Getting to the Poynt(er): ESPN goes to outside source for ombudsmanship-shape appraisal

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ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews recently signed a deal to be a spokesperson for Reebok. Is that a problem? How about the timing of it — two weeks after her damaging report on Nike football shoe during the BCS national title game, featuring Oregon, and its deep Nike connection? “Journalists can review products,” media ethicist Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute recently told The Oregonian (linked here). “But they can’t take money from a company to endorse them. That totally ruins their credibility.” ESPN responded by saying that if Andrews reports on sneakers, she’ll reveal her connection to the brand. With a new ESPN/Poynter media ethics review bring this issue up? The photo above, by the way, is one of the photo poses she now uses in her Twitter profile wallpaper (linked here) Does she just not get it?


Having used an independent ombudsman individual to occasionally critique the way they do business and then post a column on their website, ESPN has recruited a panel at the Poynter Institute of media studies for an 18-month run to comment on how the network conducts its business.

The Poynter Review Project will star posting commentaries in March on ESPN.com.

The Poynter Institute (www.poynter.org) was founded in 1975 in St. Petersburg, Fla. and has become one of the nation’s top schools for professional journalists, teachers and news media leaders, with training in online and multimedia, leadership and management, reporting, writing and editing, TV and radio, ethics and diversity, journalism education and visual journalism.

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John Walsh, ESPN’s executive vice president and executive editor, calls the Poynter Institute’s reputation in the field of journalism “unmatched and we welcome the panel’s scrutiny in this new format. Our goal is to improve our content through increased accountability, transparency and timeliness. We believe The Review will take the traditional ombudsman role and advance it for the 21st century media world.”

Added Poynter President Karen B. Dunlap in a statement: “This project with ESPN allows us to join with a major multi-media organization interested in the connection between values and quality news and information. For more than 35 years, Poynter has taught the skills and values on which journalism excellence is based. As media evolve we have new opportunities to promote and learn from best practices–across all platforms.”

Former TV producer Don Ohlmeyer was the latest ESPN ombudsman, preceded by former New York Times sports editor Le Anne Schreiber and former Washington Post sports editor George Solomon. All had 18-month terms.

Among the Poynter contributors:

== Kelly McBride, a writer, teacher and one of the country’s leading voices on media ethics, on the Poynter faculty for eight years — and mentioned above in that Oregonian story.

== Regina McCombs, Poynter’s faculty for multimedia and mobile, teaches digital skills in on-site and distance-learning programs. She was the senior producer for multimedia at StarTribune.com in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

== Butch Ward is both managing director and a member of the Poynter faculty who coordinates the Institute’s business departments and teaches leadership, management, editing, reporting and writing. He was a journalist for 27 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore News-American.

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