ESPN compromises credibility


    The Duke University lacrosse team rape scandal. The deaths of 30-year-old IndyCar driver Paul Dana and 28-year-old Army women’s basketball coach Maggie Dixon. The Major League Baseball steroids probe. Sometimes, what you’re seeing on SportsCenter gets just as serious as anything you see on CNN.

    When you see the harder side of sports covered on ESPN, you expect the same seriousness and respect paid to these matters as you would from CNN. Most would also assume the same credibility and autonomy.

    But the line between where news ends and sports entertainment begins is blurred often with ESPN. With the launch of the reality series “Bonds on Bonds” on ESPN2 and an ESPN campaign to promote the show, the boundary has become murkier than ever.

    The show features San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds being Barry Bonds – trying to give the fan insight into one of baseball’s most scorned stars. It was produced before specific allegations of steroid use surfaced against Bonds in the book “Game of Shadows” published last month.

    For ESPN to ensure its credibility as a news outlet, the network should have pulled “Bonds on Bonds” from its programming lineup or at least made every effort to set a boundary between its sports news coverage and a series featuring Bonds’ unadulterated opinion.

    But instead, “Baseball Tonight,” a show dedicated to providing all the day’s baseball news, has suspiciously launched a series of Bonds’ 20 greatest moments.

    Why would ESPN choose to celebrate Bonds greatest feats?

    Maybe the network is celebrating a legend in the 20th year of a storied career.

    Maybe ESPN is going out of its way to soften the image of a vilified star attached to the network’s hope of higher profits.

    It’s a question viewers shouldn’t have to ask.

    News editor Mike Dwyer for the editorial board.