Tuesday, February 17, 2009
To: Le Anne Schreiber, ESPN Ombudsman
Dear Ms. Schreiber,
I understand that you are the journalistic ombudsman for ESPN. In which case, I would like to register a complaint regarding one of your better-known journalists, Mr. Bill Simmons.
It is my understanding that he made the following quote during a podcast:
"Oh I have some good news for you. WNBA probably done after this year. I don't know if that's good news. Yeah it's not good news, I take that back, cause, you know, it's nice that we have a professional league that girls can aspire to play in. Unfortunately, it loses money hand-over-fist and it's a bad business plan. So at some point...you know...at what point does it just become charity?"
It is implied that Mr. Simmons has some inside information about the status of the WNBA. In which case, why does he not quote a source, or if he wishes to keep his source a secret, then why does he state explicitly that he heard this information from a highly-placed NBA or WNBA insider? Without such quotation, Simmons implies that it's simply common knowledge that the WNBA is "done" -- knowledge so common that sources need not be quoted. And who could foist an argument against that tsunami of hot air that passes for "common knowledge" in the sports world?
In effect Simmons - and ESPN in extension - are influencing the future financial health of a league that has several fans that watch ESPN. With the economic downturn in the United States and the suspension of operations of the Arena Football League for one year, every sports franchise is in financial trouble and small operations like the WNBA the moreso. What effect will Mr. Simmons's pronunciamentos have when the WNBA seeks future advertisers?
In attempting to mix journalism with opinion, he gets the journalism wrong and the less said about his opinion, the better. How important is ESPN's journalistic credibility? If Mr. Simmons is given carte blanche to pass off opinion as fact then my answer would be "not very important, obviously".