Face off: Is ESPN a good model for sports journalism?

Jamie Levine

ESPN has a tough job covering the entire sports universe in a timely manner. At the end of the day, ESPN (and owners Walt Disney Company and Hearst Corporation) is a business. People always complain that ESPN sensationalizes headlines and news stories, but there is a method to its madness.

If you are going to go to ESPN’s website purely for a recap of what happened in a recent game, then you’ve come to the right place. No other site or channel can give you the kind of succinct “this is exactly what happened” recap than ESPN can.

If you want in-depth analysis, then you may have to pick and choose––any media source is going to have analysts that dramatize and sensationalize reality. If you look hard enough, you will realize that ESPN provides high-quality sports information on a regular basis.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that ESPN exists to draw in viewers with stories. If viewers want to hear about how Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel went to a strip club in Las Vegas or how Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James gave cupcakes to his neighbors to apologize to them for the ruckus that he caused, then ESPN will report that.

If you look at it as a corporation, there is hardly anything at fault to find. From a media student’s perspective, one should be applauding what ESPN is able to do successfully: draw people in to view its content.

Adam Zaki

ESPN has so many reporters talking about the same topic in similar ways. An influx of “expert opinions” makes you question your own views about the topic. This is exactly what the higher-ups in Bristol, Connecticut want you to do—conform your opinion to their experts. You will then come back to ESPN every time you want to know what’s going on in the world of sports news.

Other channels have used this strategy to reel in viewers for years. FOX News, CNN, MSNBC and BBC alike compete with each other by providing a viewpoint for their viewers to mold their opinions too. ESPN will run a story continuously, providing so many comparable opinions that you start to accept that opinion as your own.

The way ESPN reported everything about former National Football League quarterback Tim Tebow is perfect evidence of how it warps viewer’s opinions. ESPN ruined the public opinion of a quarterback that, in his short three-year career, threw for 2,422 yards and 17 touchdowns. With this strategy, ESPN owns the story and your opinion.

ESPN has turned the world of sports reporting into a reality show that tells you what to think about your favorite teams and players––they even tell you how to play your fantasy team that week if you really don’t want to put in the effort yourself.

If you’re interested in forming your own opinion, CBS broadcasts quality sports radio shows. Hosts like Mike Francesa, Steve Somers and Evan Roberts work for New York City-based sports radio station WFAN, and they do a great job.

When choosing where to get your sports information from, make sure you steer clear of ESPN.