Deadspin’s Koblin on ESPN: ‘They have been dumb’; says his coverage of network is fair

The quotes stood out.

John Koblin, who covers ESPN for Deadspin, said in a recent interview with Gelf Magazine: “The second ESPN stops being so dumb, sure, sports media won’t be nearly as fun a beat.”

Later, he said: “Well I used to cover places like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and Conde Nast and I can tell you ESPN is much dumber, and plays fast-and-loose with fairly standard journalistic practices far more, than any of those other media organizations.”

OK, now.

I don’t think I’m breaking any news by saying that Deadspin has made its mark in part by taking on ESPN. Koblin has been very aggressive in reporting on the network since coming over to the site earlier this year.

I called Koblin to discuss his comments. I asked if his statement about having fun with ESPN being dumb implies that he is on the “Let’s-catch-them-with-their-pants-down beat?” I came away with that impression, and several folks at the ESPN feel the same way. The comment, in my mind, reinforced the notion that Deadspin is out to get ESPN.

Among the many reasons why ESPN would have that view is the headline for a 2012 year-in-review piece: “The Year in ESPN being dumb.”

Koblin, though, expressed surprise that folks at ESPN believe he and Deadspin have an agenda toward the network.

“Really? I’m not familiar with their problems of my agenda,” Koblin said. “The comment was tongue in cheek. ESPN being dumb, I was trying to make a funny. I hope it came across that way.

“I have no agenda. There’s no, ‘Let’s-catch-them-with-their-pants-down.’ With that being said, I am a reporter with a point of view. And let’s face it, ESPN has been dumb over the last month. The Rob Parker situation, Tebow, Brent Musburger, the whole John Walsh thing. You know as well as I that there have been some dumb things…But for the stories we’ve discussed, where has an agenda crept into a story?”

The “Walsh thing” has been well documented: the ESPN legend telling a college class that Koblin’s coverage of a plagiarism story involving Lynn Hoppes was influenced by a romantic rivalry over a girl. The tale became even more preposterous when Koblin, who is gay, said he had an interesting time explaining it to his boyfriend.

Koblin, though, insists that Walsh situation hasn’t affected his coverage of ESPN. “I believe I handled it with a ton of restraint,” he said.

I asked Koblin about how he views the assignment and mandate from his editors at Deadspin? Koblin replied that he has been fair and objective in his coverage. He said while covering the media for the Observer in New York, an editor told him to “cover the New York Times the way the New York Times covers the Pentagon.” Koblin said he takes the same approach regarding ESPN.

“I cover them skeptically,” Koblin said. “Considering the size and reach of ESPN, they should be covered skeptically. ESPN is bigger than the NFL. There’s nothing like ESPN in any other industry. They have a massive amount of influence in sports coverage. There are interesting and important stories there, and they are going to be vigorously reported.”

Deadspin does what it does, and Koblin is very good at it.

Does Deadspin have an agenda in its coverage of the network? You be the judge.




















One thought on “Deadspin’s Koblin on ESPN: ‘They have been dumb’; says his coverage of network is fair

  1. To view how Deadspin covers ESPN you have to look at the arc of Gawker Media coverage. The Gawker sites basically take a snarky, smartass view of the world, and they also apply that tone to “serious” journalism and not just nuggets or links. This comes across a lot on Deadspin, but Koblin is correct that there is no media outlet with more influence on sports or media than ESPN. It’s not even close. Everyone else could just go belly up and ESPN would keep on humming with barely anyone realizing they just swallowed up what they don’t already have. And given ESPN’s recent editorial history, plus its business relationships with leagues, ESPN should rightly be viewed with a tough lens. However, this doesn’t mean Deadspin is out to get ESPN in particular, but because ESPN is such a big dog, Deadspin covering it with the same lens as everyone makes it seems as if the heat is more on the Worldwide Leader when reality is just because ESPN demands so much attention by virtue of its own size and influence.

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