In light of Tiger Woods’ recent “transgressions,” I figured it was a good time to revist another sports scandal from last month that went relatively unreported and was a good example of why networks should police themselves. ESPN’s own Steve Phillips, former GM of the New York Mets and anchor of “Baseball Tonight”, was caught having an affair with a production assistant at the network. An avalanche of criticism rushed through the internet, cluttering blogs and rival websites. Here, finally, was a chance to take potshots at the mighty behemoth that is ESPN.
However, ESPN remained tightlipped on the subject and did not leap to their own defense. ESPN’s own ombudsman, Don Ohlmeyer, wrote a scathing column about the network’s coverage of its own scandal. “The item was posted on the front page of ESPN.com, but was mentioned only once in the entirety of the evening’s ‘SportsCenters.’ It was carried once on ‘Baseball Tonight,’ once in the late afternoon ‘SportsCenter’ and once during the afternoon on ESPNEWS. The coverage on ESPN’s air was similar to a major newspaper covering a scandal involving one of its columnists by putting it in a small box on page A37 of the Saturday edition.” Ohlmeyer’s column was ironically relegated to very small tab at the bottom of ESPN’s home page.
In this age of media pundits, who polices them? Is it a network’s job to hold themselves accountable and own up to mistakes? By essentiallly pretending the Phillips scandal doesn’t exist, ESPN is opening itself up to harsh criticism that it could easily dispel if it simply weighed in on the subject itself.