Articles about "ESPN"

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On ESPN, Michael Sam and anonymous sources: ‘This should be an educational moment’

Former Missouri player Michael Sam watches pregame festivities before the start of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 30, in Columbia, Mo. Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, was released by St. Louis Rams Saturday.

Former Missouri player Michael Sam watches pregame festivities before the start of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 30, in Columbia, Mo. Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, was released by St. Louis Rams Saturday.

Reporters can probably bench the phrase “poised to make history,” for awhile. The St. Louis Rams announced on Saturday that they cut Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player to be drafted. It’s still possible that he will become the NFL’s first openly gay player to play an NFL game, and he’s already made history. This off-season has seen its share of both on-target reporting and media misfires.

When football fans were hungry for news about who would be cut and who would still contend for spots on NFL rosters, ESPN ran a segment on Sports Center that started out being about whether Sam would make the team.

Last Wednesday’s segment ended up including a quote from an anonymous source commenting on Sam’s shower habits.

ESPN issued its official apology last week, saying that the network regretted not living up to its own standards for reporting on LGBT issues.

“This should be an educational moment,” said Wade Davis, executive director of the You Can Play project, which encourages straight allies and LGBT athletes to create safe spaces for LGBT kids playing sports. He’s a gay former NFL player.

It’s essential to avoid the temptation to focus on a single story or create one-dimensional portraits of individuals, Davis said. Too often, journalists approach a story with a given narrative in mind, and ask questions to make the story fit that narrative.

With this story, Davis said, the narrative was that NFL players are homophobic, macho bullies.

“You’ve got 32 teams and 53 players on each team,” Davis said. “You’re going to be able to find some idiot to say something stupid.”

Journalists may be more likely to be sensitive to stereotypic portrayals of marginalized groups, but the backlash ESPN received on this story can serve as a reminder: forcing a story to fit a narrative you have already decided on is disingenuous at best. NFL players are not one-dimensional.

“People just can’t believe that NFL players are human,” Davis said. “That they can be nice to each other. That they can be kind.”

Had ESPN found that there was a significant conflict or discomfort in the locker room, Deadspin’s Tom Ley wrote on Thursday, then there might have been a real story to report, one worth investigating more fully.

It absolutely matters if Michael Sam is afraid to shower with his straight teammates for fear of making them uncomfortable, and it absolutely matters if his teammates really are uncomfortable.

But reporting this using only an anonymous source and giving the quote no context does any potential story a disservice.

Sharif Durhams, a member of NLGJA’s “Rapid Response Task Force” who was involved in conversations with ESPN’s editors, said that it’s appropriate for journalists to ask questions.

“But once you find there isn’t conflict or an issue, it should be fine to let the readers know that,” Durhams wrote in an email. “Going into the details how how and when Michael Sam is showering and which teammates he’s showering with when there’s no issue is what’s disappointing.”

When journalists ask questions about personal things such as what Sam’s shower habits were, it may be that they are trying to fit a story into a conflict narrative. To do this, ESPN’s Josina Anderson granted anonymity to a source. It’s not just about this one reporter, though, Davis said. Allowing information from anonymous sources to be aired is a newsroom decision, and it was an ESPN decision in this case. Poynter’s Kelly McBride argues that the overwhelming majority of the time, stories don’t warrant the use of anonymous sources.

“If newsrooms would limit the use of anonymous sources to watchdog stories that hold the powerful accountable,” McBride argued on Poynter’s site in 2013, “journalists might gain a bit of credibility with the public.”

Allowing a source to speak about Sam’s shower routine anonymously likely damaged Anderson’s credibility with the Rams, Davis said.

“It’s going to be hard for players to trust her now–you come into their space and violate a code. It’s hard for players to let outsiders in at all,” he said. “If you want players to trust you and be honest, you can’t be trying to get these gotcha moments.”

When Sports Illustrated reporters granted anonymity to sources within the NFL in a story about Michael Sam’s draft prospects in the spring, Stefan Fatsis argued in Deadspin that Sports Illustrated writers “were actually encouraging their sources to talk smack about Sam.”

Furthermore, he said, it revealed the attitude of the reporters about the both the sources and the narrative that might emerge from these conversations:

But if both reporter and source were convinced that anything but a politically correct opinion would be pilloried, and therefore anonymity was essential for any conversation to occur, that set some pretty low expectations for the thought capacity of NFL executives. It also ensured SI would get what it was looking for: people who believe that Michael Sam in an NFL uniform is impossibly problematic.

There are consequences for trying to fit the Sam story into a predictable narrative, Davis said. One of them is that the public has an inaccurate perception of NFL players. When journalists bring up subjects like shower habits, and try to find conflict where there is none or very little, they send a message that the conflict is what’s important in this story, and send a message that sports are not safe or comfortable for LGBT people. A truer portrait of the players and cultures involved might have come from a less pointed question, Davis said.

“A better question would be, ‘Hey, how’s it been–this is a groundbreaking thing–how’s it been getting along with Michael Sam and bonding?’” Read more

Michael Sam

Resources for reporters on all beats (including sports) who cover LGBT people

Outsports | The Washington Post

On Wednesday, ESPN apologized for making a story out of NFL player Michael Sam and his “shower habits,” Cindy Boren reported Wednesday for The Washington Post. From Boren’s story:

“ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report. Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”

Jim Buzinski wrote about the apology as well for Outsports.

(Reporter Josina) Anderson’s report generated widespread criticism after its tone-deaf examination of whether Sam was showering with his teammates or waiting until later. She quoted one unnamed player as saying that Sam was “respecting their space” and that he “seemed to be waiting” to take a shower. This led Rams All-Pro lineman Chris Long to tweet: “Dear ESPN, everyone but you is over it.”

The Rams’ season begins on Sept. 7, so more and more media outlets will be covering Sam. The GLAAD media guide for sports reporting cautions reporters against focusing on the negative and amplifying the voices of those who argue that LGBT players will be unwelcome.

 While out athletes playing at the professional level is still relatively new and a groundbreaking step forward in destroying stereotypes about LGBT people – it’s also important to acknowledge that their first and most important role is simply to play and excel at their sport.

It’s essential to prepare reporters on all beats to cover LGBT people with respect. There are a number of resources available for journalists. Here are a few:

GLAAD General Reference Media Guide

Today our stories are more likely to be told in the same way as others — with fairness, integrity, and respect. Journalists realize that LGBT people have the right to fair, accurate and inclusive reporting of their stories and their issues, and GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide, now in its ninth edition, offers tools they can use to tell our stories in ways that bring out the best in journalism.

GLAAD’s advice for covering LGBT athletes

Allow players to play. While out athletes playing at the professional level is still relatively new and a groundbreaking step forward in destroying stereotypes about LGBT people – it’s also important to acknowledge that their first and most important role is simply to play and excel at their sport. In an ideal world, an out NFL or NBA player will be allowed to play without constantly being asked to comment on LGBT issues.

The Association of LGBT Journalists (NLGJA) Stylebook

– Poynter’s general advice for avoiding problematic frames for coverage of LGBT people:


Educate your staff so they can tell the stories of gay and lesbian lives fully and with scope.

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AP journalist and translator killed in Gaza

Simone Camilli in Beit Lahiya on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Simone Camilli in Beit Lahiya on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. AP journalist and translator killed, photographer injured in Gaza: Simone Camilli and translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash “died Wednesday when Gaza police engineers were neutralizing unexploded ordnance in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya left over from fighting between Israel and Islamic militants.” AP photographer Hatem Moussa was seriously injured in the explosion. (AP) | Moussa got AP’s “Beat of the Week” nod last month. (APME)
  2. Is there a second Snowden? James Bamford writes that he got “unrestricted access to [Edward Snowden's] cache of documents in various locations. And going through this archive using a sophisticated digital search tool, I could not find some of the documents that have made their way into public view, leading me to conclude that there must be a second leaker somewhere.” (Wired) | Related: What it’s like to do a photoshoot with Snowden. (Wired)
  3. Gawker covers BuzzFeed: BuzzFeed has removed nearly 5,000 old posts, some of which “clearly veered into plagiarism territory,” J.K. Trotter writes. (Gawker) | Yowch: “BuzzFeed divorces its first wife.” (@pbump) | Kelly McBride: “Taking articles down is a rare phenomenon among trustworthy institutions, and it should be executed in the full light of day.” (Poynter)
  4. BuzzFeed covers Gawker: In response to staff complaints about violent porn posted in comments, Gawker Media banned images from its Kinja platform. Kinja, Myles Tanzer reports, “is still mystifying employees and creating tensions between the company’s editorial staff and top executives.” (BuzzFeed) | Jezebel EIC Jessica Coen calls the image-banning move an insufficient “temporary band-aid.” (Poynter) | Nicholas Jackson suggests Gawker Media should “Shut down Kinja completely.” (It’s important to note here that Kinja is also Gawker Media’s CMS.) Comments, he writes, “just don’t belong at the end of or alongside posts … They belong on personal blogs, or on Twitter or Tumblr or Reddit, where individuals build a full, searchable body of work and can be judged accordingly.” (Pacific Standard)
  5. Alt-weeklies benefit from Advance’s changes: Publishers of Willamette Week, Lagniappe and Syracuse New Times have staffed up and seen growth in the wake of changes at daily papers in their cities. (AAN) | Related: Readership, alliances up at other New Orleans news outlets in last year (Poynter)
  6. MoJo’s Facebook mojo: Mother Jones engagement editor Ben Dreyfuss decided to “double down on Facebook,” Caroline O’Donovan writes, and has seen notable returns. “From what we hear, Facebook is privileging certain kinds of content-rich sites,” MoJo publisher Steve Katz says. (Nieman) | Related: “While many people now find their news on Facebook, it’s easy to forget that very recently they found it on Google, and will surely find it somewhere else in the not-too-distant future.” (NYT) | Also related: Facebook has seen many more publishers embed its posts since it launched FB Newswire. (Poynter)
  7. More BS television: Bill Simmons plans to launch “The Grantland Basketball Show” on ESPN. (The Big Lead)
  8. Journalists injured in Iraq: New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin, Adam Ferguson, a photographer freelancing for the Times, and Moises Saman, who was on assignment for Time, were injured in a helicopter crash in northern Iraq Tuesday. The pilot was killed. (NYT) | Saman’s pictures from the crash. (Time)
  9. Jobs still available in journalism: Dale Eisinger says he worked for “the New York office of a conservative media company based in the South,” where his charge was “to trawl Twitter, and the rest of the internet, for conspiracy and evidence of liberal malice. Then, to repackage these stories or posts or memes for the target demo.” (The Awl)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Adam Serwer will be national editor at BuzzFeed. Currently, he’s a reporter at MSNBC (Poynter) | Edith Zimmerman has been named senior staff writer for Matt Taibbi’s as yet unnamed magazine. She founded The Hairpin. Laura Dawn, former creative and cultural director for, will be the magazine’s executive director of multimedia. (Poynter) | Dominic Rushe, Alex Needham and Oliver Laughland will each take different jobs at Guardian U.S. Rushe, a business correspondent, will be East Coast technology editor for Guardian U.S. Needham, formerly a culture editor for, will be arts editor for Guardian U.S. Laughland will join Guardian U.S. as a senior reporter. He’s currently a reporter for Guardian Australia. (The Guardian) | Jeanne Cummings will be head of operations for Bloomberg’s forthcoming politics vertical. Previously, she was a deputy editor at Bloomberg News. (Politico) | The Denver Post is looking for a features writer to cover food and lifestyle. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

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Medical Marijuana Ads

NYT runs a pot ad

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. NYT runs a pot ad: Sunday’s paper had a full page ad on page 19 of the A-section from Leafly, which connects marijuana users to dispensaries and reviews weed strains. After the paper’s editorial board endorsed legalizing pot, “it just seemed like the right time,” a brand manager at the company that backs Leafly told Lucia Moses (Digiday) | “We accept ads for products and services that are legal and if the ad has met our acceptability standards,” Times spokesperson Linda Zebian says. (WSJ)
  2. Tribune Publishing is on its own as of tomorrow: “For now, plans to sell the Tribune newspapers, once widely reported, are off the table,” Christine Haughney reports. (NYT) | Expect a replacement for L.A. Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein “to be named within weeks.” He’s Tribune Publishing’s Non-executive Chairman of the Board now. (LAT)
  3. A bright spot in a rough summer for Canadian journalists? Maybe all the recent layoffs mean big publishers in the True North finally have a plan. (Craig Silverman)
  4. Why did ESPN move “Outside the Lines” to ESPN2? The show’s ratings plunge when it shifts, “a curious move for a show that ESPN pitches heavy when it wants to sell its journalistic imprint,” Richard Deitsch writes. ESPN exec Norby Williamson tells Deitsch you gotta look at ratings for everything overall. (SI) | OTL’s piece on how Jim Kelly is dealing with cancer. (ESPN)
  5. Why Glenn Greenwald made his own pie charts: David Carr “mentioned that he now works for a digital news site that has a $250 million endowment from Mr. Omidyar and some very talented data journalists and graphic artists.” Greenwald: “Yeah, I know, but I would have had to wait and I didn’t want to wait.” (NYT)
  6. Music journalists for sale: A business called Fluence lets you pay journalists to listen to your music. (The Fader) | Related: Ally Schweitzer on hip-hop artists paying bloggers. (WAMU)
  7. The Boston Globe plans buyouts: They’re “not meant as a cost-cutting exercise in the newsroom,” Globe Editor Brian McGrory tells the newsroom. (Poynter)
  8. The Marshall Project publishes first story: Maurice Possley‘s story about a Texas execution runs in partnership with The Washington Post. (The Marshall Project, The Washington Post) | “Please note – we’re still a work in progress. We plan to launch in full this fall,” MP EIC Bill Keller writes in a release. | More new news: Next Media Animation will set up staff in 10 U.S. cities. (CJR)
  9. Times-Picayune tweaks home-delivery schedule: During football season, if you subscribe to Sunday, Wednesday and Friday delivery, you’ll get “bonus papers” on Saturday and Monday. Tuesdays and Thursdays the Picayune will be newsstand-only, but those editions will be broadsheet, not tabloid. Nola Media Group’s James O’Byrne throws shade at competitor The Advocate in the comments. ( | Advocate Editor Peter Kovacs: “We don’t need 500 words to explain New Orleans Advocate home delivery schedule. Two words are sufficient: Seven Days.” (@PKovacs7)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Tom Johnson will be executive editor for the new politics vertical from Bloomberg News. Johnson was senior broadcast producer of “World News With Diane Sawyer”. Patrick King will be senior producer of the vertical. Formerly, he was a segment producer with “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” (Bloomberg) | Alex Postman has been named deputy editor for Self. Formerly, she was executive editor at Rodale Books. Maureen Dempsey will be site director for Self. Previously, she was executive digital editor at Martha Stewart Weddings ( | Job of the day: The Portland Mercury is looking for an arts editor. Get your résumés in! (The Portland Mercury) | Send Ben your job moves:

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8 digital media lessons from Poynter’s ‘Journalism and the Web@25′ panel

Journalists shared personal stories about a “Goosebumps” fan site, a three-year-old riding an elevator, and dropping computer science classes in college to illustrate how journalism has changed since 1989 — and needs to change more quickly today — at Poynter’s “Journalism and the Web@25″ event Tuesday night.

The panelists at the Ford Foundation in New York represented both new and old media, and television, print, and mobile:

  • Rob King, ESPN‘s senior vice president, SportsCenter and News
  • Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and senior media correspondent for CNN Worldwide
  • Melissa Bell, co-founder, senior product manager and executive editor at
  • Kathleen Carroll, executive editor and senior vice president of The Associated Press
  • Jeff Jarvis, founder of and professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism

Here’s a replay of the lively discussion (the event begins around the 8:50 mark) and some digital journalism lessons shared by panelists as they reflected on the past 25 years of the Web:

The time for urgency was then — and now

When it comes to digital transformation, “I think we probably all wish we had been faster, sooner,” said the AP’s Carroll. Jarvis made a similar point: “I wish I’d done a better job of scaring the shit out of people,” he said. “The problem is you don’t want to be Chicken Little, but what I was trying to say was we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of experimentation to do.”

Watch live streaming video from fordfound at

Audience expectations rise quickly

ESPN’s King told a story about his son, who as a three-year-old visited his grandparents’ house after the recent installation of an elevator. After three days, he returned home and asked King as he was being carried upstairs to bed, “where’s the elevator?”

“That is audience expectation in the digital age,” King said to laughter. “You see something one time, that’s it. It exists. It can’t not be anymore. The first time you ever pick up a tablet and watch a movie, you’re like, ‘hey, I can do this now.’”

Writers should embrace technology

Vox’s Bell started college as a computer science major but switched to literature. “I never went back to computer science classes, and I think it was a mistake to think of those as different things, to really think about my love of computers and my love of the sciences and maths as separate from writing,” she said. “It took me a long time to realize how intertwined they can be.”

We can’t afford separation between church and state

King used the example of Craiglist’s early days (founder Craig Newmark was in the audience) to illustrate the dangers of a newsroom unaware of what the business side is up to — and vice-versa. “We had business writers writing about Craigslist, story after story,” he said. “And nobody got up and walked over to the classified folks and said, ‘we got a problem.’”

“We felt as though it wasn’t our responsibility or it wasn’t our job to care about the building of the business, or to care about things that were germane to the business, and then we got surprised when the lights started going out.”

Brian Stelter, Melissa Bell and Rob King. (Photo by Serena Dai)

Brian Stelter, Melissa Bell and Rob King. (Photo by Serena Dai)

Community and conversation have power

CNN’s Stelter said his pivotal Web experience came in 1996, when he made a “Goosebumps” fan site. “My a-ha moment was when R.L. Stine, the author of the books, started reading the site and emailing me and answering questions.”

When Jarvis started blogging after 9/11, he said, “People started communicating with me, and I realized that the proper structure for media is a conversation among people, and that wasn’t the structure we had.”

Audiences have always wanted to engage, King argued: “People have been yelling at televisions during sports events for years.” Added Stelter: “Now we can hear them.”

Potential for news customization/personalization is unrealized

How far have we come in 25 years? Maybe not far enough, Stelter said: “I wish that when I landed at an airport in a new city that my phone would light up with options: ‘Here, sign up for the local paper, just $1 for one day. Here’s a live broadcast from the NBC affiliate, you can access it without jumping through hoops.’”

Added Stelter: “It just doesn’t feel to me like my technology knows me, and I don’t feel like these news outlets, who could get a buck or two from me at a time, know me either.” Jarvis made a similar point: “Waze knows where I live and I work. My newspaper doesn’t.”

Kathleen Carroll and Jeff Jarvis. (Photo by Serena Dai)

Kathleen Carroll and Jeff Jarvis. (Photo by Serena Dai)

News should serve audiences ‘anytime, anywhere’

“If there’s a big game we’ll cut a three-minute highlight for SportsCenter and we’ll cut a 30-second clip for the mobile space,” King said. “We know that if you’ve got a phone with limited LTE we can’t be sending a 6-minute 59-second, beautiful ’30 for 30′ short because that’s just not respectful of how you use that device. But we have to make that easy to access online or in the tablet space.”

One person’s theft is another person’s aggregation

“Yes, we have too many damn sites, especially in technology, too many TechCrunches that repeat and repeat and repeat until the Xerox gets so light you can’t read it anymore,” Jarvis said. But he defended purposeful attribution done right through linking as a key to good Web journalism, while Carroll said linking isn’t always sufficient to ensure original reporting gets the credit it deserves.

King argued that questions of aggregation ethics aren’t something readers care about: “That’s really an ‘us’ problem.” But Carroll said her worry is that “we will have so many people riffing off the facts that there won’t be enough people actually able to uncover the facts, whatever they are. And that is an audience issue, because we need reporters.”

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CC USA Medien

Employment tumbles again at newspapers, and First Look’s plans shift

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 (OK, maybe not exactly 10) media stories.

  1. The newspaper business lost 1,300 employees last year: “The overall revenue figure, as measured by the Newspaper Association of America, was down 2.6 percent in 2013, close to an even match with the percentage of news job cuts for the year,” Rick Edmonds writes. (Poynter) | One small bright spot: Minority employment was up, after years of stagnating. (Poynter)
  2. An update on First Look Media: “We have definitely rethought some of our original ideas and plans,” Pierre Omidyar writes. (First Look Media) | Jay Rosen: “For First Look the way to a large user base isn’t ‘one big flagship website’ or an ‘everything you need to know’ news app to go up against, say, the Guardian or” (PressThink) | Mathew Ingram: “More than anything else, what Omidyar is describing sounds like a real-time journalism lab, one that will test out different ways of interacting with readers around a topic — albeit a lab that happens to have a quarter of a billion dollars behind it.” (Gigaom)
  3. Margot Adler, R.I.P.: The NPR reporter died at 68. She “helped shape a lot we would call the NPR sound today – human, curious, conversational,” David Folkenflik says in his report. (NPR) | Adler “said that being a Wiccan priestess and an NPR reporter ended up working out ‘pretty fine,’ but there were times where she felt discriminated against.” (WNPR)
  4. The New York Times will use online panels as part of its polling: “This is a very big deal in the survey world,” Pew Research Center director of survey research Scott Keeter says. (Pew)
  5. Paper runs wrong photo: The New Zealand Herald ran a photo of dead “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn in a story about Staff Sgt. Guy Boyland, an Israeli soldier who died in Gaza. (L.A. Times) | Editor Shayne Currie: “I would like to reiterate how seriously we are taking this error and apologise again.” (The New Zealand Herald)
  6. Stephen A. Smith apologized for remarks about domestic violence: ESPN says, “As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.” (@richarddeitsch) | Tom Ley: “Horseshit Apology.” (Deadspin) | Richard Sandomir: “If he is not suspended, it suggests that we need to understand ESPN’s discipline handbook. How offensive need someone be to earn a week or more off? (NYT)
  7. More sports media: Washington Times Editor John Solomon says the paper’s content partnership with the Washington Redskins will be transparent: “You’ll know what the Washington Times did, and you’ll know what comes from the Redskins.” (The Washington Post) | Washington, D.C., station WJFK-FM ran a promo for newly promoted host Chad Dukes that featured him calling a rival host a “fag.” It removed the promo after Dave McKenna wrote about it. (Deadspin)
  8. Not everyone reads on a tablet: News sites have to somehow go “mobile first” without “underserving the 9-to-5 audience that’ll probably be looking at a big screen for some years to come.” (Nieman) | Sam Kirkland wondered a similar wonder a while back: “Do mobile-friendly redesigns run the risk of frustrating desktop users?” (Poynter)
  9. Ira Glass finds Shakespeare unemotional: Tim Carmody: “Will bespectacled literary nerds have to choose between Chicago’s adopted son Ira and our old friend Stratford Billy?” ( | Alyssa Rosenberg: Our “contemporary conversation about Shakespeare would be a lot more interesting if, rather than using the Bard’s name as a synonym for unimpeachable greatness, we could talk about what works of Shakespeare we like best, which do not resonate with us and why.” (The Washington Post) | DRAMATIC TWIST INVADES ROUNDUP ITEM: As it happens, in October, Mike Daisey plans to perform a series of monologues about why Shakespeare’s work matters. “I mean, it would be a little odd in any event,” Daisey writes, “but of all the people to have made it a little uproar…” (Mike Daisey’s Facebook page) | Related: Glass is a total gearhead. (Gizmodo)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Fareed Zakaria will be a contributing editor with Atlantic Media starting in September. Zakaria will remain the host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS” and continue to write for The Washington Post. (Poynter) | Bob Cusack has been named editor in chief of The Hill. Formerly, he was managing editor there. He will replace Hugo Gurdon, who will be editorial director at the Washington Examiner. News editor Ian Swanson will succeed Cusack as managing editor and lobbying editor Dustin Weaver will replace Swanson as news editor. Scott Wong, Politico reporter and author of The Huddle, will be joining The Hill covering congressional Republicans. Diana Marrero, a former national account executive for The Washington Post, will be director of content partnerships at The Hill. Shannan Bowen, formerly an audience development manager at Atlantic Media Strategies, will be director of audience engagement at The Hill. (The Hill) | Jon Auerbach is executive producer at CNN’s Reliable Sources. Previously, he was a supervising producer at “John King, USA.” (TV Newser) | Shana Hale has been named creative director at Better Homes and Gardens. She had been art director there. ( | Malika Touré has joined Ad Age as a reporter. Formerly, she was an intern at Creativity. (Ad Age) | Job of the day: The Seattle Times is hiring a Microsoft reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

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SI takes heat for LeBron-to-Cavs ‘scoop’

The Washington Post | The New York Times

Sports Illustrated’s LeBron James scoop was more public-relations enabling than act of journalism, critics are complaining.

In The Washington Post, Gene Weingarten calls last week’s James piece “expert PR editing provided free of charge by Sports Illustrated”:

Sigh. God help us all. This was not a scoop. It wasn’t even good journalism. It was a pure load of crap.

There’s still reason to go to journalism school — or at least to aspire to be a journalist — but it’s mostly to be a foot soldier in the war against the sort of thinking that has us idiotically celebrating this “scoop.” This “scoop” has all the earmarks of a punt, a sad, sad, acknowledgment of what journalism has too often become in our current world of all-news-all-the-time, where being first is overvalued and being good is too often beside the point, or financially imprudent. So we settle for being glib. And, in desperation for eyeballs and bucks, we too often confuse commerce with journalism.

In The New York Times, Richard Sandomir questioned why SI presented the scoop “as a 952-word statement on its website from the King, not a full-blown news story with context and breadth”:

James got the byline for his first-person account (or was it an open letter, an essay or a news release?), while Lee Jenkins, a top writer for the magazine who got the scoop, received an “as told to” credit.

News value aside, the approach cast Sports Illustrated more as a public-relations ally of James than as the strong journalistic standard-bearer it has been for decades.

And while James’s words may have been all that the sports world wanted to hear, the magazine should have pressed for a story that carried more journalistic heft.

It does seem distasteful for a journalist to work so closely with an athlete on an essay/statement/press release. But to characterize this as a missed opportunity for SI to dig deeper doesn’t take into consideration the fact that the James camp probably wasn’t interested in a deeper dive.

It’s worth asking also: What would a deeper dive have really entailed or provided for the reader? As’s Craig Calcaterra wrote on his personal Tumblr:

Question: what, apart from the name of the team LeBron James chose and his reason for choosing it, do people interested in this story either not know or actually care about? What sort of “journalistic heft” does Sandomir think should have been added to this to “serve the reader” better? Jenkins prefacing the actual news with “James, 29, from Akron, has played for Miami since the 2010-11 season,” would not have added journalistic integrity here. It would have been byline-justifying filler.

Everyone tuning in to this story knows what’s happening. Sports Illustrated and Jenkins provided them with the one thing they didn’t know: where James was going and why. If there is any concern about larger context here, it can and will be addressed by SI sidebars, bullet-pointed, fact-based graphics and, most importantly, an in-depth story from Jenkins about his conversations with James which provides deeper context. All of which, I assume, have either already been published or will soon be.

Maybe SI could have done a better job at keeping James’s preferred narrative from so effectively working its way into nearly every sportswriter’s heart, including NYT’s own Michael Powell’s. But there’s plenty of room on the Internet for alternative takes if you find James’s own words insufficient. For the most cynical take implicating SI and the rest of the sports world, see Deadspin.

SI was too new-media savvy (it achieved “the biggest spike in viewers in a decade”) for the comfort of folks at the Post and the Times, but there’s still time for the magazine to be a “journalistic standard-bearer” when it comes to this story, too. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of longform story Jenkins comes up with this week.

About that NYT sports front

In case you missed it: The New York Times sports section ran an understated front page on Saturday about the James news:

It was widely shared and praised on Twitter. Deadspin declared it “brilliant.”

But here’s a problem: It was technically inaccurate. When the page ran on Saturday, James had not yet officially signed with the Cavaliers, Rob Schneider explained at the Society for News Design website:

A design that emphasizes a factual error fails the journalistic threshold for accuracy, and there is really no room for debate on that point.

I’m not talking about whether I like the page or not or the quality of the execution. Honestly, it is bold and risk taking in a way that, of course, many in the design community love it.

It is also poorly timed and misguided. It feels like a print page designed for Twitter and SportsCenter and less so for the readers of the print edition of The New York Times. It is telling that the debate about this page began before it actually arrived on the doorstep.

Meanwhile, Calcaterra praised the Times cover for making his point about the simplicity of the story: “No need for more ‘journalistic heft,’” he wrote. “It says all it needs to say.”

Of course, that’s not all the Times really felt needed to be said. Pages two and three of the sports section were filled almost entirely with stories about James — including a jump from page one of the A-section.

The omnipresent ESPN

One last observation from reading the Times on Saturday: Three of four James-related stories alluded to ESPN.

There’s Powell referring to “ESPN yakkers” who “deconstruct his every word and grimace.” There’s Scott Cacciola, in the front-page lead story, referring to “commentators on ESPN” who “spent an enormous number of hours attempting to analyze James’s decision-making process.” And then there’s Sandomir, who opened his column referencing how SI “beat a journalistic pack that included 15 on-air people at ESPN.”

ESPN is so central to how we experience sports in this country that all three journalists couldn’t help but note — with varying degrees of smugness — that it’s incredible the network didn’t get this scoop for itself. That’s the flak ESPN gets for, y’know, being so good at giving its audience what it wants.

For my part, I was impressed by how SI managed to break the news and own the first minute of the story. But then — because SI didn’t have live video online yet — I turned to ESPN’s SportsCenter for the rest of the afternoon.

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Related: Sports Illustrated editors didn’t know of LeBron’s decision until ‘this morning’ Read more

In this Dec. 19, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is intent on moving quickly in dealing with the racially charged scandal surrounding Clippers owner Sterling. The NBA league will discuss its investigation Tuesday, April 29, 2014, before the Clippers play Golden State in Game 5 of their playoff series. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

Does TMZ’s Clippers scoop mean pop websites can stand as equals with traditional news outlets?

The story is ubiquitous, perhaps as it should be.

On every news website, on every television station, in every morning paper. If you didn’t know who Donald Sterling was before this weekend, you certainly know who he is now. As a fan and follower of the NBA, I did, and I also knew about his checkered past. But at the same time, I count myself among those who were caught off guard by the egregious racial comments attributed to him that have become the biggest story of the current news cycle.

This time the big story didn’t come through the mainstream channels. When the late Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott used racial epithets in reference to outfielders Dave Parker and Eric Davis, The Cincinnati Enquirer was on top of it. And when football commentator Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder’s spewed his opinions on the genetics of black athletes and coaching opportunities for blacks on the landscape, they flowed from local TV station WRC in Washington to other media.

No, this time it was a representative of a fairly fresh branch of media that broke the story, one still struggling to achieve full legitimacy as a news organization: TMZ. The entertainment/pop culture site somehow gained access to the purported Sterling recording, which then exploded onto the country’s collective awareness thanks to the viral nature of social media.

It should be noted that the authenticity of the recording hasn’t yet been verified. That may come as early as Tuesday when the NBA plans to hold a press conference on its investigation into the recordings.

So far, we only have the attorney for V. Stiviano, the woman involved with Sterling whose voice is also said to be on the recording, insisting that it is Sterling’s voice. Stiviano claims she did not release it to any news outlets, including TMZ, according to the Los Angeles Times.

An expanded version of the recording then surfaced on Deadspin, Gawker’s sports site, which if authenticated, adds to what would be Sterling’s racially charged language — comments that have angered other NBA owners and led to calls for his suspension and dismissal.

The Clippers and Sterling have not out-and out-denied it is him on the recordings. Instead, the team’s official line is the remarks do not reflect the team owner’s “views, beliefs or feelings.”

It’s worth considering whether entertainment and pop culture websites like TMZ are turning a corner in the industry, establishing themselves as solid competitors for the top headlines.

Remember, it was TMZ in 2009 that broke the news Michael Jackson had died, arguably the story that defined viral news. The site was far ahead of other news outlets on the story. Even more recently, Deadspin first reported that Notre Dame football hero Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend was a hoax.

Rob Ford’s undoing came after Gawker reported that it had watched video of the Toronto mayor smoking crack cocaine. The Toronto Star, which also saw the video and redeemed itself in subsequent coverage, scrambled to follow up.

While not necessarily hallmarks in media history, these examples point to the increasing ability of non-traditional news outlets to break news that occupies the cycle and influences broad coverage of their stories.

Why might this be a trend? One possible reason is Internet sites take breaking news seriously and when sources hand them recordings like the purported Sterling audio, it equals a major victory. TMZ, Deadspin, BuzzFeed and others are web-ready; they have a better understanding of the power of the Internet than many mainstream news outlets.

Here’s something else they understand, a point made by BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith in a Poynter interview a year ago: “Good stories get a lot of readers. That’s true across journalism and history. But more people care about entertainment. A great Beyonce story will get more attention than anything else.”

But Rob King, senior vice president, SportsCenter and News at ESPN and Poynter national advisory board member, said that although TMZ’s scoop is commendable, and they are good at what they do, it can’t yet be said that this win represents a new trend.

“I can say for certain that competition makes us very mindful of our standards and makes us mindful that we’re doing what we need to do to serve our audience and stokes our competitive fire.

“But I don’t think this represents that much of a change because there’s been competition out there for quite some time.”

What’s clear is the Clippers story moved from TMZ and Deadspin to the larger news organizations like ESPN and Sports Illustrated, where it was and will be dissected, discussed, added to and analyzed for weeks. Companies that sponsor the L.A. Clippers are pulling or suspending their funding for the team, and now the question is whether Sterling can hold on to the franchise in the face of mounting pressure.

Less clear is whether more readers will turn not to mainstream outlets, but to TMZ, Deadspin and other non-traditional organizations for the next turn of the wheel on this story.

Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. The Detroit native has written for, the Associated Press, and the Detroit News among many other news outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @madisonjgray

Correction: An earlier version of this story made reference to a Sterling videotape. That has been corrected to say Sterling audio.

Related: What does it take to cover big-time sports? | AP’s Lou Ferrara live chat on sports journalism | Three lists about BuzzFeed’s serious journalism Read more

Isolated diversity tree with pixelated people illustration. Vector file layered for easy manipulation and custom coloring. Depositphotos

Why journalism startups should look past traditional talent pools

The launch of Nate Silver’s new, ESPN-funded version of FiveThirtyEight is here, with its data-centric approach to journalism that could reinvent news for the digital age — or at least make it better. And while Silver’s brand of journalism may look different, the people producing it look at lot like the people producing “conventional” journalism: white men.

FiveThirtyEight isn’t the only exciting new journalism site with a predominantly white male staff. As Emily Bell pointed out in the Guardian, we’ve also got Vox and First Look Media, among several others.

“It’s impossible not to notice that in the Bitcoin rush to revolutionize journalism, the protagonists are almost exclusively – and increasingly – male and white,” Bell wrote.

Recent studies have shown that the percentages of minorities and women in newsrooms are significantly lower than in the general population and, alarmingly, that those numbers have remained largely unchanged over the last decade. An upward trend would suggest that things are on their way to getting better. Instead, it seems that most newsrooms are happy to keep things as they are, which isn’t nearly good enough.

Glenn Greenwald: “Ideally we would’ve launched, in a perfect world, in like May or June and been vastly more diverse. But we will be, and shortly.” (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

That’s why it’s so disappointing to see that trend might be continuing at these new sites. They have a chance to build everything from the ground up, free of the history of discrimination at legacy outlets where social minorities — women as well as other minority groups — have had to sue to get the same jobs as their white male co-workers. The Internet is a place where anyone has a chance to make his or her voice heard. So why are these digitally focused news sites hiring the same voices that dominated the kind of journalism they’re meant to replace?

Glenn Greenwald, who founded First Look’s first magazine, The Intercept, with Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, says diversity is very important to him, and we’ll see much more of it as the Pierre Omidyar-funded digital magazine continues to fill out its staff.

“When Laura, Jeremy and I first decided that we were going to form this organization – even before we talked to Pierre and once we did – we put as literally one of top goals that we were going to be more diverse than every other media organization of similar size and stature,” Greenwald says.

The first wave of hires didn’t reflect this desire, Greenwald acknowledges. The Intercept ended up launching a few months earlier than originally intended – Greenwald and company wanted to get more reporting on those NSA documents out there – before it was fully staffed, and the staff it did have happened to be mostly white men.

“I was so disappointed, and I think – I know that Laura and Jeremy were, too — that at launch we just did not have the diversity that we intended to have and that we will have, because I felt like that was a really important opportunity to send the opposite message,” Greenwald says. “Ideally we would’ve launched, in a perfect world, in like May or June and been vastly more diverse. But we will be, and shortly.”

A few days after we spoke, The Intercept announced three new hires. Two are people of color and one is a woman. That may not seem like much, but The Intercept’s newsroom is still quite small, so any new staffer changes its ratios significantly. (On Wednesday, The Intercept hired another woman, Jordan Smith, to cover criminal justice.)

As for Vox, Ezra Klein said he was too busy building the new site to comment, but he did discuss it a bit in a Facebook message to Maynard Institute columnist Richard Prince, as described by Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. Klein said there was diversity in Vox’s newsroom “but certainly not enough” and asked for suggestions on “the top few young candidates of color we should be talking to.” (Apparently Klein is not interested in talking to old candidates of color, which … isn’t great.)

Ezra Klein: Said there’s “certainly not enough” diversity at his yet-to-launch publication at this point. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Klein also spoke with the American Prospect‘s Gabriel Arana about the recent controversial hire of Brandon Ambrosino, who is gay, as a writing fellow, saying that he was “struggling to find racial minorities” for his staff but also prized “ideological diversity” as well as racial diversity. Co-founder Melissa Bell weighed in to point out that she has been referred to as Klein’s “hire,” thus minimizing her role in the new company. It’s a fair point, but Klein is the person whose name made all the headlines when the venture was first announced, Klein is the person who regularly appears on MSNBC and Klein is the brand Vox is being built around.

As for FiveThirtyEight, a spokeswoman for ESPN says: “as we’ve hired staff for FiveThirtyEight we’ve sought to assemble varied viewpoints and continue to make diversity a priority as we move forward.” And it’s worth pointing out that FiveThirtyEight and Grantland, another ESPN boutique journalism site run by a white man, are now under the umbrella of “Exit 31,” which will be led by Marie Donoghue, a woman. But Silver, too, seems to be struggling to find diverse hires. He told New York Magazine that 85 percent of FiveThirtyEight’s applications come from men.

Nate Silver: Gets lots of applications from men. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Could it be that there just aren’t that many people of color or women who work in those particular fields, so the diverse staff isn’t there for Silver or Klein to hire? (Foreign Policy recently published a chart that showed how skewed certain subject areas are toward male bylines.)

“I think there are enough journalists of color who would be suitable candidates for such sites,” Prince emailed me. And the National Association of Black Journalists has also written a guide for employers looking to build a diverse staff. Its title: “Never Say ‘We Can’t Find Talented Journalists of Color’ Again.”

BuzzFeed deputy editor-in-chief Shani Hilton wrote an essay recently that touches on another dimension to this issue: “The network — on both ends of the equation — is the problem,” Hilton wrote. She continues:

The journos of color and women aren’t networking with white dudes doing the hiring because it isn’t in their DNA. Call it the Twice as Hard Half as Good Paradox: Many of us are so busy working twice as hard and hoping to get noticed that we don’t do the networking that seems like bullshit but is actually a key part of career advancement.

“The reality is with small efforts you can put together a top-notch staff that’s diverse,” Greenwald says. “If all you’re going to do is say, ‘I’m looking at the New York Times and the Washington Post and AP and the Wall Street Journal and NBC,’ you’re going to end up thinking, oh my god, there’s a dearth of good women national security reporters because all those places are predominantly male.”

Greenwald’s solution is to look elsewhere (his recent hires have written for sites like Alternet, Salon and Al Jazeera, for example) though it’s a harder and slower process to reach out to new places and people than it is to, say, grab a bunch of people from your last job. Hiring the same talent from the same pool will only perpetuate the lack of diversity.

“You need to diversify the places where you look and then you’ll automatically be diversifying who you’re finding,” Greenwald says.

First Look Media’s executive editor Eric Bates also spoke to me about the diversity in the company, which plans to launch several more digital magazines in the future. Bates says that while the outlet’s first high-profile hires have been nearly all white men, that will soon change.

“People are seeing the first 15 hires and thinking that’s representative, and it’s not,” Bates says.  Bates, Andy Carvin, Bill Gannon, Michael Rosen and Jay Rosen are white men, but Lynn Oberlander recently joined as general counsel, and Lynn Dombek will serve as First Look’s research director.

“Startups have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to diversity,” Bates says. “There are opportunities and challenges. The opportunity is, you’re starting fresh, you don’t have the legacy structure or staff to deal with. And that’s really great. The challenge is, there’s a whole lot of ambiguity at the start.”

That’s why, Bates says, First Look Media’s progress has been slow – he and his team are trying to get as much input from a diversity of sources as possible, rather than relying on their own networks. Bates is particularly keen to hire women and people of color for leadership positions, an area that tends to be even less diverse than the newsroom.

“If you really want to take the time and make sure that you’re looking at the entire landscape, then you slow down and you try to get it right,” Bates says.

Finally, there’s Re/Code, the new site from Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. The site, which grew out of All Things D, has an almost even ratio of men and women on staff and several journalists of color, despite its relatively small size and the fact that the majority of tech writers (and the people they write about) are white men.

Kara Swisher’s Re/Code has has an almost even ratio of men and women on staff. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

“Walt and I try very hard to think about that when we are doing hiring at any level,” Swisher told me in an email.

Mossberg followed that up by pointing out that Kenneth Li, who is Asian-American, is the site’s managing editor and the highest-ranking editorial employee after Swisher and Mossberg.

“Of course,” Mossberg wrote, “we are always on the lookout for more diversity.”

Mossberg’s point is an important one. Diversity should come from the top down, and that’s an area that is seriously lacking in female and minority voices. Case in point: The Marshall Project, which could be the next exciting journalism startup. It will cover criminal justice and says it plans to “recruit a diverse staff.” But its first hire and editor in chief is a white man.

These new sites have a real chance to change journalism — both the way it’s written and the people who write it. There won’t and can’t be one without the other. It’s great that the people these sites are often built around are saying that diversity is important to them, but it’s unfortunate that the vast majority of those people are white men. That needs to change as well as the diversity of the newsrooms they run. Read more


Rick Reilly will stop writing column for

ESPN | Deadspin

Rick Reilly “will let his weekly column go and concentrate on television duties for ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown,” Bill Hofheimer writes.

“Rick consistently distinguished himself with his unique voice, penchant for humor and most important, ability to find and tell compelling stories,” ESPN VP for Editorial Patrick Stiegman told Hofheimer.

And yet. Last month Barry Petchesky detailed many instances in one Reilly column where he recycled old material.

2009: “I’d extend my hand to the guy I’d just beaten like I was going to shake it and then, when he started to grab it, I’d pull it back. Psych! When the guy in the blazer came out with the winner’s check, I’d snatch his toupee off and fling it like a Frisbee.”

2014: “I’d extend my hand to Bubba, yank it back and yell, ‘Psyche!’ When the guy in the bad plaid jacket came out with the winner’s check, I’d snatch his toupee off and fling it like a Frisbee.”

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