January 17, 2020

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ESPN analyst strikes out

Good Friday morning. In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there will not be a Poynter Report on Monday. I’ll see you back here on Tuesday. Have a great weekend and let’s get straight to today’s newsletter.

Today we start with something a little less somber than impeachment and a little less significant than the debates. It’s about sports. But it’s a serious question about journalism ethics and, well, simply doing the right thing.

Jessica Mendoza is a Major League Baseball analyst for ESPN. She also happens to be a paid adviser for the New York Mets. I’ve written this before, but that’s a serious conflict of interest and that conflict reared its head again Thursday.

Mendoza was on the ESPN Radio/TV show “Golic and Wingo”  talking about the Houston Astros using technology to steal opponents’ signs on their way to winning the 2017 World Series. The story was broken by The Athletic website and based partly on information provided by Mike Fiers, who pitched for the Astros that season. Since then, the Astros GM and manager were suspended, then fired.

Mike Golic Sr. asked Mendoza, “You have a problem with Mike Fiers leaving the Astros, going to another team, and then going public with all of this?”

Mendoza said, “Going public, yeah. It didn’t sit well with me.”

She went on to say, “Honestly, it made me sad for the sport that that’s how this all got found out. This wasn’t something that MLB naturally investigated or that even other teams complained about because they naturally heard about it and then investigations happened. It came from within, it was a player that was a part of it, that benefited from it during the regular season when he was a part of that team. That, when I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow.”

So let’s get this straight: The part Mendoza is sad about is HOW this story broke? And not that the Astros are cheaters?

Now here’s the conflict part: Mendoza is paid by the Mets and the Mets’ new manager, Carlos Beltran, was a player on that Astros team that cheated. At the time of Mendoza’s comments, Beltran was still manager. He was fired later in the day.

Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina summed it up well when he wrote, “Your lead Sunday Night Baseball analyst just went on your network and said Fiers should’ve told some people, but not all people about the cheating.” He then added sarcastically, “Great take.”

The backlash was so swift and harsh that Mendoza took to Twitter to clarify her remarks.

She said the game will “benefit greatly” because the sign stealing was discovered. However, she said Fiers should have either gone through his team or Major League Baseball. To that point, she added, “Reasonable minds can disagree.”

Then she addressed her Mets connection, writing, “I want to make it extra clear that my advisor role with the team does not shape my opinion in any way, shape or form on this matter. I feel this way regardless of what teams, players or managers are involved.”

Well, let me make it extra clear: IT’S A CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Her claims of innocence are not good enough. Regardless of her original take about Fiers, which I personally thought was awful, the fact that she is being paid by the Mets severely damages her credibility. How can she be an objective analyst while being paid by one of the teams she is supposed to be objective about? How can she be objective about Mets’ rivals? Why ESPN continues to allow this is beyond me.

ESPN should tell Mendoza, “You either work for us full-time or you work for the Mets. You can’t do both.”

A real hack job

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz). (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona, lashed out at a CNN reporter Thursday, calling him a “liberal hack” when he tried to ask a question about Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

CNN’s Manu Raju walked alongside McSally as she was headed to a hearing room and asked, “Sen. McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?”

McSally said, “Manu, you’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you.”

Raju then asked, “You’re not going to comment?”

And McSally responded by saying, “You’re a liberal hack, buddy.”

Afterward, CNN put out a statement that said, “It is extremely unbecoming for a U.S. Senator to sink to this level and treat a member of the press this way for simply doing his job.”

McSally didn’t back down. She actually posted her own video of the exchange on Twitter and said “you are,” presumably meaning she does believe Raju is a “liberal hack.”

McSally lost a race for Senate to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in 2018, but then was picked to replace John McCain in the Senate after McCain’s death. She is running for re-election.

There is no known history between McSally and Raju, but The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, in a tweet, essentially said that butting heads with a CNN reporter over the Trump impeachment helps McSally’s reputation among the Republican base, and that appears to be true based on comments under McSally’s tweet about the incident.

What’s the right way for ‘The View’?

Meghan McCain of “The View,” left, stands with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). (Photo by Jason Mendez/Invision/AP)

Does ABC’s “The View” have a Meghan McCain problem? That’s what culture writer and reporter Shamira Ibrahim wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times opinion section. The piece referenced McCain’s on-air squabbles with her co-hosts, as well as Democratic leaders such as presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Ibrahim writes, “In the early days of her arrival, the conservative commentator’s on-air spats made for fun TV. Now, it’s just exhausting.”

She also wrote, “The increasingly aggressive rejoinders by her co-hosts have escalated to the daytime TV equivalent of a cage fight for the viewing public, reflecting the frustrations of discourse in our current political climate under the magnifying glass of harsh studio lighting.”

There are some reports that Abby Huntsman is leaving the show, in part, because she and McCain don’t get along.

It’s an interesting point that Ibrahim raises. Does McCain’s role with “The View” represent a needed conservative voice on various political topics? Or is McCain a distraction adding to the divisiveness?

I’d argue that it takes two to tango — why should McCain take the sole blame for disagreements on the show? She’s not arguing with herself. And notice the word I just used: show. Ultimately, it’s a TV show. Beside being informative, it also needs to be entertaining and McCain’s presence is a big part of that entertainment.

MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough tweeted, “The Left kissed up to John McCain every time he spoke truth to Trump but can’t handle his daughter speaking her own mind when it doesn’t fit neatly into a progressive world view? Open your mind.”

To suggest McCain shouldn’t be on the show just because she doesn’t agree with everything said on that show shouldn’t be discouraged or punished. It should be applauded. After all, isn’t that the whole point of a panel talk show?

Michael Calderone leaving Politico

Media reporter Michael Calderone is leaving Politico to join Vanity Fair’s The Hive as a senior editor. The Hive is a franchise within Vanity Fair that focuses on media, business and technology.

This is a big deal. Calderone is one of the most respected voices in media coverage and his hiring shows Vanity Fair’s commitment to beefing up its media coverage just ahead of the 2020 election.

Pardon our dust

ESPN “Pardon the Interruption” co-hosts Tony Kornheiser, left, and Michael Wilbon. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” is getting a bit of a facelift. The show — which for my money is the best sports conversation show in the history of TV — will debut a new set Monday.

Don’t worry, the set will still have heads on sticks in the background and continue to be taped at the ABC News bureau in Washington, D.C. (By the way, it’s the same studio where Scott Van Pelt’s midnight Eastern “SportsCenter” will move to later this year.)

In a statement, “PTI” executive producer Erik Rydholm said, “We feel the show is already so comfortable to host and to watch, so we made no drastic changes. The guiding thought was, ‘Same, but better.’”

So what will be new? Most notably a large LED screen that will display graphics, animations, segment titles and more. In addition, there will be a few other subtle bells and whistles.

It all sounds good, but you could stick co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on two lawn chairs in the middle of a parking garage and it would still be the best sports debate show on TV because of their knowledge, charisma and camaraderie. Amazing that the show still has the same juice after nearly 19 years on the air.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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  • Re: Mendoza…The most amazing part of this story is that she appeared on an ESPN property, which suggests the network knew full well that her conflict would be laid out bare. Just a reminder what the “E” stands for and why it’s the first letter of the name.