Richard Deitsch of SI.com did a nice breakdown this morning on the issues with Josina Anderson’s shower story involving Michael Sam.
While Anderson took the brunt of the fallout, Deitsch’s post is a reminder that these reports don’t happen in a vacuum at large news organizations like ESPN. It is a process that involves producers, editors, and even the director of the news operation.
The direction of Anderson’s story could have been stopped or altered along the way.
Also, Anderson was not solely responsible for the piece making air. If she followed protocol, which it appears she did, she would have had to have been in contact with multiple producers in Bristol as well as ESPN’s news desk for a review of whatever content she had. Given this was sensitive information, multiple people had to green-light the report.
Later, Deitsch wrote:
Furthermore, Anderson was hurt by the decision by SportsCenter producers to run the piece live instead of taped, especially given the nature of the reporting. One ESPN source said someone in production should have saved the reporter from a difficult live segment that needed more than 120 seconds. ESPN’s initial response and subsequent backtracking didn’t help Anderson either. The network initially justified the report by saying it was in response to recent questions about Sam fitting in with the Rams, but no players, coaches or league officials publicly were asking about the impact of Sam’s showering habits on the Rams. The intro to her report starts with Sam’s chances of making the team before transitioning into an ESPN-driven question on how he was fitting in. Once Rams defensive lineman Chris Long called out ESPN on Twitter and the heat started coming, the network switched course and apologized.
Deitsch also slams ESPN for not making Anderson available to talk about her reporting for the story. Maybe it is me, but I find it extremely hypocritical when news-gathering organizations, who depend on access from players, coaches and executives, turn around and deny the same when it comes to their people.
ESPN did Anderson no favors by declining to make her available. An explanation of the reporting process would have, if nothing else, helped her with reasonable people interested in how something like this makes air. It might have also reduced some of the social media vitriol she’s had to deal with last week. It was a missed opportunity for clarity in exchange for attempting to jettison the story.