1987.) was adamant on WEEI yesterday that she engaged in “no speculation” and her job was to “literally just report the facts.”

She failed in her job then.

Jim McNally ended up at the center of a whole new wave of CHEATING! cries from around the country, ESPN First Take made comments such as “such a dumb attempt to cheat on the part of this part time locker room attendant.” and “this part time locker room attendant for the referees will take the fall for this, he will clearly lose his job and go down in infamy as the guy who went rogue and attempted to cheat.

The network even came up to McNally’s house here in New Hampshire and attempted to bully him into a comment.

ESPN then planned their Outside The Lines broadcast yesterday in which Naqi could take her bow as having broken open a new angle to the AFCCG story.

Except that the show was a mess. Their guests – one a former NFL official and the other a former official and head of NFL officials – directly contradicted each other, and then Adam Schefter unexpectedly called into the program and dropped a bomb, which essentially cleared McNally within 30 seconds.

After that, ESPN went into crisis mode. An internal alert went out directing all personnel that they were “holding off further reporting [on this story] temporarily until we resolve a few issues.” Despite Schefter’s report, the story was not updated on any ESPN site for a number of hours. The network later also directed staff to not attach the tag “deflategate” in rundowns on the story, preferring to use “NFL Ball” instead.

It’s not clear what the issues were that needed resolving, be they journalistic, or perhaps even legal. We know that the NFLRA demanded an apology from ESPN for what appears to be sloppy wording in the reporting – “NFL Official” vs “NFL Employee.”  Was someone representing McNally involved?

Schefter may have saved ESPN from itself. Had they continued along the path of painting McNally as the villain here, they could’ve been in deeper trouble with McNally, who as it is, should be considering his options.

The questions of what happened that allowed the original report to be published need to be answered. Even a loyal soldier like Mike Reiss is openly questioning the process:

If I’m a reader/Patriots follower, and passionate about the team, the natural follow-up is to search for answers. What happened? What was the process that led to the story being published, then altered, and the time lag in which it happened? I wish I was in position to provide those answers, but that’s not my job and quite honestly, I don’t know those answers. But it is my job to communicate with you and be honest and accountable. I’ve said in the past that I feel like an ombudsman would be beneficial for all involved when it comes to coverage of the Patriots/under-inflated footballs, and I include myself in that category because I’m far from perfect.

While in the past it has been fun to mock Patriots fans as being paranoid about the coverage the team receives, it sure seems like there is a concerted effort by someone (*cough*Mike Kensil*cough*) to dictate the coverage that is coming out, especially in this instance with ESPN.

It’s interesting to me anyway, that all initial “leaks” seem to be slanting in one direction, and then they are followed up by leaks that swing things in the other direction. It is clear to most by now that the NFL has screwed this up royally.

What is ESPN’s role in that? I think we deserve answers.

Update: From Tom E Curran: Strong NFL link to recent ‘Deflategate’ leak

It’s about the ties of Kelly Naqi’s husband:

More recently, Hussain Naqi worked for the New Meadowlands Stadium Company in East Rutherford, N.J. There, he served as Vice President of Business Planning and General Counsel at MetLife Stadium, the home of the Jets and Giants. Naqi would have worked closely with the league office on all the logistics for Super Bowl 48. The man in charge of “running” the Super Bowl for the NFL is its Vice President of Game Operations. He would speak to Naqi a lot. His name is Mike Kensil.

Ugh.

Doing Our Friday Megalinks

Haven’t been able to provide the Friday megalinks in a while. Let’s do an edition today.

Normally I include a link to the Weekend Viewing Picks, but I’ll be doing that tonight so you can find it on the Fang’s Bites on BSMW site when it’s posted. If you follow me on Twitter or have an RSS feed, you’ll be updated as soon as it posts. If not, you can find it later.

Let’s do the links.

National

USA Today’s Michael Hiestand wonders what effect the gold medal win by the US Women’s Soccer National Team will have on the sport in the long run.

Michael also live blogged Thursday’s Olympic Primetime on NBC.

Jeffrey Martin of USA Today looks at the grand experiment that’s known as the Pac-12 Networks.

At the Sports on Earth blog, Joe Posnanski chronicles his day in covering the Olympics.

Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily says with NFL preseason games airing in many local markets on Thursday, NBC Olympic overnight ratings took a hit.

Bill King of SBD says CBS Sports is forging ahead with a show featuring the professional debut of several US Olympic boxers despite their poor performance in London.

Ryan Baucom of SBD writes that several Olympic athletes are getting a boost in Twitter followers after their success in the London Games.

Tripp Mickle of SBD says Universal Sports broke out an ad on NBC Thursday trying to promote its Olympic sports programming. Good luck with that.

Eric Fisher of SBD says Yahoo is declaring victory over NBCOlympics.com for unique pageviews.

Sohrab Amari of the Wall Street Journal reviews an NBC News documentary fronted by Tom Brokaw which will air on NBC’s Olympic coverage on Saturday.

Sarah Kwak of Sports Illustrated talks with Lolo Jones about the media firestorm that swelled just before she ran her 100 meters hurdles race.

In the Sherman Report, Ed Sherman talks with outgoing Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan about his first job. Ryan will be missed in the pages of the Globe.

Sports Media Journal’s Keith Thibault and I have an Olympic-themed podcast with Richard Sandomir of the New York Times and Bruce Beck of WNBC-TV.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Today Show host Matt Lauer had an icy reunion with former co-host Ann Curry on NBC’s London Olympics set.

John Eggerton at Broadcasting & Cable writes that the FCC has already denied a Comcast request to stay its decision requiring the cable provider to give space to the Tennis Channel.

Christopher Heine of Adweek says Olympic marketers have failed to medal in their social media campaigns.

But Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age looks at the Olympic sponsors that managed to get a boost through social media.

Michael Learmonth of Advertising Age says NBC and the International Olympic Committee have to fix the Olympic business model before it breaks down.

Toni Fitzgerald of Media Life notes that NBC’s ratings for Wednesday Olympic Primetime show drew better viewership numbers than Atlanta in 1996.

Brandon Costa of Sports Video Group says CBS Sports is preparing for all type of weather conditions for this weekend’s PGA Championship.

Karen Hogan of SVG looks at NBC New York Olympic operations.

Ken Kerschbaumer at SVG says Denmark TV has a floating barge studio for the London Olympics. Now that’s pretty cool.

And Birgit Heidsiek of SVG says Eurosport TV is producing the Olympics in 3-D.

Jason Fry of the Poynter Institute and writing as the ESPN Ombudsman investigates a plagiarism incident at the Alleged Worldwide Leader.

Ronnie Ramos at the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Center writes that the Pac-12 Conference is readying an aggressive digital strategy that will go along with its television distribution.

Ty Duffy at The Big Lead goes after former NBC Sports Emperor Dick Ebersol for being out of touch in defending the tape delayed Olympics.

The Big Lead looks at the Pac-12 being in the forefront of digital distribution after being marred for years of being behind the curve.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says the Miami Dolphins will take advantage of the NFL’s relaxed TV blackout policy this weekend.

Emmett Jones of Sports Business Digest notes that Buffalo Wild Wings has purchased naming rights for a college bowl game. Looks like it will be going to overtime every year.

Sports Media Watch says with NBC committed to the Olympics this year, the NFL Hall of Fame preseason game was aired on NFL Network and naturally suffered a big viewer dropoff.

SMW reports that NBC got another ratings increase for the Olympics.

TVNewsCheck says Gannett is declaring victory saying three of its stations are the top-rated local NBC affiliates in key demographics.

Alex Weprin of TVNewser looks at NBC’s Today Show operations in London.

At TVSpy, Alex tours NBC’s operation center for its local affiliates in London.

East and Mid-Atlantic

Chad Finn of the Globe talks with Celtics TV voice Mike Gorman who’s been calling Olympic handball off a monitor for NBC.

At SB Nation Boston, BSMW Fearless Leader Bruce Allen discusses Golf Channel’s meteoric rise and its plans to cover the PGA Championship this weekend.

Verne Gay at Newsday notes that a long-time NBC Sports director is retiring after the Olympics.

Newsday’s Chris Serico wonders if NBC’s Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera will be a bit more subdued during the Olympic Closing Ceremony on Sunday than their talkative performance during the Opening Ceremony two Fridays ago.

Neil Best of Newsday catches up with ESPN’s Ron Jaworski who’s filling a new role at the network after being in the Monday Night Football both.

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post is in another one of his moods today.

Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times Union notes a local radio station’s high school football schedule.

Ken McMillan from the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record says Pac-12 Networks will be seen on Time Warner Cable locally.

Keith Groller of the Allentown (PA) Morning Call says despite a lost season, the Philadelphia Phillies TV crew still has plenty to talk about during games.

Tim Richardson in Press Box looks at the business of fantasy football as leagues get ready to hold their drafts soon, if not already.

Sarah Kogod of the Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog notes that more people were watching the DC NFL Team in area sports bars last night as compared to the Nationals.

Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog says the Nationals radio team tried to explain the term “ball bag”.

South

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald reviews HBO’s Hard Knocks on the Dolphins.

Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says the Dolphins have announced their TV blackout policy today.

Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman says a local high school sports TV show expands to a new market.

Midwest

The Cincinnati Enquirer says ESPN’s College GameDay could be visiting the Queen City in February.

Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at Dick Ebersol’s latest comments on tape delaying Olympic events.

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talks with a local sports radio host who’s perturbed at a former employer.

Dan notes that the Olympics and the St. Louis Cardinals ratings have been hurt by each other.

West

John Maffei of the North County Times talks with a former NBC Olympics analyst who was fired on the spot after calling a race.

To the Ventura County Star where Jim Carlisle talks about the increased spotlight on the Pac-12 through its new TV networks.

Jim says Twitter has become an Olympic event.

Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times has the Irish radio call of boxer Katie Taylor’s victory giving the country its first gold medal of the Olympics.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News says this is a critical time for beach volleyball as the sport is in transition now.

Tom has some Olympic TV notes in his blog.

And those are your supersized megalinks for today.

Let’s Do The Friday Megalinks

Time for Friday linkage.

The Weekend Viewing Picks have your sports and entertainment suggestions. Let’s get cracking.

National

Michael Hiestand from USA Today looks at TNT’s plans to go mostly split-screen during breaks for Saturday’s NASCAR race.

Tom Perrotta of the Wall Street Journal reports that the one Wimbledon souvenir the players want is the towel.

Alex Sherman at Bloomberg Businessweek talks with NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus about the Olympics.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says enhancing the NFL fan experience might bring more people to games.

Ed Sherman of The Sherman Report is happy to learn that Jeremy Schaap’s ESPN Radio show is now available as a podcast.

Bob Pockrass at The Sporting News says NASCAR hopes that NBC Sports will be a bidder for the sport’s TV rights.

Mike Reynolds of Multichannel News says ESPN Deportes scored with the EURO 2012 Final last Sunday.

Mike says Golf Channel has selected the venue for the next season of “Big Break”.

Christopher Heine of Adweek says MLB’s allowing Twitter votes for the All-Star Game for the first time may have had a hand in deciding which league hosts the World Series.

Jason Del Ray of Advertising Age says the impending Turner Sports purchase of Bleacher Report makes sense.

Wayne Friedman at MediaPost says the NFL easing requirements on local TV blackouts shows the league wants to reach the casual fan.

Dan Daley at Sports Video Group says ESPN will be utilizing plenty of microphones at the MLB Home Run Derby.

Awful Announcing’s Matt Yoder has a screengrab of a Canadian TV station messing up the Steve Nash trade to the Lakers.

And Matt has found an episode of Judge Sapp. Yes, that’s Warren Sapp.

The Big Lead soaked up the latest Twitter battle between ESPN’s Darren Rovell and Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.

MediaRantz looks at the top 5 ESPN plagiarism scandals.

Nick Bromberg of Yahoo’s From the Marbles blog wonders what is the big deal with the TNT/truTV simulcast of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race on Saturday.

Joe Favorito likes how MLS has adopted “Food Week” to get fans to explore its markets’ restaurants.

East and Mid-Atlantic

At SB Nation Boston, BSMW Fearless Leader Bruce Allen says it was time for Erin Andrews to leave the ESPN Mothership.

Jerry Barmsah of Fishbowl NY says CBS Radio’s WFAN could be headed to FM and could take the Yankees with it.

Yes, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, we know you hate ESPN.

Justin Terranova of the Post has five questions for ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert.

Ken McMillan from the Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record says the MLB Extra Innings pay per view package will be free next week.

Don Laible of the Utica (NY) Observer-Dispatch talks with the NHL on NBC’s Dave Strader about calling Olympic basketball.

Ken says a local minor league baseball team has found a new radio home.

Dave Sottile of the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News says there are no plans to bring Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic to the local area.

Tim Richardson in Press Box looks at the differences between the Washington Nationals and MASN over the team’s TV rights fee.

Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner talks with MLB Network’s Chris Rose.

South

Kyle Veazey of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal says a popular local sports radio host is changing stations.

At the Houston Chronicle, David Barron writes that the new Comcast SportsNet Houston will air Conference USA football featuring the University of Houston.

Midwest

Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says MLB feels it has restored integrity to the All-Star Game. It’s an exhibition game!

Paul M. Banks of the Chicago Sports Media Watch wonders who had the best mock NBA Draft?

Paul Christian at the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin says the new TV voice of the Minnesota Wild will have an exciting team to call this season.

Dan Caesar from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talks about Erin Andrews making her Fox debut next week.

Dan writes that Blues analyst Darren Pang turned down a full-time offer from TSN and will remain in St. Louis.

West

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News has this harsh takedown of Erin Andrews.

Here’s Tom’s column which has a little more on the last post.

Tom also links to reaction to his Erin Andrews column.

Matt Rudnitsky of SportsGrid replies point-by-point to Hoffarth.

John Maffei of the North County Times writes about Erin Andrews joining Fox.

Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star talks with Fox’s Joe Buck on the challenges of calling the MLB All-Star Game.

Jim has his Weekend Viewing Picks.

Matthew T. Hall at the San Diego Union-Tribune wonders where’s the fan outrage in the Fox Sports San Diego-Time Warner Cable dispute leaving Padres games off TV.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News tries to clear up some confusion over the Pac-12 Network.

And that will conclude our links for today.