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ESPN Hires Jim Brady For New Ombudsman Role

Jason Barrett

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Jim Brady, an award-winning editor and news executive with more than 20 years of experience in digital news, has been named ESPN’s public editor, making him the sixth in line to hold the position formerly known as ombudsman. He will assume his new duties Nov. 15 and will serve an 18-month term.

Brady will offer independent examination, critique and analysis of ESPN’s programming and news coverage on television, digital, print, audio and other media. The role will include written pieces on ESPN.com, podcasts and use of social media, with additional timely responses as issues arise.

“In these transcendent times for media, ESPN is serving more fans across more platforms and more devices in more global locations than ever before,” said Patrick Stiegman, vice president and editorial director for ESPN Digital & Print Media and chairman of ESPN’s Editorial Board. “We are proud of our commitment to the ombudsman role over the past decade, and believe those who have occupied that chair have mutually benefitted fans and ESPN.

“We are updating the title to ‘public editor’ to better reflect the goal of transparency and advocacy for fans, especially in this increasingly multimedia world,” Stiegman said. “And given the multitude of touch points we have with our audience, it’s imperative that the public editor have the breadth of experience and journalistic credibility to serve as an advocate and explainer for fans across all media.”

Brady is the CEO of Spirited Media, which operates the mobile news platform Billy Penn in Philadelphia. His career includes work in both digital and print media. Brady helped launch and then later served as both sports editor and then executive editor of WashingtonPost.com, leading the site to multiple honors including a national Emmy, four Edward R. Murrow Awards and a Peabody. Prior to that he was sports editor of Digital Ink, the first new media undertaking of the Washington Post.

Brady has also served as editor-in-chief of Digital First Media, where he oversaw 75 daily newspapers, 292 non-daily publications and 341 online sites, and in multiple executive positions at AOL, including group programming director, news & sports; executive director, editorial operations; and vice president, production & operations. He oversaw AOL’s coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2000 presidential election.

“After a thorough review of the role and potential candidates, it is clear that Jim’s deep knowledge of the industry, impressive editorial record and passion for sports — and the fact his own career has traversed the evolution of media — make him an appropriate choice,” said Stiegman.

“This role is not about playing critic, per se, but instead helping demystify ESPN for fans, explaining our culture and standards, and commenting on journalism, coverage and programming decisions. Jim’s experience across multiple platforms and major media companies are ideally suited for both the public editor role and our desire for accountability, transparency and improvement related to all aspects of ESPN coverage.”

Brady has been a board member of the Online News Association since 2005 and a past president. In addition, he is on the boards of the American Society of News Editors and the National Press Foundation, on the National Advisory Board of the Poynter Institute and on the advisory boards of GlobalPost, Kaiser Health News, The American University School of Communication and the Fiscal Times.

“To me, ESPN has always been one of the most fascinating media companies on the planet,” said Brady. “Whether it’s managing extremely complicated relationships with professional leagues, trying to stay ahead of its ever-growing list of competitors or adapting its business in an ever-changing media landscape, ESPN faces fascinating challenges. This made serving as public editor too good an opportunity to pass up. I look forward to getting started.”

Previous ESPN ombudsmen included George Solomon (2005-07), Le Anne Schreiber (2007-2008), Don Ohlmeyer (2009-2010), The Poynter Institute (2011-2012) and Robert Lipsyte (2013-2014).

Sports TV News

Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”

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Thursday Night Football

In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.

During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.

ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.

NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.

Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.

One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.

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Sports TV News

Michael Irvin Removed From NFL Network Super Bowl Coverage

“I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds.”

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A complaint from a female to NFL Network has caused the network to remove Michael Irvin from its Super Bowl coverage.

NFL Network did not comment on the nature of the complaint or the allegation of any impropriety by Irvin, simply stating Irvin would not be a participant in coverage of the event from Arizona.

“Michael Irvin will not be a part of NFL Network’s Super Bowl LVII week coverage,” said NFL Media Vice President of Communications Alex Riethmiller in a statement.

Irvin claimed the interaction happened during a brief moment Sunday after having dinner and drinks with former Cowboy defensive back Michael Brooks.

“This all happened in a 45-second conversation in the lobby,” Irvin told The Dallas Morning News. “When I got back after going out … I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds. We shook hands. Then, I left…That’s all I know.”

Irvin, 56, admitted he didn’t recall the conversation between him and the female but called the interaction “just a friendly conversation”. He defended himself by saying “There was definitely nothing physical”.

The report from The Dallas Morning News added that Glendale police officials do not know about any incident regarding Irvin.

A report from Front Office Sports claims ESPN executives are “poised to pull the plug” on Irvin’s scheduled appearance on First Take from Radio Row Friday.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer has been with NFL Network since 2009, and in August of last year signed an extension to remain with the cable channel.

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Sports TV News

Pro Bowl Lowest Rated Since 2006

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues.

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The NFL completely revamped its Pro Bowl format for the 2022 season, and the changes did not garner more viewers.

An average of 6.28 million viewers tuned into the event across ABC, ESPN, and DisneyXD Sunday for the first 7-on-7 event. That number is a decrease of 6% compared to last year and is the lowest-rated Pro Bowl since the 2006 event saw just 5.96 million viewers. That figure excludes the 2021 Pro Bowl, which was a “virtual” event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest-rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues, with the MLB All-Star Game seeing an average viewership of 7.51 million. The 6.28 million who watched the Pro Bowl is a virtual tie with last season’s NBA All-Star Game.

The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge — now produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions — did see a large increase in viewership compared to last year. More than 1 million viewers tuned into the Thursday night primetime event, which is the second-best figure on record. That audience is a 23% increase compared to last year’s event.

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