ESPN Ombudsman Tackles Brett Favre Scandal

By Marcus Vanderberg Comment

ESPN Ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer tackled the network’s lack of coverage surrounding the Brett Favre/Jenn Sterger scandal. Elease E. from Bloomfield, N.J. fired off an angry e-mail to Ohlmeyer on the topic:

“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I am so sick of ESPN deciding that it is going to ignore the stories that demand exploration, while choosing to beat other stories to death. When the story involving Brett Favre [allegedly] sending naked images of himself to a female Jets’ employee happened, you had nothing to say about it. Why is it that media outlets such as yours have no problem tearing down other athletes ad nauseum, while others get a pass? Your station’s love affair with Favre is insulting and sickening.”

Ohlmeyer points out that other mainstream media organizations (USA Today, New York Times) didn’t originally report on the story because they were waiting for dependable corroboration and that “different media organizations have different standards.”

Ultimately, the lack of coverage on ESPN comes down to their editorial guidelines:

ESPN can be legitimately criticized for excess, but over the past year, it’s been relatively faithful to its own editorial standards when it comes to reporting on sensitive or controversial issues that can affect athletes’ reputations or their private lives. When ESPN has transgressed in its coverage, the mailbag — and this column — have not been shy about taking the network to task.

The company has long had guidelines for the coverage of such stories. However, the network has made significant strides toward codifying its overall editorial standards and practices, a process that has culminated in a revamped, 50-page editorial manual that is nearing final approval among top executives.

By now, you shouldn’t expect to report first on any story that raises a red flag. It has nothing to do with the network playing favorites to certain athletes (Favre, LeBron James). Their relationships with the professional leagues are more valuable than individual relationships.

Unlike the Arash Markazi story from July involving James, Ohlmeyer tackled the issue in a timely manner, which should be applauded.