Thursday, January 30, 2014

ESPN's ombudsman follows up on the Dr. V story.

The source material is here: Heavy reading: A golf club, an outing, a suicide and Frank Sinatra. Robert Lipsyte's job is that of ombudsman:

ESPN appointed Robert Lipsyte for an 18-month term as ombudsman to offer independent examination and analysis of ESPN's television, radio, print and digital offerings.

For thoughts on ombudsman position in contemporary journalism, go here:

But in practice, the ombudsman jobs at such institutions as the Post and the New York Times have served primarily as safety shields for newspapers, with the ombudsmen catching, deflecting or containing the flak tossed by readers.

Finally, Lipsyte examine the Dr. V piece at Grantland:

Dr. V story understandable, inexcusable, by Robert Lipsyte (ESPN Ombudsman)

A young golfer’s obsession with an oddly shaped putter invented by a mysterious scientist and endorsed on YouTube? I will give that kind of story no more than a few paragraphs to grab my interest before I bail out, even if it is featured on a site known for compelling storytelling.

Just a few moments into reading that very story recently on Grantland, it was shaping up as another one of those bloated selfies that clog the arteries of sports-lit these days.

Four graphs and I was gone.

Thus, even though “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” was hastily hailed in the Twitterverse as another long-form masterpiece, I didn’t get back to it until after what would turn out to be a powerful backlash -- an angry and anguished firestorm captured in this e-mail to the ombudsman from Brenna Winsett of Minneapolis:

“If ESPN writers can hound a transgender person to death over something like a golf club, is there any line they won't cross?” she wrote. “This garbage makes a mockery of this woman's life and encourages readers to view transgender people's identities as frauds.”

Now, the story had my attention.

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