Let’s face it: ESPN is no better at reporting the facts than MSNBC or Fox News. Conference realignment and NBA free agency have made this all too apparent and it leaves people wondering if the Bristol company act ethically in their reporting.
As you can see above, five of the 11 top stories on ESPN.com are attributed to anonymous sources.
The main concern is with attribution and the use of anonymous sources. Most newspapers have a strict code of ethics when it comes to granting sources anonymity, but does ESPN? I couldn’t tell you considering a Google search returns nothing.
We’ll use The Washington Post‘s code of ethics when it comes to attribution (thanks ethical people that win Pulitzers!):
D. Attribution of Sources
-The Washington Post is pledged to disclose the source of all information when at all possible. When we agree to protect a
source’s identity, that identity will not be made known to anyone outside The Post.
-Before any information is accepted without full attribution, reporters must make every reasonable effort to get it on the
record. If that is not possible, reporters should consider seeking the information elsewhere. If that in turn is not possible, reporters should request an on-the-record reason for concealing the source’s identity and should include the reason in the story.
-In any case, some kind of identification is almost always possible – by department or by position, for example – and should be reported.
Basically what this is saying: only use anonymous sources in dire situations when it is important to the article. I wouldn’t say half of the top sources with anonymous sources are dire situations.
Take Ric Bucher’s report on the front page of ESPN about Amar’e Stoudemire getting ready to meet with the Heat. I’ll focus on three sentences in the report that makes Bucher lose credibility, in my book.
Amare Stoudemire now appears to be a long shot to return to Phoenix after opting out of the last year of his contract and negotiations on a new deal with Suns owner Robert Sarver broke off late Tuesday night, a source said.
Riley, the source said, is trying to convince them that the absence of a state tax in Florida would make up the difference.
I think you get the picture. Who is the source? No, I don’t want his name, I want to know who he works for, what department, what team maybe. Does he work for the league or is he some guy on the street corner in Miami?
Who knows? ESPN lacks ethics and it is downright disgraceful to journalism. It makes real journalists look bad, but worse, it misinforms the public.
Remember when Joe Schad reported on five additional teams leaving for the PAC-10? Yeah, that didn’t happen despite Schad’s four anonymous sources.
A retraction would at least soften the blow, right? What say ye, Post code of ethics?
This newspaper is pledged to minimize the number of errors we make and to correct those that occur. Accuracy is our goal; candor is our defense.
Did ESPN retract the bogus report when the Big 12 stayed together? No. The closest they came to retracting the story was Joe Schad tweeting that Chip Brown of Orange Bloods was correct in his report that the conference would stay together.
If ESPN wants to continue to claim they are journalists, they need to remember what they learned in their respective journalism schools. Maybe they shouldn’t have thrown away their notes on ethics day.