ESPN Enlists Poynter Institute to Assess Content

There’s so little self-examination in most media circles that any effort by an organization to hold its own feet to the fire is noteworthy.

So give credit to ESPN — which recently saw former NBC West Coast Prez Don Ohlmeyer end his stint as the network’s ombudsman — for reaching out to the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalistic ethics and training facility in Florida, to weigh in on the channel’s content across various platforms. (That’s a lot of content, too, since ESPN is online and in print as well as on cable with multiple channels.)

For the network that soiled its reputation with “The Decision,” the instantly infamous LeBron James “I’m going to South Beach!” infomercial, this looks like a pretty good decision.

Here’s the announcement (and full disclosure: I write a weekly column for an ESPN competitor,, in which I analyze sports media):

The Poynter Review Project to Launch With ESPN

ESPN and The Poynter Institute today announced a new step in media transparency—The Poynter Review Project—in which a panel of Poynter faculty will review ESPN content across all platforms and publicly comment on ESPN’s efforts.  This will include monthly essays and additional timely responses as issues arise.  The group also will address fan concerns during its 18-month tenure.  The commentaries will be posted on, beginning with an introductory column in March.

“The Poynter Institute’s reputation in the field of journalism is unmatched and we welcome the panel’s scrutiny in this new format,” said John A. Walsh, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor. “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. ”

Poynter President Karen B. Dunlap, said, “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.” 

The Institute’s role expands the tradition of ESPN ombudsman, most recently held by television producer Don Ohlmeyer. His 18-month term was preceded Le Anne Schreiber, a former New York Times sports editor-turned author, and George Solomon, former sports editor of The Washington Post.

Among Poynter contributors are Kelly McBride, a writer, teacher and one of the country’s leading voices on media ethics. She has been on the faculty of The Poynter Institute for eight years. She leads Poynter’s Sense-Making Project, a Ford Foundation initiative which examines the transformation of journalism and the effects on democracy. 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 in Minneapolis-St. Paul prior to joining Poynter in 2008. Butch Ward is both managing director and a member of the Poynter faculty. A journalist for 27 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore News-American, Ward held jobs throughout the newsroom, including managing editor at both newspapers. For Poynter, he coordinates the Institute’s business departments and teaches leadership, management, editing, reporting and writing.


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