ESPN To Radio Hosts: Stick To Management Script

Tuesday a book about ESPN, called Those Guys Have All The Fun, was released to the public. Co-Author Jim Miller, who was granted access to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters to conduct interviews with company employees for the book, hit the promotional media trail the same day to encourage sales of his 763-page work.

Those Tuesday appearances included stops on the national ESPN radio shows Mike and Mike In The Morning, The Scott Van Pelt Show and The Doug Gottlieb Show.

Though the book includes a minumum of negative material involving anyone at ESPN not already known for notorious behavior, it may have come as a surprise to some that ESPN would promote even a quasi-controversial endeavor about the company to its national audience.

Though from what I was told this week about the circumstances of Miller’s radio appearances that day, ESPN management did everything in its power to control what was asked of the author by the hosts of the shows.

When Miller was booked on the shows two weeks ago, ESPN management took the highly unusual step of drawing up talking points, in the form of six questions, that it highly encouraged on-air hosts adhere to while interviewing Miller.

Along with those talking points, ESPN management asked some of those involved in each show to make sure the word “dominate” was not used while engaging Miller on the air.

Needless to say, some of those involved in each show weren’t exactly overjoyed at the idea. In the case of Van Pelt and Russillo, I was told they flatly refused to entertain ESPN management’s suggested questions.

Thursday I went back and listened to all three interviews, and what I heard did little to dispute the notion that ESPN management did in fact attempt to control what was asked of ESPN book author Miller.

The first question of each interview is particularly striking, considering it was the same query in all three cases.

To paraphrase, Miller was asked, “Why ESPN?

From there, the interviews come off as - at best - perfunctory, with a noticeable lack of followup to Miller’s answers.

Miller was given a mere five minutes by Greenberg & Golic and Gottlieb while Miller’s audience with Van Pelt & Russillo lasted seven minutes.

None of that analysis is an indictment of any of those involved in the shows, on or off-air. If ESPN management saw fit to allow Miller to promote his book about ESPN over the company’s national radio airwaves, it had absolutely no business calling into question the professionalism of any of its on-air talent. (Which is what it did with the absurd talking points.)

If you ever wanted a material example of what monopoly wrought on an industry, the abject arrogance of ESPN executives in asserting editorial demands on its on-air talent is it.

UPDATE (4:42am PT): In lieu of the above revelation, a rather unfortunate quote from ESPN Network Senior VP/General Manager Mo Davenport from a post on this week touting the opening of the new ESPN radio studios on June 1:

“ESPN Radio consumers are no longer simply radio listeners. The June 1 festivities will celebrate our commitment to ensure that fans not only get their ESPN Radio content how they want it, but also when they want it, and where they want it.”

ESPN is a huge company with lots and lots of pot-tasters. In this particular case, the Gordon Ramsays involved did not come from the ranks of radio programming personnel.

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