ESPN VP on Live Penn State Coverage: ‘We Missed the Story’

Along with other media types, Mobile Sports Report thought that ESPN’s live coverage of the turmoil surrounding the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno Wednesday night was below par for the worldwide leader in sports. Thursday ESPN executive vice president Norby Williamson agreed in part, saying that he’d like “a do-over” and that ESPN “missed the story” by not having the right kind of live coverage on the spot.

In a podcast released Thursday on ESPN’s website Williamson, the network’s executive vice president for production, discussed ESPN’s coverage of events Wednesday night. While he offered praise for ESPN’s “perspective” and its large roster of learned commentators, Williamson at several points admits that ESPN fumbled its coverage, especially by failing to provide live coverage when the activities were at fever pitch.

“We were a little remiss of our live coverage, on the ground,” Williamson says on the podcast, right around the 4:00 mark of the taping. Though ESPN had camera crews on site, including front-line talent Tom Rinaldi, Williamson said that ESPN got caught out of position and in the turmoil with students sometimes turning hostile toward news crews, were unable to move into the proper position for a live shot.

“We were a little late with that,” Williamson says, referring to the live coverage of the hottest parts of the so-called riot. “That [the live coverage] is the one thing I’d like a do-over on.”

Due to the swarming crowds — and the potential for actual harm to ESPN’s crew — the network was unable to get its cameras to where the action was, Williamson said. “Where you were is where you were,” says Williamson. “We could’ve done a better job of positioning.”

After praising competitor CNN for being better positioned, Williamson goes on to compliment the ESPN reporters on the scene for getting good interviews in the crowd, even though live on air via phone, reporter Tom Ferrey told anchors Stuart Scott and Steve Levy that he left the action after getting hit in the leg by a rock. Williamson closes his review (around the 7:30 mark) by saying simply — like we saw — that ESPN dropped the ball.

“I think we missed the story for a window there, of being live on the ground when the student insurrection happened,” Williamson says.


  1. […] notice this?) But we have seen this before — ESPN doesn’t always do so well when there isn’t a script to follow. Let’s hope the WWL is back on its industry leading form on Thursday. Because we all will be […]

Speak Your Mind