USA Today and MLB to Launch SportsOnEarth Web Site with Top Writing Talent

If imitation is the greatest form of flattery then ESPN and Grantland must be very happy with the latest effort from USA Today Sports Media Group and MLB Advanced Media which is launching Sports on Earth, a web site that will also focus on long form sports writing.

The site already has lined up a solid team of writers including Joe Posnanski, Tommy Tomlinson, Gwen Knapp, Shaun Powell and Mike Tanier. Some I have followed for a while others are new to me but it looks to be more than just a baseball site.

The site is sort of open, primarily with Posnanski writing from the Olympics but the site is expected top officially go live later this month. Of course, Posnanski also has a book soon to come off the presses, but it is already getting some heat. It will be interesting to see how the last chapter works out on his pending Joe Paterno biography.

The site is the first tangible result of the teaming of USA Today and MLBAM, a partnership announced at the start of the year. The plan when it was announced was to develop and deliver new content and products for sports fans and to be able to deliver the content to mobile and digital users as well as more traditional outlets.

I have high hopes. I have always found Posnanski a top writer and Tanier has the right combination of knowledge and snark in his writings on the NFL to always amuse me and he also thoughtful thoughtful. I also like longer-form stories that have substance rather than the three paragraph ‘get it out there now’ mantra that seems to prevalent in many online and print publications.

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.

Twitter is Hammering ESPN on Penn State ‘Riots’ Coverage

Calling it a riot may be premature, but the events taking place in College Station State College Wednesday night following Joe Paterno’s ouster as Penn State head coach are happening largely in the dark, thanks to some serious news misjudgements by the “worldwide leader in sports,” ESPN.

Though ESPN apparently has a reporter live in the area, for several hours following the Paterno firing ESPN had no video or even still pictures from the scenes of the controversy — the massing crowds of students on College Avenue, or a smaller crowd outside Paterno’s house.

Conversely, on the ground Twitter reports were breaking news left and right, with CBS columnist Gregg Doyal using his @greggdoyelcbs to be among the first to report news trucks being overturned. And the school paper’s blog, @psufootblog, was the first outlet we saw to report Paterno’s brief public statements to the crowd outside his house. Other tweeters posted pictures of the crowd and of the overturned trucks, at least an hour before ESPN got any still images on TV.

ESPN recovered a bit later on, with some taped interviews by reporter Tom Farrey, including one with a brave student who said, on tape, that he supported the decision and that Joe Pa had to go. There was also an interview with another student who seemed a bit possessed with anger; but throughout the crisis, ESPN’s live cameras were nowhere to be found.

ESPN’s Poynter Review team issued a report Wednesday night saying the network missed the boat when the Paterno story broke. It appears that ESPN continued to be unready for more news at Penn State like Wednesday’s firing, which was predicted by many other media types. We’ll leave it to Jason Whitlock to deliver the coda on ESPN’s coverage:

No live feed, Matich in studio, Mi Son Lee on the scene = ESPN caught w/pants down tonight.


Jason Whitlock

And it looks like CBS Sports was on the scene with more material (HT to Bleacher Report for the heads up)

UPDATE: Here’s the Daily Collegian video from outside Paterno’s house: