Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011

Did ESPN manipulate the breaking of the Braun story?

By Nicole
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So it sounds like ESPN was working on the Braun positive test story and it started to leak more, so they rushed it to air in order to not be scooped. That means the story they initially reported was not the best put-together or researched piece they could have done. I understand that.

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Here's the thing. A Milwaukee writer was tipped by an ESPN employee to watch the 6 pm EST Sportscenter because there would be big news about Braun. The story never aired during that Sportscenter.

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It did finally break a few minutes prior to 8 pm EST and ESPN broke into their own programming to do the report. The thing about that time is that it happened to be about 10 minutes prior to ESPN's own telecast of the Heisman trophy presentation - the lead in to what was likely ESPN's highest ratings of the day.

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At some point, they are saying they got "new information" about how Braun requested a second test after the initial positive test and that he passed the second test.

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However, the news about that second test didn't "break" on ESPN until after the end of the Heisman presentation. It was not put out on the ticker and of course they did not interrupt the Heisman telecast.

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So they had a huge story that someone within their organization said they were going with at 6 pm EST, but they ended up not reporting it until just before their largest audience of the day.

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They had additional information about that story, but did not report it until just after the Heisman, again, when they had the most eyes.

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And in that 30 minutes, public opinion on Braun was set and the hyperbole went completely out of control. There's no way to know - but that second bit of information that seems to take away some of the credibility of the initial positive test certainly could have made a difference in how people judged and reacted to Braun.

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By holding that information until after the Heisman presentation, ESPN certainly seems to have cast Braun's reputation in a certain light.

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I understand that folks don't hold ESPN to the highest journalistic standards and they don't have an expectation of full credibility from ESPN - but that doesn't mean they shouldn't.

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ESPN presents themselves as a legitimate news network - they should be held to the same journalistic standards we expect from newspapers and CNN.

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The way this story broke rubs me the wrong way and brings into question ESPN's handling of this highly sensitive news. It seems as though they held the story until a point that they could ensure the highest viewership was there to see it.

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Didn't they have the burden of reporting it as soon as they had it, not when it was most advantageous to their ratings? If they received the "new information" after the initial broadcast of the story - presumably during the Heisman presentation - should they have included it in the Ticker and not held it until after the Heisman presentation?

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It feels like they manipulated the story to work best for themselves and I have a problem with that. This was big news that they were breaking. It was inappropriate to wait til after the Heisman to give the rest of the details.

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