Poynter Institute takes over as ESPN ombudsman
ESPN and the Poynter Institute announced Thursday the creation of the Poynter Review Project, which will review ESPN content across all platforms and publicly comment on ESPN's work. Essentially, Poynter is now ESPN's ombudsman, acting as an ethics and standards watchdog for all of ESPN's platforms. Poynter takes over the job held by former TV executive Don Ohlmeyer and previously held by former New York Times sports editor Le Anne Schreiber and former Washington Post sports editor George Solomon. As with the previous ombudsmen, Poynter's role with ESPN will last 18 months. A rotation of three Poynter professors are expected to write monthly columns as well as other pieces as dictated by breaking issues. The columns will appear on ESPN.com starting next month.
The Poynter Institute, which owns the St. Petersburg Times, is a journalism school located in St. Petersburg.
ESPN executive vice president and executive editor John Walsh said, "The Poynter Institute's reputation in the field of journalism is 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.''
Timeliness, of lack of it, plagued the tenure of Ohlmeyer, the weakest of ESPN's ombudsmen so far. Poynter should offer a fresh perspective from the previous ombudsmen with heavy sports backgrounds. However, there are two concerns that are really no different than previous ombudsmen or, for that matter, media critics. One is if Poynter will ignore the concerns and comments of ESPN's viewers and simply work off its own agenda. The other is if ESPN actually listens to the ombudsman anyway. ESPN began having an ombudsman in 2005 yet has continued to have various conflicts of interest, including the much-criticized LeBron James' Decision show last summer.