ESPN: Worldwide leader in fact-checking

DMZ · September 10, 2004 at 12:03 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Wait, no…

John Kruk’s latest column of garbage includes this:

SHORTSTOP: Rich Aurilia, Seattle Mariners — Right, the Mariners again. Hey, they aren’t in last place by accident. Well, Rich is out in San Diego now — he wore out his welcome in Seattle after 73 games. The M’s didn’t trade him, either. Outrighted him. Kicked him to the curb. He wasn’t that expensive ($3 million per), but when you hit .241 with four homers and 28 RBIs, any price is too much.

Really, John? That’s weird because the Mariners actually traded him to San Diego for a PTBNL. Also, $3.5m, which if you round, is $4m. Doesn’t anyone — seriously, anyone — even proof-read what goes up on ESPN.com anymore?

Side rant: ESPN’s quest to diversify and wean itself off sports coverage may have built its audience, but it cost them serious fans like me, and I would bet that young ESPN would kick current ESPN’s ass if young ESPN launched right now with solid financial backing (except that current ESPN could easily revert… but that’s not my point).

More compare and contrast:

CATCHER: Mike Piazza, New York Mets — I know Mike has been hurt, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a disappointment

comes after

FIRST BASE: Carlos Delgado, Toronto Blue Jays — [...] Second, this guy used to be an offensive force. Now? Well let me ask you this: Outside of the trade talk and that story about the national anthem, have you even heard of Delgado this year?

Yes. One thing I heard was that he was injured, which I guess Kruk missed.

… Actually, I don’t want to go off on a rant here, I wanted to point out that ESPN can’t get even the most basic facts about transactions right.

Comments

57 Responses to “ESPN: Worldwide leader in fact-checking”

  1. Troy Sowden on September 10th, 2004 12:13 pm

    Kruk might be the dumbest baseball commentator anywhere. I can’t even read his stuff. At least Harold Reynolds isn’t my least favorite “analyst” on Baseball Tonight anymore.

  2. Vin on September 10th, 2004 12:16 pm

    If you haven’t learned not to read John Kruk by now, the true idiot is you.

    Apologies if this is the first time you ever read him, shame if its not.

  3. Pete on September 10th, 2004 12:23 pm

    Amen Vin

  4. Matt on September 10th, 2004 12:23 pm

    He had an article not too long ago where he mentioned “Livian Hernandez and Andy Chavez” of the Montreal Expos. ESPN doesn’t proof read his work at all.

  5. Tyler Haskins on September 10th, 2004 12:36 pm

    I’d like it if you guys would bash ESPN more. I still talk to tons of people who are enamored by ESPN and are living in the past when ESPN was this great sports god. They don’t seem to notice the unbelievable slide the network has taken. I mean, SportsCenter is beyond unwatchable now. I know you’re not in the business of trashing other sports media but people are so programmed to do the cool thing and love ESPN they need to be hit over the head with the fact that ESPN is now garbage. Only then will (or so I’d hope) ESPN check themselves and evaluate the quality of their “analysts.” So, in my opinion, feel free to trash the trash that comes out of ESPN and ESPN.com.

    Here’s a question, if we have CNN, MSNBC, FOXNews exe. Why can’t we have multiple sports networks? I know you’re out there Mr. Rich dude looking to spend his money on something. Give it a shot.

  6. Troy Sowden on September 10th, 2004 12:43 pm

    We do have multiple sports networks. Fox Sports has found their niche as the flashy, hip, west coast “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” alternate. Unfortunately, this appeals even less to the serious fan than ESPN. CNNSI tried too, but they failed miserably. I think the only hope is for an ESPN revival, although I don’t know how likely that is. Too bad that, with all the love being given to old-school ESPN during the 25th anniversary, no one’s seemed to notice that today’s ESPN can’t hold old-school’s jock.

  7. Dash on September 10th, 2004 12:44 pm

    We all also need to remember that Mr. Kruk’s past TV experience comes from ‘The Best Damn Sports Show Period’. Which has to rank as one of the 3 worst sports related shows out there. (The other 2 being Cold Pizza and I Max).

    The only reason to visit ESPN anymore are to get scores and get a headline or two.

  8. Jon Helfgott on September 10th, 2004 12:53 pm

    Another nugget from the Kruk piece:

    “CENTER FIELD: Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays The Blue Jays were definitely expecting a better year from Vernon than they’re getting. He’s a guy who’s hit 40 homers and knocked in 100 runs in the past. This year? 16 homers and 53 RBIs? At least no one notices what he’s doing, or not doing. Remember, he’s on the Blue Jays.”

    Maybe we should cut Kruk some slack. I mean, it’s not like a 30-second browsing of Wells’ very accessible player file would inform an interested party that Wells has hit 23 and 33 home runs (never 40, or anything that would round up to 40) in his 2 full seasons as a major leaguer, and that he was hurt for a significant portion of this year or anything…

  9. Metz on September 10th, 2004 12:56 pm

    When I’d rather watch the local newsdroid do sports than ESPn you know the network has lost it. BTW – I’m pretty sure most of the commentary on ESPN.coms web site is just transcriptions of verbal commentary. No proofreading required.

  10. Pete on September 10th, 2004 12:59 pm

    I like to watch Sports Center/Baseball Tonight for the highlights, but I’m pretty sure we all have learned that ESPN is not a place to find news or accurate analysis.

    It’s really a joke. I swear Peter Gammons et al just make things up.

    They’re obviously in the frilly entertainment business, not the news business.

    They are owned by Disney, sooo…

  11. Pete on September 10th, 2004 1:00 pm

    Yes Metz,

    I was about to say the same thing. It sounds much like verbal discourse transcibed.

  12. Troy Sowden on September 10th, 2004 1:03 pm

    I Max isn’t bad – Max is actually pretty stat-savvy (as duly noted in a recent BP article).

  13. Rich on September 10th, 2004 1:05 pm

    John Kruk’s arguement against Edgar going to the HOF was that career NLer’s never had a chance to DH, so it wouldn’t be fair to the league as a whole. Huh…?

  14. Andy on September 10th, 2004 1:09 pm

    Also, “that story” about Delgado was about “God Bless America,” not the national anthem. There’s a difference.

  15. Sean on September 10th, 2004 1:17 pm

    At least ESPN has Bill Simmons and Eric Neel.

  16. Eric on September 10th, 2004 1:23 pm

    and Jim Caple, those 3 are about all I read anymore now that Neyer is on insider

  17. Josh on September 10th, 2004 1:34 pm

    I thought I was the only one who found Sportscenter to be increasingly hard to watch. Man has it gone down hill, the highlights are pretty much just strange happening in all games but the main red sox vs. yankees games. Kenny Mayne’s still great though, unfortunately he isn’t on much.

  18. Troy Sowden on September 10th, 2004 1:38 pm

    The *best* part of this article is that it doesn’t even follow the premise. Supposedly this is a list of players who, by failing to live up to expectations, have kept their teams out of the playoffs (see paragraph 2). In reality, it’s just another excuse for Kruk to rip on some guys he doesn’t like, as 4 of the 12 players are in the playoffs right now (Koskie, Loiaza, Zito and Rhodes), and Sosa isn’t out of the race yet. This is pure BS.

  19. Mark on September 10th, 2004 1:49 pm

    ESPN.com — which may or may not still be a production of StarWave — used to be a major employer here in the Seattle area. Then the dot-com boom crashed, and all those job ads for editors and copyeditors vanished (I noticed because I’m a web editor, and briefly cherished hopes of working for ESPN). The openings just completely went away. Almost immediately the slide in quality started on the web side, so it’s clear what happened: someone (a high-salary MBA, no doubt) decided that the best way to cut costs on the web production side was to eliminate all the people responsible for checking articles, improving the prose, and making sure that the facts are correct. Of course, none of those guys were probably making much more than $30K a year, but it’s easier for an exec to fire a low-pay slob than it is for him to accept a cut to his own salary. And if the result is a crappy website that’s an embarrassment to the company that produces it? No problem — that exec has no doubt already moved on to another company, where he’s in the process of performing the same sort of hatchet job he did at ESPN.com.

  20. Tyler Haskins on September 10th, 2004 1:50 pm

    Has anyone been able to find a email address for Mr. Kruk? I’ve looked but have not found anything. I’m sure he won’t read it but I’d like to drop him a line. Especially being a Blue Jay fan when he’s ripping into my organization. It’s not my fault you couldn’t get it done in ’93. I’ve heard him rip into the Jays before on Baseball Tonight and I don’t like it.

  21. Conor Glassey on September 10th, 2004 1:54 pm

    Many people bash Baseball Tonight because of the commentators. I can tune them out or laugh at their analysis, so that doesn’t bother me too much. What I really hate is when they’re showing highlights (usually Web Gems) and a diving catch is blocked by a huge, lame caption! Does anyone else notice this?

  22. ChrisS on September 10th, 2004 1:58 pm

    At least ESPN has Bill Simmons…

    Yeah, nothing’s more entertaining than the manic-depressive mood swings of a over-expressive Red Sox fan.

    The website has pretty much gone completely to being subscription-based, with the exception of the AP recaps that they post. And some fiction cobbled together by Peter Gammons.

    What happened to the days of flipping on the TV at 10:30 in the morning and watching Australian Rules Football, or Div-1AA Lacrosse? Replaced with 18 consecutive showings of Sportscenter and whatever sports trivia show they’ve come up with this season. I think the decline of ESPN as a stone-cold sports outlet can be traced to one man, Mark Shapiro.

  23. Tyler Haskins on September 10th, 2004 1:58 pm

    Conor- You have to notice though, like someone else said, you can hardly even get highlights anymore. SC is a joke as all they do show is weird stuff. But, even on BT most of the time the “analysts” are so busy listening to themselves speaking there is hardly any time to show highlights.

  24. Jon Helfgott on September 10th, 2004 2:00 pm

    Regarding emails, I’ve noticed that there really is no way to respond to Espn.com’s columnists directly anymore. I seem to remember awhile back that columns included email addresses for the authors, but that’s definitely been removed. Espn.com columnists are now locked away in an ivory tower, spinning their drivel without being bothered by trifles like accountability to the truth.

  25. Tyler Haskins on September 10th, 2004 2:04 pm

    Thanks Jon. I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed this.

    I thought about doing this myself but was beaten to the punch. I hope whoever has the http://www.espnsucks.com and http://www.sportscentersucks.com (by the way, why ESPN wouldn’t buy those URL’s is beyond me) URL’s to a good job with them. They could be the best forum for people like us to get our point across.

  26. scott on September 10th, 2004 2:20 pm

    I have to say even my once favorite writer Rob Neyer has gone downhill. After ignoring his own statistical analysis to rip Ichiro he used an alias in a review posted on amazon.com to shred a recently released book, One Day at Fenway: A Day in the Life of Fenway.Hiding behind a false to name to trash a fellow writer ( when he just wrote a similar book) is pretty lame.

  27. DMZ on September 10th, 2004 2:23 pm

    In my defense for reading Kruk, I did learn my lesson from Morgan — I read Kruk once early when he got his column and thought it was funny and not stupid (I wish I remembered what that was about), and then haven’t gone back until today.

  28. Troy Sowden on September 10th, 2004 2:36 pm

    Sorry ChrisS, I love Simmons. He’s the best thing about espn.com, and is the only sportswriter I like MORE than Derek (trust me, that’s a big compliment coming from me). His analysis is worthless, but he knows that. He’s just a great writer.

  29. PositivePaul on September 10th, 2004 3:04 pm

    “John Kruk’s latest column of gargage includes this…Doesn’t anyone – seriously, anyone – even proof-read what goes up on ESPN.com anymore?”

    Uh, what’s “gargage”? Doesn’t anyone proof-read what goes up on USS Mariner anymore?

    ;-)

    Couldn’t resist…

  30. DMZ on September 10th, 2004 3:07 pm

    Aand unlike ESPN, I fixed that mistake.

  31. msb on September 10th, 2004 3:29 pm

    yah, I was bitching about the inability to give ESPN feedback about a week ago when Gary Miller in HIS ‘column’ casually wrote: “When Davis went to Seattle, it was a similar situation with Edgar Martinez, who misses more time than he plays but is always around when he’s not in the trainer’s room.” Huh? Forced to spend a few seconds more on research than Gary, I see that Edgar (over 18 years) has played 2029 games of 2862 (subtracting the shortened ’94) — a ratio of 70% of games played. If you drop out the first three years when he was played infrequently by the Ms, that pops it up to 85% of games played. And over his last five ‘injury plagued’ years? 642 of 810, so 79% of games played. hmm. I think the theory that ESPN cut all editors & fact checkers may be right….

  32. PositivePaul on September 10th, 2004 3:29 pm

    Amen to that, Derek!

  33. Itea on September 10th, 2004 3:35 pm

    Mark – I’m also in the Seattle area, and worked for Starwave/Go/Infoseek/ESPN.com/Disney for about 5 years. You don’t really have it right. The changes you see have much more to do with who is now writing than it has to do with a change in editorial policy. As the web gained attention, many of the traditional media types wanted to extend their voice to online – and a lot of those people were very inexperienced writers. Capel, Neyer, and Gammons all had a lot of writing experience before they had online columns, so their stuff is a lot better (in respect to the quality of the writing, not necessarily content). Kruk? Morgan? Some of the other ex-jocks who had TV gigs who now have ESPN.com columns? They are very new to the writing game.

    - Itea

  34. Troy Sowden on September 10th, 2004 3:39 pm

    Itea, you’re probably correct, Morgan and Kruk haven’t written anything since high school. BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT!!! The point isn’t that they can’t write, the point is their stuff is wrong. If they were saying this on TV it would be just as wrong, only it’s more excusable then because most of the time they talk on TV it’s live and nobody has a chance to correct them. That’s not the case on the web. SOMEbody should be looking over Kruk’s shoulder to make sure his bold statements have some basis in reality. Somebody’s not.

  35. eponymous coward on September 10th, 2004 3:47 pm

    Writing involves fact-checking. Which they obviously don’t do.

  36. moira on September 10th, 2004 4:08 pm

    I kind of envy Kruk, he’s getting paid to be utterly incomprehensible and frequently downright idiotic in print on a weekly (or bi-weekly?) basis. Where do I sign up for that job. Anyway, I notice nobody has commented on his mention of Bret Boone as letting down the team. Is this already so “goes without saying” that we don’t even need to acknowledge it? Just checking, I happen to think Boone is fairly worthless but was surprised not to see a comment about it.
    Sheesh, I wish I would have read this before the Transformers thing, that would have cheered me up whereas this just annoys me.

  37. Mark on September 10th, 2004 4:15 pm

    Itea,

    I bow to your superior inside perspective. But inexperienced writers are part of the game when you’re an editor, and it’s the editor’s job to fix the sort of problems we’re all complaing about here. Either the ESPN.com editors aren’t doing their jobs, or there aren’t enough editors on hand to do the job.

  38. Itea on September 10th, 2004 4:24 pm

    Troy, my earlier comment wasn’t trying to defend the (lack of) editorial oversight at ESPN.com. I was correcting Mark’s misconception about why to him it seems worse now than perhaps a few years ago.

    However…

    One of the reasons people like the web is that it’s very immediate. Because of this, many written pieces get rushed to publication online with very minimal review. There are pluses and minuses. Yes, the site would be better if there was stricter editorial review. It would also be better without pop-up ads, or with more quality writers, or if it was faster, etc.

    It’s also free.

    Considering the relative infancy of the web, I’m far more offended by the factual inaccuracies on the television network news every single day. Kruk blathers opinions with very little basis in fact, because he doesn’t know how to think in a critical fashion.

    I don’t watch ESPN the TV channel, because I don’t get cable. I don’t visit the ESPN website often, but I think there is a lot more quality writing now than there was when I left three years ago. They’ve added some crappy writers as well, but I just skip them. The website gives the viewer far more choices than the TV network – just stick to what you like. It’s what I’ve been doing with the daily newspaper since I was about 8 years old.

    I do have Insider status – perhaps that makes a big difference. I don’t usually pay much attention to what is inside and outside the Insider gate.

    - Itea

  39. DMZ on September 10th, 2004 4:36 pm

    Itea,

    I disagree with your opinion of the writing quality on ESPN.com in general — they’re pushing old-school newspaper guys over Neyer etc. on the strict content side, which has resulted in a drop in quality of thought.

    And also that it’s free. ESPN.com’s not free anymore — Neyer’s pay, pretty much any good feature article I want is pay. The stuff in front of the Insider wall today, for instance, is like giving out free samples of food you dropped on the floor.

  40. Itea on September 10th, 2004 4:40 pm

    Mark – What standard are you holding them to? Comparing it to a site where most of the articles have already been through a newspaper-like process (e.g. the NYT site) is unrealistic. Again, I agree that it would be better if Kruk’s stuff didn’t have these factual errors, but on a practical level it doesn’t affect me, as I never read his stuff. It’s far more important to me that the statistical libraries and archives are correct, and that the latest news is posted. Suppose this Kruk article was fact-checked (and corrected) in every way – so what? It would just seem even more self-contradictory.

    I hope I don’t come off as defensive – like I said, I don’t even go to the site much, mostly because the pages are so heavy and I don’t bother with any of the multimedia stuff. My main point applies to the other sports sites as well – they are free, they are current, they are a fun diversion that you can view at your want. Much like USSM.

    Most web news sites are not newspapers or magazines. They have more errors, and can look sloppier – but at the same time I don’t get an updated Seattle P-I delivered to my doorstep every 30 seconds. Is it a shame that someone doesn’t make an investment into a higher-quality site? Perhaps, but since the overwhelming sentiment from the public is that this stuff ought to be free, it’s hard to make that investment when the return is negligible.

    - Itea

  41. Jim Thomsen on September 10th, 2004 4:43 pm

    And the sad thing is that Kruk was actaully a pretty smart ballplayer … drew a good number of walks, stole bases at a high percentage despite not looking like he could get out of his own way, could drive the ball well to all fields, generally avoided the double play. Just goes to show that there’s a world of difference between being a smart ballplayer and a smart human being.

  42. Jim Thomsen on September 10th, 2004 4:56 pm

    Oops, fact-checking here … Kruk was a mediocre base-stealer — 58 of 89 lifetime.

  43. Itea on September 10th, 2004 5:02 pm

    DMZ – Can you be specific? What has been lost? Are you rating average quality – because that’s different, as there is a lot more content now than there was say 5 years ago?

    I don’t think ESPN.com is currently a repository of Falkner-like prose – but it never was. It used to have about three columnists I liked to read, and now it has about six. Additionally, some of those people have improved over time [side note - people who think Neyer has slid clearly never read the stuff he wrote his first year for ESPN: the content was fine, but the style and layout are far better now].

    ESPN.com, for the first few years, had very little original content. Baseball had Neyer, and then David Schoenfield started writing pieces like season previews, etc. The ESPN was in name only; otherwise there was very little connection to the TV network (I assume you know all this, as you must have talked about this with Rob at some point). It wasn’t until about 2000 that there was really a lot of integration between the web site and the TV network, and that’s when a lot of new content started coming in from the TV guys. Also, the budget increased (not just because of merging, but also just as the website gained audience) and ESPN.com hired new writers including some of the newspaper guys and other random pieces from the Tom Tippits and Baseball Prospectuses of the world.

    Focussing on Kruk, probably the worst writer on the site, isn’t fair. Here is who I like to read either sometimes/often/always:

    Chad Ford
    Rob Neyer
    Ray Ratto
    Jim Capel
    Bill Simmons

    After those guys, I don’t really read any columnists unless the subject catches my eye. I never read Kruk. I never read Aldridge. I never read Jack Ramsey. I mean, who would? I’ve seen these guys on TV, and I don’t think they have anything to say that I would find interesting. I don’t read the Joe Morgan chats, except when Mike’s Rants does a funny sendup of them.

    I don’t read Stark, Gammons, or Crasnick.

    But what’s better? What sports web site does have 6 writers that you like? Any of them? I can’t even name a network that has four announcers I think do a good job. I can’t name 4 talk-show hosts on KJR that I don’t think are generally idiotic. [Though I do like Elise Woodward. And the Sonics radio announcers are terrific.]

    If I’m arguing for no reason, because your general point is that most of the media is derivative and poorly thought-out – well, I agree. Picking on ESPN seems strange, because on a relative scale I think they are pretty good compared to the other major media sports sites, and because they are also by far the most forward-looking and most willing to try new things.

    - Itea

  44. sidereal on September 10th, 2004 6:00 pm

    “so it’s clear what happened: someone (a high-salary MBA, no doubt) decided that the best way to cut costs on the web production side was to eliminate all the people responsible for checking articles”

    Actually, all of the ESPN.com positions moved to Bristol. There was definitely a lack of hiring during the crash, but no, nobody decided editors weren’t important. There are a lot fewer engineers at ESPN.com than you probably think. Itea and I could regale you with grim tales of Starwave/ESPNetSportsZone and the rise and decline of online fantasy games, but. . it’s Friday.

    I don’t visit ESPN.com much except for score updates. Motion kills me. I think there are a few reasons it seems worse than back in the day. First, when it came out there was nothing to compete with. Sportsline was ass and CNN/SI was still an apple in somebody’s eye (it should have stayed there). The only thing out there was Yahoo! Sports. More importantly, there was no amateur competition. If you wanted to find good, intelligent online baseball commentary, you had to go to Neyer. Now there are 100 sources for good, intelligent online baseball commentary, present company included. The other problem is the sheer volume of content. . it’s overwhelming. This means a) I read maybe 5% of the commentary on the site, which seems like a waste, and b) the average quality and amount of editorial oversight goes down. There are like 60 links on the frontpage of ESPN.com right now, and every one of them points to something that changes once a day, if not more often.

    Sportscenter is a mess. Everyone wanted to be the next Kenny and Dan and it got to be about who could relate the sports news with the most ‘fresh attitude’ and not about the content. I’m sick of attitude.

  45. DMZ on September 11th, 2004 2:50 am

    Itea — specifically, I feel that ESPN’s ditched the guys who made it interesting to ready. I like Schofield a lot, though as an editor he didn’t write much, but from the start they hired Neyer, Sickels, Caples, Baker, and still ran Ratto etc. As they’ve moved to all newspaper guys, they’re forcing out the interesting outsider talent they developed.

    As for a site that has six writers I like: Baseball Prospectus: Kahrl, Perry, Keri, Silver, Click’s good, I like Huckabay and Rany when they write, Clay’s dense but interesting… there’s this Dave Cameron guy, he’s prescient…

  46. Dave on September 11th, 2004 7:30 am

    You know, it may not be one “site”, but I’ll put the Mariners blogosphere up against any sports page, for writing talent, on the planet. If you want 6 guys I really enjoy reading, how about Peter White, Jeff Shaw, Jeff Sullivan, Steve Nelson, Paul Bruler, Mike Thompson, and Derek. If we could get the Sons of Buhner to start writing again, there’s another three.

  47. Adam J. Morris on September 11th, 2004 11:53 am

    Ditto, Dave, on the “new alternative media” providing better insight and analysis than most of the traditional media.

    If I want the “inside” information — who is hurt, who the team is thinking of calling up, trade rumors, what management is thinking — I look to the beat reporters, Gammons, and the ilk. But if I want anything more in-depth, I have to go elsewhere, be it BP, the blogosphere, or a fan site for an individual team like the Newberg Report.

  48. Itea on September 11th, 2004 11:56 am

    DMZ – We have different timelines then. ESPN.com did not have the guys you mentioned “from the start”. I’m probably going back further than you. At the start, espnet.sportszone.com was a few guys sitting in a small room in Factoria putting wire stories into HTML.

    BP is good most of the time, but if you’re going to rag on ESPN for moving some of their stuff behind a pay wall, don’t you think you ought to mention that BP puts 70%+ of its new content behind a pay wall?

    Most of what you’re saying boils down to the idea that ESPN.com caters to a lower common denominator than you’d prefer. I don’t disagree with that. What I disagree with, very specifically, is the assertion that at a previous time the ESPN site had distinctly more quality material available. I don’t think that’s true, I think it’s a perception people have because as sidereal said there is more competition now, and because ESPN has added some crap on top of the good stuff. There’s as much quality on the site now as there has ever been, and if you could actually compare what’s available now to what was available in 2002 or 2000 or 1998 or 1996, I think you would agree with me.

    - Itea

  49. Mark on September 11th, 2004 12:05 pm

    Itea,

    The “standard I’m holding them to” is the same standard I hold myself to when I’m editing content for the web. I read ESPN.com and shake my head, because I’d be embarrassed to be associated with it if I were one of the editors for that site. They include not just factual errors, but misspellings, garbled syntax, and grammatical blunders (Gammons is particularly bad for that sort of thing). They look for all the world like the articles are not edited at all. I work with web content for a living, and I would never allow crap like that to be published under my watch.

    Nevertheless, I don’t work for ESPN.com, and I’m trying to give the guys there the benefit of the doubt. As you’ll recall, my first assumption was that they were understaffed. If you’re telling me that there’s enough editors to do the job, but we all know the job isn’t getting done, then my next assumption is that someone or something is stopping them from doing it. Unfortunately, nothing I’ve heard in this thread has supplied me with the explanation I’m looking for. And sorry, I don’t accept the “it’s the web, it’s more immediate” rationale — plenty of daily-content websites are well edited. ESPN.com is not.

    The site sucks, and with a more active editorial oversight it would suck less. That’s the problem; what’s the solution?

  50. Itea on September 11th, 2004 12:53 pm

    Why is everyone creating strawmen here? There have been many opinions stated in this thread, and I agree with the majority of them. Mark, what I specifically disagreed with that you said was that there was a “decline” in editorial standards, and also your suggested reasoning. For someone who works with content, it doesn’t seem like you read what I wrote very carefully.

    A lot of the articles _aren’t_ edited beyond a very cursory look – but it’s always been that way. You can disagree with my point about immediacy if you want, but I’m speaking pragmatically. There are many, many businesses out there where there is a constant tradeoff between time and quality, and the fact is that for online news sites the pendulum is usually lower on the quality side than it is in other media outlets where it’s worth a larger investment to package something in a nicer fashion.

    You don’t need to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. If the site doesn’t meet your journalistic standards and you think it sucks, then don’t go there. That’s a great way to show your high standards.

    What site do you work for? How many pages of new content do they publish each day? If it’s more than 50 (a tiny percentage of what ESPN.com publishes), do you care to make a wager on whether I can find factual errors, misspellings, garbled syntax or grammatical blunders? I’m a paid subscriber to Salon.com, and they focus heavily on writing/editing/exactitude, and I find errors there all the time, premium content included. It doesn’t embarrass me – I have experience in the business and I understand why these things happen.

    If you guys want to make a convincing argument, you need to do something better than pick on the worst columnist on the entire site and say that you could do better than that. Or are you just trying to make yourself feel better about your own skills? Or do you think ESPN.com fancies itself elitist? They hire editors just like newspapers do (and there’s plenty of crossover).

    Here is how you would make a good argument that ESPN.com has particularly poor editing policies. You would choose a decent sample size of different kinds of articles and compare the ESPN.com quality to places like Yahoo and Sportsline, and point out where the latter sites had distincly higher quality.

    - Itea

  51. DMZ on September 11th, 2004 12:56 pm

    Itea –

    I didn’t rag on ESPN for being not-free, and I’m not sure why you think that’s the case. Part of your explanation of ESPN’s quality was that as part of the web, it’s more immediate and also free –

    Yes, the site would be better if there was stricter editorial review. It would also be better without pop-up ads, or with more quality writers, or if it was faster, etc.

    It’s also free.

    I only mentioned that it’s not a free site, which… I’m not ragging on that at all. My point there was that if the reader’s willing to allow errors and poor editing because a site is free, ESPN should be held to a higher standard. I don’t begrudge ESPN, or anyone, from trying to make a living writing.

  52. Itea on September 11th, 2004 1:22 pm

    DMZ – Perhaps you didn’t rag on ESPN for being not-free, but you did write:

    Itea,

    I disagree with your opinion of the writing quality on ESPN.com in general – they’re pushing old-school newspaper guys over Neyer etc. on the strict content side, which has resulted in a drop in quality of thought.

    And also that it’s free. ESPN.com’s not free anymore – Neyer’s pay, pretty much any good feature article I want is pay. The stuff in front of the Insider wall today, for instance, is like giving out free samples of food you dropped on the floor.

    I point out it’s free in response to when people comment that they don’t like it. What I mean to convey is that it’s not like the reader has paid for something and found it not worth the money. If I buy a car and it explodes after ten miles, I think I’ve got a beef. If I visit a website and decides it sucks, I don’t visit it anymore.

    So that is why I’ve mentioned that “it’s free” – it’s in response to the comment that “ESPN.com sucks”.

    The more general argument about how a news web site should or shouldn’t be is something else. I haven’t disagreed with most of what people say, and in fact I’ve also mentioned that I don’t frequent the ESPN site much myself, and I completely agree that the columns by the TV guys tend to be pretty bad.

    If someone wants to differ with me, here are my assertions:

    - ESPN.com has just as much quality stuff now as it has ever had since inception ~1995.

    - The reasons that “all those job ads for editors and copyeditors vanished” have about nothing to do with insidious MBA management people. It has everything to do with when the company grew, and when it stopped growing, and when it was bought out (four different times), and when it moved physically (twice), and when eventually all the jobs moved to Bristol – a move, incidentally, that was made in part because it was believed that it would IMPROVE editorial consistency with all the writers and editors more closely grouped.

    - Working with equal resources, news web sites that carry breaking news on an up-to-the-minute basis are not going to have the same editoiral quality as sites that post columns/reports at a more leisurely fashion, and to expect them to is unreasonable.

    - On an abstract level, to castigate a web site with tens of thousands of pages of written content (let alone computer-generated statistical content) for poor quality based on a single individual who is probably the worst writer on the site is unreasonable.

    There you go. Have at it.

    - Itea

  53. JMB on September 12th, 2004 8:23 am

    ESPN may never have been great, but it’s certainly rubbish now. Chad Ford and Neyer are the only columnists that I find even notionally informative or amusing. Kruk and Morgan are conclusive proof that the ability to hit a curve ball in no way blesses one with a a monopoly on insight. Dan Patrick was so good with Olberman, but now he’s devolved into a glorified jock sniffer.

    And the problem with the new SportsCenter anchors isn’t that they try to be Dan and Kieth, but that they all try to be Kenny Mayne.

    More things wrong with ESPN:

    Budwiser Hot Seat? Is this supposed to be edgy? They throw half a dozen softball questions at a sports personality. I don’t remember what they called it, but for a while they had a sponsored (of course) game of Taboo with teammates. Why is this on SportsCenter? Just show me the damned highlights and tell me if Lance Berkman did anything. Geez.

    They killed the message boards with the new format.

    ESPNews is only watchable because of the ticker.

    PTI is a waste of Tony Kornheiser, who while not informative (or informed for that matter), is at least an interesting on-air personality.

    The Sports Reporters and Around the Horn: Isn’t it enough that we collectively let idiots like Woody Page screw up the MVP vote every year? We have to let them become a D-list celebrity outside of their own market?

    I like Tom Brady and Derek Jeter as much as the next guy, but how much time do we really have to spend tossing their salad? Evidently ESPN thinks that it is a round the clock job.

    Skip Bayless?

    It isn’t that they’ve lowered their standards, it’s that they’re now scraping the bottom of the barrell to the point where they’re picking up Fox Sports Net’s leftovers.

  54. Mark on September 12th, 2004 4:36 pm

    Itea, you’re taking this way too personally, so I’m going to be brief and then I’m going to exit this thread. If you don’t see an editorial problem with ESPN.com — there are spelling errors in homepage headlines, for crying out loud! — then you and I are either looking at two different sites, or we have such different standards for those sites as to allow us little room for discussion.

  55. Itea on September 12th, 2004 4:52 pm

    Mark – I’m not taking it personally. I haven’t worked there for years, and don’t like the site much. You avoided what I actually asked you, so I assume you are conceding the points that you are ignoring.

    Yes, ESPN.com has grammatical/spelling errors in its content. As I’ve stipulated to this numerous times, I think you are the one beating a dead horse.

    If you want to be high and mighty about editorial standards, you ought to tell us (or at least me) what site you edit for.

    - Itea

  56. Itea on September 12th, 2004 5:01 pm

    Mark – On the other hand, what I do take personally is the fact that you address a post like that last one to me when it doesn’t even address a single thing I said. I might as well write something along the lines of:

    Mark – Are you crazy? Of course Bartolo Colon is over 180 pounds. Are you some kind of complete idiot? If you can’t even concede that, there’s no reason I should ever converse with you.

    So there we go. Now I have reciprocated your strawman and responded in kind.

    See, there’s a difference in how we argue. When I addressed my previous posts to you, I was discussing something that you had actually said in your post. When you address your posts to me, you “refute” something that I didn’t say, making your refutation somewhat silly.

    - Itea

  57. Kyle on September 24th, 2004 4:10 am

    This thread is ray of hope. I didn’t think anyone else felt the way I did about the decline of Sports Center. I’m a Twins fan, and it used to be nice to get up in the morning and at least catch a twenty second clip and recap of how the club did last night. Now most days Twins games are just skipped in favor of human interest stories. Does ESPN’s coverage of poker encourage kids to gamble? Who cares? With increasing frequency, ESPN is airing stories about ESPN. The behind the scenes look at Sports Center was embarrassingly self indulgent. I want to hear about how the Twins fared against the Indians, not how hard the production assistants at Sports Center work. Millions of people in America work hard at their jobs every day. Many in that multitude do so even though they don’t particularly enjoy what they do. I work nights. When I get home in the morning, I’d love to see some highlights. I can read about Silva getting a double play with one out and the bases loaded, but do I ever get to see the turning point in the previous night’s game? No.

    I have a hard time not changing the channel nowadays. The catch phrases are wearing thin. A ninth-inning, game-winning homerun doesn’t need a catch phrase–it’s already exciting. It carries weight on its own. I don’t need an anchor quoting Tony Montana from “Scarface” every time someone hits one out of the park to let me know something cool just happened. I will concede it was funny the first time, but not the thirtieth.

    As far as John Kruk goes, I tuned him out permanently very early on this season, when he said on Baseball Tonight that Paul Wilson having nine wins or so was an early front runner for the NL Cy Young. Paul Wilson. Front runner. For the Cy Young. Painting John Kruk as the “everyman” is degrading. To infer that being incompetent and unintelligent make you like the masses that make up your viewership is arrogant and insulting. The average man on the street is much smarter than John Kruk .The man hides his lack of a meaningful contributing to any discussion on baseball behind his membership in the fraternity of former players with a decidedly anti-intellectual flare. Guess what John—you aren’t in the batter’s box anymore. Take a look around. There’s no pitcher, no plate, no runners on base. You’re wearing a suit, and holding down the title of analyst. I don’t claim to be able to hit a curveball or pick an errant throw out of the dirt. I do, however, know that Paul Wilson was not at any point in the 2004 season a front runner for the NL Cy Young, that Derek Jeter is not the best player in baseball, and that the first name of the Expos’ center fielder is Endy.