When exactly did ESPN lose its journalistic integrity? It's a difficult question to answer, but one that certainly needs to be asked in light of the Bruce Feldman fiasco. Granted, trying to sort through the answer to this question is an exercise more suited for an educated journalism professor or the Poynter Institute instead of a sports fan who's a grad student in chemistry. Although, I will spare you ten minutes reading Poynter's response to the situation by summing it up in one word... weak. Our own Ben Koo took down Poynter's lame response in grand style yesterday.
In fact, any critique of ESPN, either by bloggers or their own ombudsman, may be entirely fruitless. Attempting any criticism of ESPN at this point is like attacking a battleship with a BB Gun. Quite simply, ESPN is a monopoly sports fans can't live without. Many are of the mindset that we as fans should just accept ESPN's faults and learn to live with them, no matter how glaring they grow by the day.
But, stop to consider what we've been through the last several days. Even though the #FreeBruce revolution on Twitter will quickly be forgotten, ESPN sat (we can play semantics all we want) a man with supreme journalistic integrity for merely doing a job he'd already been approved to do. So why the "enforced period of inactivity?" Apparently because writer Bruce Feldman helped confirm the worst fears about fellow ESPNer Craig James and shed light on the shady practices of supposed straight news reporter Joe Schad. As if the "suspension" alone weren't bad enough though, ESPN's lame PR statement failed to hide their mistakes throughout the Mike Leach story.
Apparently, ESPN and Poynter would like all of us to get caught up in the semantics of the word suspension and feel guilty for being bad bloggers by spreading mean, nasty rumors. And while no amount of blog posts, boycotts, and hashtags will make a sizable dent in what's left of the mothership's appearance of integrity, we as sports fans have a right to examine the credibility gap now present at ESPN. Ask yourself, how long will it take to fully believe ESPN again when it reports the news? How long should your skepticism last? If the lessons of #FreeBruce aren't forgotten within our ADHD 24-hour news cycle, the credibility gap between ESPN and its viewers should be permanently at the forefront of fans' minds...