ESPN Does Away With Ombudsman Position, Hires Poynter Instead

The “Worldwide Leader” decides to outsource traditional watchdog role to journalism institute

ESPN announced on Thursday that the network is taking the talents of the Poynter Insitute to Bristol to handle the watchdog role traditionally filled by an ombudsman.

It's an interesting, experimental move. The Poynter Review Project, as they're calling it, will "review ESPN content across all platforms and publicly comment on ESPN's efforts" and publish "monthly essays and additional timely responses as issues arise."

ESPN will retain Poynter for 18 months — the same amount of time it afforded to its most recent ombudsman, Don Ohlmeyer.

John Walsh, ESPN's executive vice president, said the network's goal is "to improve our content through increased accountability, transparency and timeliness."

Walsh added: "We believe The Review will take the traditional ombudsman role and advance it for the 21st century media world.”

Poynter's point people on the ESPN project are Kelly McBride, Regina McCombs and former Philadelphia Inquirer managing editor Butch Ward.

Ohlmeyer took some heat following the network’s hideous handling of LeBron James and “The Decision,” its infamously staged one-hour special.

The day after “The Decision” aired, Ohlmeyer did not mention it in his column, turning his attention instead to ESPN’s World Cup coverage and the decision not to mute the incessant vuvuzela buzz while broadcasting the games.

But what Ohlmeyer lacked in urgency, he made up for in volume — later filing roughly 4,664 words, many of them harsh, on “The Decision.”