ESPN has taken its lumps here and elsewhere in 2011 for its perceived conflicts of interest regarding coverage of college sports. It hasn’t helped that in the last three months, two of ESPN’s top college reporters have left for rival outlets.
But quietly, ESPN is working on improving that image. A source tells The Big Lead that Yahoo’s harbinger of doom, Charles Robinson, was spotted on ESPN’s Bristol campus three weeks ago. A different source tells us that over the course of a few weeks in October, ESPN put the full court press on Robinson and made him an offer to leave Yahoo and join ESPN’s investigative team.
Robinson ultimately passed on the offer, we’re told.
We reached out to Robinson and he declined to comment. ESPN’s Rob King – who a source says was the driving force behind the attempt to acquire Robinson – told me, “we’re emboldened with having the .com and the Magazine in the same editorial group that we can muscle up in the investigative and enterprise departments.” He didn’t elaborate.
A brief thought on this:
ESPN’s in a tough spot here. Even if Robinson had accepted the job, there’s always going to be a perception that the WWL is attempting to serve two matters: Journalism and TV contracts. If Robinson had joined ESPN and unearthed a story that put a college football cash cow in trouble – postseason ban, TV ban, etc – would ESPN be divided on how to handle it? Again, that’s just the outsider perception. If you talk to anyone at ESPN, they’ll tell you that isn’t true.
Perhaps the real question: Fans probably don’t care about this situation; it seems to be an internal media discussion. So why should ESPN care?