There were never many good public editors across media, but ESPN hasn’t had a useful one in nearly 10 years, not since Le Anne Schreiber. The gig usually consists of delivering criticism that is only critical to a certain point, because the critic is still employed by the company they’re critiquing. It’s an unenviable position for even the sharpest of journalists, and it’s been a long time since ESPN’s were up to the challenge.
The Worldwide Leader announced today that the position, which began in 2005 with George Solomon’s stint as ombudsman, will be retired, because it had “outlived its usefulness.”
ESPN Senior Vice President Kevin Merida, in the nicest language, said that the internet pretty much does that job now:
In recent years, both the Washington Post and the New York Times eliminated their Ombudsman role in recognition that the position had outlived its usefulness, largely because of the rise of real-time feedback of all kinds.
While ESPN has valued the input and dedication shown by everyone who held the position, we too have seen how access to the Internet and its social platforms has created a horde of watchdogs who communicate directly with us to share observations and questions. Beyond our users, our multi-faceted newsgathering operation is made up of a diverse collection of seasoned journalists who engage in spirited discussion and respectful disagreement to land in the best possible place. No one holds our journalists to higher standards than we do.
The final public editor, Jim Brady, published his farewell column on March 23. The most notable moment of his tenure was when he absolutely bungled the Jemele Hill situation and sided with the corporation over the employee who said something accurate, thereby giving credence to disingenuous morons, then was called “the dumbest person alive” by a writer for one of the sites he ran and was quickly let go for saying something accurate. What a way to go out.