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ESPN Ombudsman Returns From Summer Vacation

After a two-month hiatus, ESPN Ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer chimed in on his thoughts on ESPN.com pulling Arash Markazi‘s column on LeBron James and the recent arrest of Jay Mariotti.

Writing for the first time since July 21, Ohlmeyer went into great detail the editing process at ESPN.com and why the editors decided to ax Markazi’s recap of a night in Las Vegas with LeBron James.

And no, according to Ohlmeyer, it had nothing to do with protecting their relationship with James:

The more the editors contemplated Markazi’s story and how it was gathered, the less it felt like a news report and the more it felt like tabloid “gotcha” journalism.Since the interaction was not on the record, it became eavesdropping on James’ private life, even in a public place. Reporting on something that ultimately seemed more voyeuristic than important raised pertinent internal questions. Was it fair? Balanced? Were any ethical lines crossed? Is this the kind of journalism ESPN wants to be known for? This is the type of thing we hate when others do it to us, so why would we do it to someone else? King made the final decision not to republish the piece.

While Ohlmeyer makes a fair and convincing argument, the public has already passed judgement on ESPN.

Unfortunately, ESPN has nobody to blame for how sports fans feel about the network’s relationship with James but themselves.

As for the lack of coverage around Mariotti on ESPN, Ohlmeyer raised the question with Vince Doria, ESPN’s senior vice president and director of news:

“We reported on the Mariotti arrest [all day Saturday] on ‘SportsCenter’ and on The Bottom Line,” Doria said. “In general, ESPN has not covered media personalities to the same degree and emphasis that we do athletes, teams, leagues, associations, etc. When sports media figures find themselves in the news, we report it, but in most cases, don’t spend a lot of time discussing, debating or speculating on the outcome because we don’t believe it carries great interest for our audience in general.”

So, if you were looking for coverage around Mariotti’s Oct. 1 arraignment and can’t find it on ESPN.com, check out SportsNewser, who will be tweeting from the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

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