Jason Fry and Kelly McBride had the unenviable task of tearing apart ESPN’s spotty work on the Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno/Penn State coverage. You should read it all. Here’s a snippet:
With the biggest staff of sports journalists in the world, ESPN should have been leading the charge to ask tough questions and shed light on this scandal. Instead, it was the tiny Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. out in front of the journalism pack. Their reporters managed to track down two mothers of boys Sandusky allegedly abused. And the paper had the leadership to write a front-page editorial calling for Penn State trustees to clean house.
Meanwhile, the tone of the early ESPN coverage was spotty — sometimes getting it right, but more often seeming inappropriate. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon Tuesday that ESPN finally seemed consistently to ask the right questions and find the appropriate moral outrage. That’s 72 hours after the story first broke.
As an observer, I’ll agree with just about everything. ESPN didn’t seem to take the scandal very seriously Saturday and Sunday, and even on Monday – Ty Duffy was one of the first to say Paterno should resign – when heads began to roll at the University, the network seemed unprepared. Were they preaching caution? If so, why? Had they read the 23-page Grand Jury report? Did the suits calling the shots not think Paterno was going to get fired?
Even Wednesday night, when the Board of Trustees announced Paterno’s firing, I went to ESPN to watch the press conference, but they didn’t have video, just audio. CNN had video. ESPN didn’t have video of the students congregating on campus, either. CNN did. [ESPN Ombudsman]