Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ms. Schreiber And The Schrutebag.

As promised, new ESPN ombudswoman Le Anne Schreiber has written a missive regarding the disruption of The Big Lead by Schrutebag last week, and does not mince words:

Some of the politer terms my correspondents used to describe Cowherd's behavior were immature, irresponsible, arrogant, malicious, destructive and dumb. I agree. The official response from ESPN's communication department was: "Our airwaves should not be used for this purpose. We apologize." It is the kind of bland public statement that does little to assuage the anger and distrust of ESPN's audience over an episode like this.

I'm impressed.

"We talked to Colin Cowherd, and we talked to all our radio talent, making it clear that you cannot do this," [ESPN Radio President Traug] Keller said Friday. "Our airwaves are a trust, and not to be used to hurt anyone's business. Such attacks are off limits. Zero tolerance. I can't say it any stronger." Keller said that he had not formulated a policy about such attacks on Internet sites until now because he had never imagined the possibility of them...Now that ESPN Radio has such a policy, I presume such attacks will be treated as an offense that warrants suspension. In determining penalties for his airwave players, perhaps Keller should exchange notes with NBA commissioner David Stern and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

I'll take that at face value, for now. You can't necessarily predict your hosts will do something that stupid or petty. However, the real test is if Schrutebag or someone else does it again -- will that host actually be suspended or fired? I don't have any reason to take ESPN at its word unless something like that actually happens. Essentially, all we can take from this is the mild comfort that the head thinks this was an unacceptable act, but if it were that bad to them (and it was), why not a suspension right off the bat? It shouldn't require another DoS attack to see if the policy works.

I'm also concerned that Schreiber didn't address whether Schrutebag's actions were potentially illegal (an anonymous commenter left this link on federal law about the matter); maybe a quick call to legal would be nice. However, it's at least an acknowledgment that this was completely unacceptable. I can deal with that -- for now. Let's hope we never have to see what the new "zero tolerance" policy on this would actually entail.

(Aside: Schreiber's first column said she would only pop in once a month after her initial few columns, much like her predecessor -- I think this is a bad idea, actually. A weekly or every-other-week reader's rep column would be better.)

UPDATE: It's worth it to link to a couple lists of those of you who posted entries about Schrutebag's behavior, and I bet a bunch of you probably wrote Ms. Schreiber. Good on you if you did that.

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