Friday, December 19, 2008

What Can Terrell Owens Tell Us About NASCAR And ESPN?


The drama that played-out on the ESPN family of TV networks and across the Internet over the last two weeks was perhaps familiar to some folks. Those would be NASCAR fans.

ESPN veteran journalist Ed Werder first reported (click here) that there was trouble in the Dallas Cowboys locker room. The center of the trouble was the always interesting wide receiver for the team who is pictured above. His name is Terrell Owens.

Unfortunately, Werder decided that his story was to be supported only by anonymous sources within the very locker room where Owens had taken up residence with his Cowboy teammates. That did not sit well (click here) with some folks.

This drew a line in the sand between those that (click here) agreed with Werder's accusations and those that believed (click here) ESPN had simply created the entire story.

There is an interesting video (click here) where several Cowboys fans actually confront Mr. Werder while he is trying to work and generally express to him the feeling that without credible sources it appears ESPN is once again catching "the hype train."

This past NASCAR season, TDP has gone at it with ESPN over several issues that appear to be strikingly familiar. David Newton was once again (click here) using anonymous sources to "report" stories before the rest of the professional NASCAR media types were ready to publish the same material.

Incredibly, ESPN actually went ahead with Newton's story despite direct claims from the actual parties concerned (click here) that Newton was not telling the truth. In other words, even the folks in the story were angry at both the reporter and the TV network.

Then, from out of nowhere, ESPN launched a well-planned assault on Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday Jr. with allegations of (click here) steroid use for performance enhancement.

This company-wide "project" (click here) took months to plan and involved hundreds of ESPN employees who work for the various TV networks, the ESPN.com Internet site and ESPN's high-profile sports news division. It was timed to coincide with the first Chase for the Championship Sprint Cup Series race weekend.

In much the same way that Werder created an NFL story that was red-hot for a short while, ultimately demanded a response from the principals and then (click here) fizzled like a snowman in the sunshine, NASCAR fans remember the same type of hype during the 2008 season.

This (click here) is the final TDP story about David Newton and Ryan Newman. We also have (click here) the spectacular flame-out of the Ron Hornaday steroid scandal.

NASCAR fans were left with the same puzzling look on their faces that now adorns those of many Cowboy fans. The questions are the same. What was that really all about? Why did ESPN choose to go forward with it? Was this whole thing a ploy to generate money and exposure for ESPN?

At the end of the day, ESPN moved-on and the 24-hour TV machine continued to grind. Left in the wake of this type of hit-and-smear journalism are the real lives of those who have been singled-out for attack. This is (click here) a good example of the aftermath.

Athletes like Ryan Newman, Terrell Owens, Ron Hornaday Jr. and others were simply used to create "content" that spread the ESPN brand and directly generated revenue for the company.

NASCAR is about to go through the roughest January in many years. The countdown to the Daytona 500 and the beginning of the new season can be greatly influenced by the media coverage from The Worldwide Leader in Sports.

The question is whether fans and TV viewers will see hardcore NASCAR reporters like Marty Smith, "hype kings" like Newton or electronic assassins like Shaun "Mr. Steroids" Assael in 2009?

Which of the many faces of ESPN will be looking at NASCAR as it struggles to survive?

Where do you come down on the issue of how ESPN's news reporters have treated NASCAR over the last two years? As a fan, has this helped or hurt your attitude where NASCAR is concerned?

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33 comments:

majorshouse said...

Where do I start? ESPN is solely in it for the money at the expense of any sport that they choose to cover these days. It has made me not want to watch anything that they are covering and if this is what they are going to NASCAR, then why are we surprised that they did it to a different sport. It is apparent to this fan that all ESPN is interested in is money and power and will stop at nothing to step on anything or anyone to get their tabloid trash out in the market at anyone's expense. I really wish that NASCAR would get off of their high horse and draw the line in the sand with this network and get out of their contract. I realize the the suits at NASCAR would scream bloodly murder about the money they would be losing, but maybe they need a wake up call too.

Dot said...

Seems like business as usual for BSPN. Obviously they're getting away with this type of journalism, but how?

People not in the know read these stories and take them as gospel. Isn't there slander involved here? How many times have celebrities sued the Enquirer and won? Can't sports celebrities/teams do the same thing? The least NASCAR could do to BSPN is fine them for actions detrimental to stock car racing. Werder should be banned from all locker rooms.

I liked the guy in the Youtube video. Maybe more fans should start heckling these so called jounalists. If I see one, I'm going to.

TexasRaceLady said...

I'm come to the conclusion that I'll watch BSPN simply because that's where the races are.

As far as the reporters, I'm not sure I'd believe them if they told me the sun rises in the East.

Anonymous said...

You really have it out for David Newton and the way he reports his stories, but from where I am sitting all of the controversial reporting on Stewart and Newman proved, in the end, to be accurate.

Ken said...

I don't take anything at face value that I hear or see. I firmly take what Ronald Reagan said "Trust but Verify". I don't think any single source is reliable. I watch sports on ESPN but I pay no attention to the commentators and other talking heads. I believe what I can see and not what is said.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:56PM,

Don't know him, never met him and frankly could care less about him.

The issue is not whether his guess turns-out to be right, it is why not one other experienced NASCAR journalist felt it necessary to report this story until it was ready.

The debate is "sourced" information vs. anonymous information for the sake of speed and publicity for ESPN.

It's a classic debate, how about getting in on it?

JD

Anonymous said...

JD,

Love the Blog, but I think it is not fair to lump Ed Werder in with some of the bad reporting during the NASCAR season. Reporters for the Dallas Morning News were ready to run with the same story until Ed Werder beat them to the punch. If there is one thing ESPN is guilty of here is trying to be the first to get the scoop.

bevo said...

As far as the Owens angle goes I have a friend who works in the Cowboys organization at Valley Ranch (not a big wig) and the story is true. Ed Werder was a beat reporter for the Dallas Morning News and covered the Cowboys for many years, he has excellent sources.

I'm certainly not a defender of ESPN but in this case they were right on. Jerry Jones had a come to Jesus meeting with Owens, Williams, Crayton, Witten and Romo about this issue. You saw the result in the interview after the Thanksgiving Day game.

SallyB said...

I haven't found ESPN creditable for some time now. The ONLY time I watch is when there is a race on. While any reporter can make an error when reporting a 'hot' rumor without some sort of verification, ESPN seems to make a career of it. Much of their programming seems to consist of a bunch of guys giving their opinions a gospel. Fine for Jerry Springer, not what I expect from a 'professional' sports network.

Daly Planet Editor said...

bevo,

The other side of that coin is that no matter the validity, how wide do you open Pandora's Box?

I put this column together after emails from fans that were as convinced as you are that this story was totally fabricated.

The only way to offer sports journalism on a national level that allows the issue to be presented as valid is to present a credible source.

Otherwise, you encourage anyone and everyone to create stories simply for the exposure for the reporter and the network. Many are convinced this is a good example of that.

With people like Joe Paterno, Miguel Tejada, Ron Hornaday Jr., and Terrell Owens on the receiving end of such treatment, how can ESPN continue to be viewed as credible on the commentary of the live events and the studio programs?

I think the price for the company as a whole is too high. Name the source or hold the story is the only policy that will restore this company to the level of credibility it used to have ten years ago.

JD

Anthony said...

I do enjoy most of ESPN's programming, but I can't stand their NASCAR coverage and I can't stand their T.O. coverage. Now, as an aspiring journalist myself, I don't want to slam Ed Werder in particular. I have always found him to be a good and respectable reporter.

With Owens, it's hard to say if ESPN "created" the story or if T.O. is simply trying to point the blame at Werder just to get into the spotlight even more. Owens loves attention, so blaming Ed might be his way of striking back at the network and starting a feud.

If it really is false, however, I don't know if you can blame the reporters or their bosses. From the journalism classes I have had at college, most of these controversial decisions come from the editors and business staff--not from the reporters themselves.

So again, I don't want to slam Werder, but the people inside ESPN's business and editorial departments need to rethink a lot of things.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anthony,

You make a great point. Guys like Werder and Newton have been around for a while and had no problems.

Why all of a sudden this shift in reporting from traditional journalism to anonymous "gotcha" stories?

The popular opinions are that ESPN is now fighting the ka-zillion sports blogs that are popping-up in almost every sport or that ESPN is facing pressure to be "first" on every story in order to be the sports content source that goes viral on the 'Net.

JD

ri88girl said...

I agree with Dot, BSPN should be fined 1 million dollars and put on indefinet susension...not double secret probation.

I'm afraid that ESPN will increase its use of this type of reporting due to the difficult economy. They are clearly in this for the money only, and the fact that they think NASCAR is a joke to begin with, only makes it easier to use it as a whipping boy.

I don't believe anything that doesn't come out of the mouth of Rickey Craven, AB, DJ, Andy or Mary Smith. I feel their true allegancy lies with NASCAR and only that gives me faith in them. I can form that opinion because I have been around for a while,unfortunatly for NASCAR what the rest of America knows about it comes from the world wide dealer in sports. This will not help us with the new President when the big 3 are trying to convince him that a big ad buy for any race on ANY network, or sponsoring teams is a worthwhile use of TARP moeny from the taxpayer. ESPN, SPEED and all the media would help the sport by showing how intgral it is to tourism throughout the country. Not to mention the local economies around the tracks. I can't make a case for NASCAR as a to important to fail industry, but Brian France didn't make as good a case to congress as he could have if he'd gotten his head out of the Cheetoz bag.

Broomfield, Colorado said...

ESPiN has been, and always will be a "hype" network. But it's really not very different from the early days of reporting back, say, 100 years ago. Look what they(media) did to guys like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, etc. There is an old line from "The Man who shot Liberty Valance", that goes, "If the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
I am not giving any excuses for that crummy network, because frankly, The world would be a better place without them, but they are an old dog, who can't seem to learn the new trick of courtesy, respect, and dignity.
As a side note, I can't believe that Marty Smith sold his soul to the Devil to work there. I'd rather end up homeless with my integrity, than make six figures for a clown network.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Daly, I come from Philadelphia and we had to put up with T.O.s antics for a year.
He is a talented player, but beyond that he is a toxic and disruptive influence to a team.
I think Mr. Werdner reported the facts.
Please stop treating Terrill Owens like a persecuted saint, he's far from it.

Anonymous said...

Nixon was brought down due to anonymous sources. I have no problem with ESPN, or anyone else in the news media using anonymous sources.

These athletes chose a profession that put themselves in the public spotlight. Its the news media's responsiblity to so whatever it takes to publicly humiliate and rip these highly paid "athletes" to shreds even if there is only the slightest hint of a potential negative story. If the media isn't doing this, they aren't doing their job.

If Hornaday and Owens don't like it, they can go and do something else for a living.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think ESPN just has the balls to say what no one else will. I love SPEED Channel and what JR and Spencer and Kenny do. They have a good schtick and make me laugh a lot. But when I want to know what's really going on I find Marty Smith and David Newton. They will tell you what is what, without KOA all the time. Sometimes they're wrong, but rarely. And if they mention it, you know it's being talked about in the sport.

Jojaye said...

Some months back my hubby & I made a very deliberate decision to only watch BSPN only for live sports events. It was during the Ron Hornaday lynching by BSPN. We canceled our magazine subscription, & told them why.
We no longer listen to BSPN radio, watch those awful yak fests regularly. And the few times we watched PTI Kornheiser was just rude about NASCAR.

They (BSPN) are in it for the money only. They have no none not a drop of journalistic integrity - no real journalists on staff period. Not covering any sport. The credibility they built up over the years early on has long since evaporated in the mists of time.

I dread (yes dread) BSPN & its "reporting" this year. If things weren't that bad last year - with the economy meltdown they will be working that much harder to bait drivers, get sponsors ticked enough to leave,and generally be the knife in the back of every one & every thing NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

For far too long, the media has done nothing but kiss NASCAR's backside in fear of being shut out and blacklisted. Finally, and organization steps up and refuses to be afraid or intimidated by what NASCAR may do to them.

I can only imagine the number of negative stories that have been burried over the years by the threats from NASCAR.

It may make some people unhappy, but I'm glad hard news is finally getting out. NASCAR is no longer a small, regional group that can yield total control with an iron fist over all aspects of the sport. NASCAR has grown up, in both national appeal, and $$$$$$. Hand in hand with that comes increased media scrutiny. NASCAR can't have its cake and eat it too.

3bud said...

ESPN and the Hornaday BS really got me going, but in NASCAR this year alone they have targeted Jr., Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman,Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer Casey Mears the fans NASCAR and anyone else they can. ESPN is The World Wide Bully in Sports. So much of it is made up or at least made to sell. Kind of like The WWE except with them you know what you are getting is made up to sell. To ESPN all I can say is "Ba Humbug"!!

Anonymous said...

You can't believe a word you hear on TV, Radio or the Internet today, they ALL have their own agenda!!!

glenc1 said...

I just think this is the wrong comparison. The story about TO appears to be accurate, as bevo and others pointed out--most of them are, despite what he claims. The story about Hornaday wasn't (at least, it misrepresented the facts.) Plus, it was unfair to ambush the man in the guise of doing something else, as if it was 60 Minutes going after some crook. T.O. lives flamboyantly, and he deserves whatever he gets...he craves that media attention and everything with it. Hornaday is a racer. For most of these guys, they crave publicity mostly for their sponsors. Big difference. And remember the stories about Brett Favre, which turned out to be true, just as I figured they would (I think he used the media mill to help get it done.) They aided and abetted, but it was obviously done with legit 'sources'. ESPN doesn't seem to know how to cover NASCAR, and I think that's where the problem is. Perhaps the PTB thought a 'sensational' angle would work, but NASCAR isn't like other stick and ball sports, as we constantly point out. As for their 'journalistic' credibility--I agree with those who have supported 'anonymous' sources. If a reporter has a good reputation, then you can usually trust him to tell the truth even if his sources don't want to be named. But that reputation takes time to build--much easier to do with a beat reporter who follows a team than a network reporter whose network has only been seriously covering the sport (again) for a couple of seasons. ESPN needs to cultivate more professionals who get their ducks in a row before going public in the interest of 'the scoop'.

bevo said...

JD,

I understand your point about this. As far as the issue of credibility goes I make my decision based on the individual reporter, not the organization. For issues that really matter to me I look at their history of reporting. Unfortunately with the consolidation of media there are all kinds of conflicts and that is why I believe blogs like this one are so important. The freedom of the Internet was an accident and we are now seeing the same efforts to control and consolidate with ISP's and Google.

Hope I didn't stray too far off the subject there.

When I watch Evernham, Waltrip and others I do so with the belief that they do have agendas. As long as I do that it's no problem. In a perfect world that would not be necessary but it's a natural result of bringing insiders into the broadcast.

Garry said...

To Anon:11:44. How dare you suggest that Hornaday can take it somewhere else. You obviously have no clue about his story or what was "reported" as facts. He has a skin condition, and he applied cream to it, to prevent it from worsening. It had nothing to do with Performance enhancement, or illegality.
"These athletes chose a profession that put themselves in the public spotlight. Its the news media's responsiblity to so whatever it takes to publicly humiliate and rip these highly paid "athletes" to shreds even if there is only the slightest hint of a potential negative story. If the media isn't doing this, they aren't doing their job".
What kind of a person are you that demands humiliation of people publicly? Plus I didn't know that the media's "lone" responsibility is to "rip people to shreds". You are a sadist, and should not be allowed to have a voice on this, or any other blog.

Richard in N.C. said...

I feel that EESPN has developed a real credibility problem, which was not always there, because now entertainment tonight takes precedence over real reporting.

It seems pretty clear to me that TO is on EESPN's short hit list - the list of athletes who must always be reported in the negative- so I am always skeptical now of anything EESPN reports about TO until I hear some confirmation from another, unrelated source. I am a big NFL fan and watch EESPN frequently (except Sunday) to follow what is going on. EESPN has some really good and some really lousy coverage of the NFL. As best as I can recall, I have never heard any other receiver for whom EESPN reports passes dropped except for TO.

As I recall, Werder cited unnnamed sources in his report and TO disputed what Werder had reported- which is not necessarily, entirely a criticism of Werder, although that is how EESPN took it. I wonder if a memo comes down periodically reminding EESPN personnel to say nothing positive about those on its hit list.

Richard in N.C. said...

When it comes to accuracy, I don't think NASCAR gets treated much worse than any other sport by EESPN. Up to a point, I believe EESPN is so arrogant and believes it has so much power that it is unconcerned with the accuracy of its so-called reporting as long as it can refer to rumors or unnamed sources - since it believes in a day or 2 what it has reported will be mostly forgotten. In general I put most of EESPN on the same journalistic level as PEOPLE magazine and Entertainment Tonight.

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for David Newton, one of the few reporters to report when he has the story instead of waiting around for the garage to tell him it's okay to run with it. Some journalists like to operate independent of NASCAR's agenda, and I applaud them.

In my opinion, when it comes to reporting on Stewart/Newman this year (all of the reporting of which proved to be totally accurate), I think it is pretty clear that his sources were either the drivers themselves or else those with firsthand knowledge. Why anonymous? Because these contract negotiations and annoucnements preclude them from talking to the press on the record. So they do it on background or anonymously. David Newton has editors and they obviously either trust his judgment or else know who his sources are. After all, Newton just reports what he knows, it is up to the editors to decide if it is newsworthy or not.

I think Newton gets a bad rap because he seems to lack a friendly personality and he doesn't seem to "fit in" with a lot of the other scribes assigned to the garage. But he still does his job and does it well. He did a lot of reporting this year in which he made the story and then a few days later everyone else followed. And his reporting was accurate. Good for him.

midasmicah said...

I don't know how many times I've said it (I've lost count). ESPU is nothing more and nothing less then the paparazzi of sports. If there is no story they'll create one even if it hurts or even destroys a sports figures career. They don't care as long as they get their story. It doesn't seem to matter which sport it is. What was once a reputable sports entity has become a parody of what they once were. I'm not a Terrell Owens fan, but because of his past, ESPN figures that anything they put out there will be taken by the fans as gospel. The media has become a bunch of pompous vultures feeding on athletes fortunes, good or bad. Mostly bad. ESPU's present day tactics make me want to throw up at times. Thanks for listening.

Deborah said...

Garry at 3:20, Hornday's use of steroids wasn't to treat a skin condition, he claimed it was to treat some other medical issue. It's interesting to note that ESPN was supposedly so off-base with their reporting of the Hornaday story but when NASCAR tests for drugs next month, they've now included performance enhancers on the list of drugs they'll be testing both crew chiefs and drivers for. Maybe that's an indication that NASCAR was a little more concerned with the Hornaday situation and performance enhancers - as they should have been given the truck-sized holes in his story - then they said at the time.

It's acceptable for reporters to use anonymous sources under certain conditions. The preference is to use a source who is willing to go on the record but most media outlets will allow their reporters to use anonymous sources within certain guidelines. It's essential that news outlets be able to use anonymous sources, particularly when doing investigative reporting because whistle-blowers and others who have something to lose can't go on record.

There are times when I don't care for the way ESPN covers NASCAR. As a Michael Waltrip fan I didn't like them playing Clint Bowyer's comment about him as I though it added nothing to the story of the race and only served to make both drivers look bad. However, there are just as many times when they have legitimate news stories - and most of the stories cited here are legitimate news stories like it or not - those should be reported even if it makes people in the garage area and the fans unhappy to hear about it.

GinaV24 said...

Well, interesting that ESPN decided to do to the NFL the same thing they did to NASCAR -- a little journalism, electronic version. Has the NFL reacted to this at all I wonder? I'm betting they'd be a little more powerful in their response than NASCAR was.

At any rate, you asked how does ESPN's way of covering NASCAR affect me as a fan? Well, pretty much, I don't believe much of anything they have to say. A lot of it depends on which reporter is doing the story as to whether or not I think I will give any credence to what they are reporting. Most of the time, because of the poor coverage of Nascar-related "news" on ESPN, in particular the hit and run on Ron Hornaday, I don't pay a lot of attention. If they are supposed to be the world-wide leader in sports coverage, well, they don't cover MY world with anything that I can't find somewhere else and can believe. Overrated and pompus, that about defines what ESPN is to me.

Zieke said...

Aaaah, T.O. is in the headlines again. What else is new? He loves the spotlight, and the Cowboys (I am a fan) love it too. Believe it folks, Jerry Jones is a very smart businessman. He knows that some (or alot of) baggage comes with these players. However they are available at the right price. See Tank, Roy, and Pacman. I think Jerry would marry a woman with 5 kids if the benefits (fill in your own) outweighed the baggage. It seems that Ed is a respectable person-maybe he jumped a little soon on the Dallas story. But if he did anything truly damaging, I bet Jerry has had or soon will have a little chat with him... and everything will be right with "America's Team" again.

Rockin Rich said...

I wasn't going to weigh in on this, but here I am anyway.

It's terrible to admit, but I refuse to read any BSPN writer except Marty Smith, and Ed Hinton. That means that I probably don't get to see some potentially good articles, and interesting opinions.

However, I really get turned off by the "dirty laundry" style of ambush reporting, and creating of conflict story creation. I get particularly exercised when the inept and extremely unknowledgeable BSPN pit reporters try to bait the drivers, crew chiefs, or other interviewees.

I am not saying that all BSPN pit reporters are that way, but some certainly are. I do enjoy it when some of the interviewees, (Stewart and Kyle Busch first come to mind), are uncooperative with them.

Some people, including some readers here, have called this behavior rude. I call it giving the "dirty laundry" reporters their just due. I wish a lot more of the interviewees that are ambushed, or have to suffer the gross ineptness of these so called reporters would do the same thing.

Merry Christmas, or a Happy Chanukah, or a Kool Kawanzaa to all of TDP's fine readers. I certainly hope that this economic mess we are in doesn't significantly affect your quality of life.

Richard in N.C. said...

Rockin Rich- You might have noticed that I am a frequent EESPN complainer. Nevertheless, I do highly recommend Ryan McGee. He is an exceptional writer and very knowledgeable - even better than Marty.