Sports outlets depend on access to sports stars and agents to draw audience.
This can lead atrocious coddling and double-standards.
Earlier this week, for a gross example, ESPN pulled a slightly scandalous story it published on LeBron James after LeBron’s people complained the reporter who wrote the piece hadn’t properly identified himself before tagging along with LeBron to a party or two.
Pulling the story made it look like Disney’s cable network is run by a bunch of lapdogs.
For some contrast, look no further than today’s New York Times.
On page B9, there’s a big story about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his “journey to notoriety.” Noting that “Roethlisberger did not respond to an interview request through his agent,” the story is sorced almost entirely to Roethlisberger’s ex-girlfriends, High school rivals, and benchwarmers. A few of the sources are named, but the Times also gets anonymous sources to slag on the controversial QB.
The Times’s sources say things like: “[Roethlisberger] doesn’t understand just because you have a talent doesn’t mean that you have the right to just automatically dismiss everything. There’s more to being Ben Roethlisberger than just throwing footballs.”
It’s the kind of story you’d expect to see on a no-access sports blog like Deadspin – not a mainstream media outlet.
So what gave the Times so much courage while ESPN so happily flopped on it’s back for LeBron?
Is it because nobody spends much money marketing Roethlisberger, who’s already facing a suit over sexual assault, while LeBron is a pitchman for some of ESPN’s biggest advertisers – from Nike to Coca-Cola?
Or is just that the Times has backbone and ESPN does not?
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