ESPN didn’t unpublish its ombudsman’s review of the media company’s coverage of Ray Rice.
Both the Big Lead and Mediaite wrongly reported that ESPN yanked the ombudsman report after ESPN suspended Bill Simmons following profane and critical comments he made on his podcast about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Simmons was complimented in the ombudsman’s review, so the implication was that ESPN was trying to divert attention from praise he received in the ombudsman review. ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte blogged Sept. 23 that ESPN had done a good job offering “strong coverage and commentary” on the Rice’s scandal and the NFL’s reaction. He singled out several reporters at ESPN for their coverage including Simmons.
But, the ombudsman’s report wasn’t actually deleted and censored by ESPN.
An ESPN spokesperson tells iMediaEthics that the review was always online but there was a technical problem with its blog pages.
“We experienced technical issues with blog links tonight,” spokesperson Mike Soltys told iMediaEthics by e-mail. “The column remained on our site the entire time and could be found through search. The column praises our NFL coverage.”
Soltys also tweeted about the broken link.
— Mike Soltys (@espnmikes) September 25, 2014
Mediaite published a story at 9:47 PM titled, “ESPN Scrubs Ombudsman Page, Including Praise for Simmons’ NFL Critiques”
Mediaite has since updated its headline and post to reflect the blogpost wasn’t down, but didn’t post a correction.
Sports site The Big Lead, which is owned by USA Today, also reported inaccurately that the blogpost was deleted. Its story, published around 9:40 PM was titled
“ESPN Pulls Ombudsman Blog That Praised Bill Simmons and Others for Holding NFL Accountable.”
The Big Lead’s story now carries an update quoting ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz explaining it was just a technical problem. The update reads:
“[UPDATE: “Was not taken down. It’s actually a tech issue with our blogs that is being worked on,” says ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz. The blog is back up now, and Simmons’ name has not been edited out.]”
iMediaEthics notes that the update suggested ESPN had edited out Simmons’ name. We’re asking the Big Lead why it thought that and wrote a leading sentence.
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Twitter also paid attention to the ombudsman blogpost, suggesting censorship and firing.
Nothing says journalistic integrity like censoring your Ombudsman http://t.co/wqGZl3vQWt
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 25, 2014
— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) September 25, 2014
Sports site Awful Announcing, however, pointed out that it would be weird for ESPN to delete an article that praises its work.
The ESPN Ombudsman blog disappearing is really weird. Lipsyte just wrote a very positive article. Has to be something technical, right?
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 25, 2014