Darts & Laurels

2012's media highlights and lowlights

DART for foul balls: ESPN What is going on in Bristol, CT? As rival Deadspin gleefully reported, ESPN made some big, weird mistakes this year, with ESPN.com senior editor Lynn Hoppes at the center of all of them.

First, he hired Sarah Phillips to freelance for the site, apparently without a reference check. Turns out she’s a scam artist. ESPN terminated its relationship with her in the spring.

Then Deadspin caught Hoppes lifting content from Wikipedia (typos and all) and press releases. At the time, ESPN called this “journalistic laziness” that “fell short of our editorial standards,” although ESPN’s ombudsman did not see fit to mention this on its blog, and ESPN.com did nothing to change or update Hoppes’s posts until a college student asked VP/executive editor John Walsh about the matter in December. Walsh responded that Deadspin’s John Koblin harbored a grudge against Hoppes for stealing his girlfriend, which came as a surprise to Koblin, to his boyfriend, and to those who expect more of Walsh. (Walsh told Deadspin he never mentioned Koblin’s name and merely said he’d heard a rumor that there was a “romantic rivalry,” but several students present at the time maintain that Walsh mentioned Koblin by name.) Only after lots of unfortunate publicity did ESPN update Hoppes’s posts, deleting 12 outright and amending three others.

LAUREL for being immune to Internet hysteria: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald When Hagerty, the Herald’s octogenarian food critic, reviewed Grand Forks’s newly opened Olive Garden in March, she wasn’t expecting to become the Internet’s favorite foodie. As her son James recounted in The Wall Street Journal, when he broke the news that she had gone viral, she replied, “Could you tell me what viral means?” After more than 60 years in journalism, Hagerty paid no attention to the social media maelstrom. “I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon,” she explained, “so I don’t have time to read all this crap.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.