Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Sports Media Debate Rages On

ESPN’s critics have never been louder.  From legitimate journalists writing about the lack of journalistic integrity that the “Worldwide Leader” has to casual fans simply fed up with ESPN’s rouses, the criticism is out there. 

The show that takes the brunt of the criticism for ESPN is First Take, the debate show that places the polarizing-yet-mainly-despised Skip Bayless against Steven A. Smith (Or is that DeionSanders? Or Leon Sandcastle?).  It is controversial because it is at the forefront of the network’s increasing reliance of debate over some good old fashioned highlights.

First Take has stood by their format and has continued to embrace the debate.  They have been criticized for their infatuation with Tim Tebow (so has the network as a whole) and their ability to somehow bring him into everything.  However, it is hard to defend journalistic integrity with this on the television set:

This is where the team of Richard Deitsch (SI) and Josh Koblin (Deadspin) comes in.  Yesterday they challenged Jamie Horowitz (First Take’s producer) and Skip Bayless to a debate about the show’s debates.  Both have been strong opponents to what ESPN has consistently defended as authentic debate.

Whether ESPN allows Horowitz and Bayless to accept the challenge is a completely different story, but it got me thinking, do you embrace the debate?  ESPN was my go-to growing up, but it has changed dramatically.  It is impossible to watch Sportscenter and get consistent highlights anymore.  Most of the time is spent with theatrics, speculation, bad to awful DJ remixes, and protection of media/league partners.  Nowadays, I only really watch ESPN for Outside the Lines or for live games.  Want highlights these days?  Watch The Lights on NBC Sports Network.

It all comes down to what you think ESPN should be as a network.  Should it serve the wants and needs of the avid fans that the network was built on in 1970?  Should it serve the casual fan that may be looking for the quick fix of sports news to talk about around the water cooler regardless of whether the news is hard hitting or not? 

The first option makes the true viewers (albeit smaller in number) happy, while the second option brings in ratings.  It is a tough spot for sure.  For now, we will wait on a debate about phony debates and an embracing of the debate culture.

We want to hear your voice! What are your thoughts on the path that ESPN is headed as a network?  Do you find any shows or entire parts of their business completely unbearable?  Share in the comments section.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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