What LeBron's Big Move Means to Journalism

Though Panned, ESPN Production Gets Top Ratings

The decision by LeBron James to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat made for television with through-the-roof ratings, the Nielsen Co. announced, even if journalists panned as over-the-top the ESPN production during which James made the announcement.


The NBA superstar's move had a less-noticed side benefit: On James' new home turf, he'll be covered by a more diverse press corps.

As reported here last month, the removal of George Thomas of the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal from the Cavaliers beat left Ohio's major media outlets with no journalists of color regularly covering James. In Miami, however, the Herald coverage will be led by Sports Editor Jorge Rojas, a past president of the Associated Press Sports Editors who is Hispanic, with beat writer Michael Wallace, a Grambling State University graduate who is African American, and columnist Israel Gutierrez, a regular on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" who is Hispanic, also in the mix.


"If you're done pinching yourself, done rewinding the footage to make sure it was the words 'Miami' and 'Heat' and 'Dwyane Wade' that were actually coming out of his mouth, done hyperventilating while checking the Web to see if the Heat individual game tickets are on sale yet, you can allow yourself to think about actual basketball for a minute," Gutierrez wrote in Friday's Herald.

"It's almost hard to even remember what sport LeBron James plays, because all you've known for the past week or so is, 'we want that guy here.'

"But basketball-wise, this is going to be fun. This is going to be jaw-dropping displays of athleticism, record individual performances, record team performances, quickness, versatility, unselfishness, teamwork.

"This is going to be everything you've anticipated and then some, because these players are that level of great."


His colleagues were apparently feeling likewise.

Editor Anders Gyllenhaal told Journal-isms, "This is a great story that will unfold over the coming season, which The Herald will have the pleasure of covering. The fan response has been enormous, helping the Heat almost instantly sell out of season tickets. Our Heat iPhone app was swamped with downloads the past two days, so it's clear that interest, here and around the country, is very high in this team and its remarkable trio," James, Wade and Chris Bosh.


ESPN's hour-long program, for which ESPN allowed James to choose the journalist to whom he revealed his selection, was a ratings hit. ESPN also  agreed to donate commercial revenue to charity.

The show "drew a 7.3 overnight household rating, making it the highest rated program of the night on television and the highest rated show on ESPN this year (including NBA playoff games) other than NFL games. Viewership peaked at a 9.6 rating from 9:15 p.m. ET to 9:30 p.m. ET, when the decision was finally revealed," Jon Lafayette reported for Broadcasting & Cable.


But as Louisa Ada Seltzer reported Friday for Medialifemagazine.com, "Media reaction to the departure of LeBron James from Cleveland to Miami was swift, harsh and almost scornful last night, with nearly as much of the vitriol directed at ESPN . . . as at the NBA player himself, who is leaving his home state after seven years of playing for the Cavaliers.

"The newspaper front pages in Cleveland, Miami and cities that James snubbed, including New York, where the Knicks lobbied him hard, made no attempt at objectivity. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's entire front page showed a picture of James from behind in his Cleveland uniform under the headline 'Gone,' alongside a snarky caption noting the lack of NBA championship rings on James' fingers.


"The Miami Herald ran an all-LeBron front page showing King James with his arms stretched heavenward with the simple headline 'Jackpot!' The New York Post branded James 'LeBum!' and 'Son of a Beach!' But there were just as many jabs at ESPN, which was sharply criticized for covering the James decision as though it was a major world event instead of a basketball player picking a new team. . . ."

The "Gone" cover of the Plain Dealer won praise from graphic designers, however, and Editor Susan Goldberg, speaking of cleveland.com, told Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute:

"We had the highest one-day count of unique users, the highest one-day count for page views, more people in our live chat than ever before, more people looking at our live video stream than ever before and, in the last 90 days, the Cavs blog had more than four times as many people looking at it compared to the same 90-day period last year."


There were no columnists of color on the sports pages, but local columnist Phillip Morris, a black journalist, wrote about the virtues of children's sports. His column was headlined, "If you want to root for a committed hometown team, head to a Little League playground."

Comcast Pledges to Add Black, Hispanic Networks

In looking to appeal to legislators to support its planned merger with NBC Universal, "Comcast pledged to add eight independent TV networks — four each controlled by African-American and Hispanic interests — to its cable system, while creating a $20 million fund to assist minority entrepreneurs," David Goetzl reported Thursday for Media Post.


In a summary of diversity commitments unveiled Thursday, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen "said that two networks majority controlled by African-American interests will be added to Comcast's digital tier in the first two years post-transaction. Overall, Comcast will add 10 independent networks in the first eight years.

"Networks such as TV One or BET J could also receive a distribution bump soon after the venture debuts. Comcast pledged to increase carriage on its systems of networks controlled by, and targeting, African-Americans within six months.


"Comcast also promised to establish a new venture-capital fund with a minimum of $20 million to seed ventures by minority entrepreneurs in the new-media arena. Details about the fund to be managed by Comcast Interactive Capital will be released in the fall."

  • Deported El Diario Spy Hopes to Keep Her Column

Vicky Pelaez (Credit: Family/El Diario)
This image was lost some time after publication.
  • In a seeming flashback to the cold war, Russian and American officials traded prisoners in the bright sunlight on the tarmac of Vienna’s international airport on Friday, bringing to a quick end an episode that had threatened to disrupt relations between the countries," Nicholas Kulish, Peter Baker and Ellen Barry reported Friday for the New York Times.
  • "Planes carrying 10 convicted Russian sleeper agents and 4 men accused by Moscow of spying for the West swooped into the Austrian capital, once a hub of clandestine East-West maneuvering, and the men and women were transferred, the Justice Department said. The planes soon took off again in a coda fitting of an espionage novel."
  • On Thursday, the 10 appeared in a New York courtroom.
  • "All appeared unruffled except Vicky Pelaez, an El Diario-La Prensa columnist and the only non-Russian in the group, who was weeping," Kevin Deutsch and Corky Siemaszko reported for the New York Daily News.
  • "Her lawyer said she had no idea her husband of 18-years, Juan Lazaro, was a spook named Mikhail Anatonoljevich Vasenkov. And she had never been to Russia.
  • "Judge Kimba Wood sentenced them all to time served — 11 days and sent them packing."
  • The Associated Press said Pelaez's lawyer, John Rodriguez, "said Pelaez plans to go back to Peru, where her family has a ranch, and where she hoped to continue writing for El Diario La Prensa."
  • The AP story, by Jocelyn Noveck and Jim Fitzgerald, asked, "Was Pelaez, deported Thursday in a spy swap along with her husband, an enthusiastic secret agent — who like him, was willing to put her loyalty to Moscow over that of her children? Or was she a wife betrayed?
  • "One thing was clear on Friday, hours after Pelaez, 55, and Vasenkov, 66, arrived in Vienna, en route to Moscow: A family was in tatters."
  • A son "acknowledged the family would lose their home, since it was paid for by the Russians,
  • "He said he didn't know where he and his brother would end up living, though he said the teenager wanted to stay in the United States."
  • Migel Alvaro Sarmiento, managing editor of El Diario, did not return telephone calls.
  • In a First, U.S. Denies Visa to Nieman Fellow

  • "The U.S. government has denied a visa to a prominent Colombian journalist who specializes in conflict and human rights reporting to attend a prestigious fellowship at Harvard University," Frank Bajak reported Friday for the Associated Press.
  • "Hollman Morris, who produces an independent TV news program called 'Contravia,' has been highly critical of ties between illegal far-right militias and allies of outgoing President Al varo Uribe, Washington's closest ally in Latin America.
  • "The curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, which has [been] offering the mid-career fellowships to U.S. and international journalists since 1938, said Thursday that a consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota told him Morris was ruled permanently ineligible for a visa under the 'Terrorist activities' section of the USA Patriot Act.
  • "U.S. Embassy and State Department officials refused to confirm the visa denial, citing privacy laws.
  • " 'We were very surprised. This has never happened before,' said the Nieman curator, Bob Giles. 'And Hollman has traveled previously in the United States to give speeches and receive awards.' He said he had written the State Department to ask it to reconsider the decision."
  • Lesson for Oakland: De-Escalate, Editorial Says

  • "Destroying property and injuring others will not bring back Oscar Grant," the MediaNews newspapers editorialized Thursday night.
  • "But Grant's death must not be forgotten. We all must learn from this."
  • The editorial followed a jury decision finding white former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter for killing Oscar Grant III early Jan. 1, 2009, while the 22-year-old Grant, an African American, lay face down on a train platform. Mehserle testified that he thought he was using his electric Taser weapon during a strruggle.
  • "Police agencies must review their procedures to make sure that such a tragedy never happens again," the editorial continued. "And all of us must keep in mind that horrible things can happen when chaos breaks out. Police can make mistakes. After the fact, we can try to determine whether an action was premeditated, without regard for life, in the heat of passion or merely negligent. But, after the fact, it's too late. It's better to de-escalate before violence breaks out."
  • The Oakland Tribune later reported, "Along with several other law enforcement agencies, California Highway Patrol officers from as far away as Sacramento and the Central Valley were out in force on the streets of Oakland Thursday night, backing up Oakland police as violent protests emerged downtown, CHP Sgt. Trent Cross said this morning. . . .
  • "Police said they made 83 arrests throughout the night for violations that included failure to disperse, vandalism and assaulting a police officer."
  • To some, that was a relief.
  • . "The city was prepared for thousands of black and brown people to explode in rage. But it didn't happen. The question today is where was the big riot?" Daisy Hernandez wrote for ColorLines, an online magazine that "has been building a home for journalism in service to racial justice since 1998."
  • Arab Americans Protest CNN Firing Over Hezbollah Remark

  • "CNN’s firing of Senior Middle East News Editor Octavia Nasr has prompted an outcry from Arab-Americans, angry about what they see as a double standard when it comes to coverage of the Middle East in the American media," Keach Hagey wrote Thursday for Politico.
  • "Nasr’s 20-year career at CNN ended Wednesday after a tweet mourning the death of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a Lebanese Shiite cleric whom she called 'one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.' Facing a rash of criticism, she explained her tweet in a blog post, saying her respect was based on Fadlallah’s advocacy for women’s rights. But by then, it was too late. CNN put out a statement a few hours later, saying her 'credibility' had been 'compromised.' "
  • The firing prompted a chorus of applause from conservatives on the Internet and the the Anti-Defamation League commended CNN for the decision. But "the firing provoked perhaps the strongest reaction from Arab-Americans," Hagey wrote.
  • “ 'This is unbelievable what is happening in the United States of America,' said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News. 'You can say anything you want — except when it comes to Israel.' ”
  • Jeremy Green Leaves ESPN After Child Porn Arrest

Jeremy Green
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  • "Jeremy Green, a contributing writer for ESPN Scouts Inc., was arrested Thursday in Connecticut on several charges, including possession of child pornography, possession of narcotics and possession of drug paraphernalia, police said," ESPN reported Friday on its website.
  • "Green, 38, was arrested at an area hotel about 5 p.m., police said, and was being held on a $750,000 bond. Police are not releasing details and say the warrant is sealed.
  • "ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said Green, who joined ESPN in 2006, is no longer employed by the company.
  • "Green is the son of former NFL coach Dennis Green, who also provided NFL analysis for ESPN."
  • The Bleacher Report, which calls itself "the world’s leading publisher of original and entertaining sports editorial content," wrote, "Green's arrest and scandal is nothing new for the mothership. ESPN has made itself famous for its sports coverage, but also infamous for its behind-the-scenes scandals that have turned the network into a punchline at times. Jeremy Green, the son of former NFL head coach Dennis Green, is just the latest."
  • It then went on to name some of the scandals.
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