ESPN Ombudsman on What Happened With PBS Frontline Concussion Film Project: "Beats Me"

By Jason McIntyre

Just when everyone was certain ESPN pulled the plug on its joint effort with PBS chronicling concussions because the NFL said to, the network’s ombudsman pokes around, talks to sources, speaks with President John Skipper and …

"So what just happened? Beats me. At best we’ve seen some clumsy shuffling to cover a lack of due diligence. At worst, a promising relationship between two journalism powerhouses that could have done more good together has been sacrificed to mollify a league under siege. The best isn’t very good, but if the worst turns out to be true, it’s a chilling reminder how often the profit motive wins the duel."

Well, that clears everything up.

A few thoughts:

* Has anyone drawn a parallel to the Bruce Feldman book that led to his departure from the network? Similar situation – ESPN had no problem with a partnership for awhile, then, late in the game, WHOA, WHOA, WHOA WHAT ARE WE DOING panic led to a bad decision.
* Not a bad effort by Lipsyte, who at least appears willing to take on serious ESPN issues in a swift manner (something that couldn’t have been said about all previous Ombudsman)
* So Skipper was cool with 15 months of joint work, but then, as soon as the trailer came out, he got skittish A few images from a trailer were more moving to him than a 15-month body of work?
* How did Lipsyte not ask the ESPN President, “why didn’t you just go to PBS and see if you could work things out?”
* Here’s how bad of a PR disaster this was for ESPN – first, a statement from PR. Then, as the story gets worse, Skipper trots out a weak statement that didn’t mention the NFL. Now, the Ombudsman’s column will have people talking about this again today.

[Image via Hollywood Reporter]

Related: ESPN Mysteriously Pulls Out of PBS NFL Concussion Film “League of Denial”
Related: NFL Pressured ESPN to Bail on Frontline Film Due to Ongoing Fears of Concussion Lawsuits