Sports TV News
Jemele Hill: Journalism At ESPN ‘a Difficult Balancing Act’
“Hill added that she has experience at ESPN with the difference between a story receiving “cursory coverage” and one becoming “a nonstop national conversation fueled by the massive sports-media machine.”
Whether or not Jemele Hill is still a sports writer can be debated. Her work now for Spotify and The Atlantic tends to cast a much wider net. But she is best known for her time at ESPN and that means when sports stories take on a social significance, she often has insight that other contributors to those companies do not.
That is the case with the way the media has reacted to a video of UFC boss Dana White slapping his wife inside a Mexican nightclub on New Year’s Eve.
In a new column for The Atlantic, Hill calls the story “the sports scandal almost nobody is talking about.” She notes that both Endeavor and ESPN, two companies with significant investments in the UFC have not been particularly outspoken about any consequences White could face.
“In fact,” she writes, “when I requested comment, a spokesperson declined to elaborate on network officials’ coverage decisions and instead emailed me multiple clips showcasing ESPN’s news coverage of White across the network’s digital, television, radio, and podcasting platforms.”
Jemele Hill points to a tweet from ESPN MMA writer Jeff Wagenheim that seems to call out the company’s position on the video.
Wagenheim later clarified that there were no specific instructions from his bosses about White. “In general we are strongly discouraged from incendiary posts on social media, and with a business partner things are sensitive,” he tweeted.
“Given ESPN’s huge financial stake in UFC’s success, Wagenheim’s revelation is hardly surprising,” Jemele Hill writes. “Because ESPN is a business partner of virtually every major sports league in the country—the NFL, the NBA, college sports, and professional soccer, among others—the network’s journalists face a difficult balancing act when major players of those leagues behave inappropriately.”
She added that her issue with ESPN is not that the network has refused to cover the story. It is that the coverage “has overall been pretty soft“. She pointed to a segment on First Take where both Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim seemed to let their respective personal relationships with Dana White dictate how they discussed the video.
Hill added that she has experience at ESPN with the difference between a story receiving “cursory coverage” and one becoming “a nonstop national conversation fueled by the massive sports-media machine.”
ESPN writers feeling compromised on this particular story is of note to Jemele Hill. She writes that White deserves criticism and he certainly seems to know that. She points to a second TMZ video in which White says he is embarrassed to have said for years that there is never an excuse for putting your hands on a woman and now he is having to answer questions about doing it himself.
Sports TV News
NFL Owners Not Voting on Flex Scheduling For Thursday Night Football
“The owners have simply decided to wait until May to make their decision.”
Amazon will have to wait for flex scheduling. NFL owners decided to table a proposal that would allow the league to create more compelling matchups for Thursday Night Football later in the season.
That doesn’t mean flex scheduling won’t be a reality on Thursday nights this season. The owners have simply decided to wait until May to make their decision.
Earlier this week, Peter King of NBC Sports reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is pushing the idea. Coaches have been outspoken about how much they dislike it, complaining about managing injuries and the competitive disadvantage that would come with finding out you suddenly have a shorter week of preparation than expected. According to King, Goodell is trying to make Amazon happy after the first season of Thursday Night Football failed to deliver projected audience numbers for Prime Video.
League owners did take a step they hope will lead to fewer games between losing teams. Last season, teams could only be scheduled once for a Thursday night game. The owners decided to bump that limit up to twice per season.
Goodell defended the proposal against accusations that the league is prioritizing revenue over player safety.
“We always look at the data with respect to injuries,” he told the media gathered at the league meetings. “That is what drove our decisions throughout the first 12 or so years of Thursday Night Football and how it’s evolved. I think the data was very clear: it doesn’t show a higher injury rate. But we recognize shorter weeks. We went through this with COVID, too.”
When the idea of flex scheduling is revisited in May, it will require the support of 24 team owners in order to become a reality.
Sports TV News
Eric Shanks Got Approval From Alex Rodriguez Before FOX Hired Derek Jeter
“Why wouldn’t we reach out?”
Derek Jeter is going to work a very limited schedule for FOX next season. Still, before he came on board, FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks wanted the support of Jeter’s former Yankees teammate and on-again/off-again friend Alex Rodriguez.
Andrew Marchand is reporting that Shanks reached out to ARod personally. Rodriguez gave his approval to the network.
“Why wouldn’t we reach out?” a Fox Sports spokesman said when The New York Post reached out for confirmation.
While Derek Jeter is now part of the FOX family, fans shouldn’t expect to see him every time baseball is on the network. He is only scheduled to work “marquee events”. This season, those include the London series, the All-Star Game, and the World Series.
He will be at the desk alongside Kevin Burkhardt, David Ortíz, and Rodriguez.
Sports TV News
Alex Rodriguez: You Used To Be Able To Hang Out With Reporters And Know It Was Off the Record
“I would say that back then it was a little bit more of a camaraderie.”
The way that MLB players interact with reporters has evolved and changed significantly over the years in Alex Rodriguez’s eyes.
In a media availability Tuesday ahead of the season premiere of the KayRod Cast, ESPN’s alternate feed of select games slated for Sunday Night Baseball featuring Rodriguez and Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay, A-Rod was asked for his biggest surprises as the media coverage has transitioned over the years.
“I would say that back then it was a little bit more of a camaraderie,” Rodriguez said. “You could actually go to a bar and have drinks with reporters, believe it or not, and talk about, you know — and everything was pretty much off the record.”
In today’s game, Rodriguez said you won’t find it being the case where reporters and players are friends away from their respective jobs.
“That ship has left, right? I think it’s just a lot more Twitter, get out there first. Fact check later, but shoot first,” he said. “As a result, I think it’s made players and everybody a little bit more aware.”
“I think in a long-worded answer, I think relationships that go back many years, I think, win in the long run, that trust,” A-Rod added.
The second season of the KayRod Cast starts on Sunday at 7 p.m. featuring the defending N.L. champion Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers.
Kay and Rodriguez will be live from ESPN’s Seaport District Studios in New York City. There are eight total editions of the KayRod Cast scheduled for the 2023 season.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.