After a months-long gap in the appointment, ESPN has named a new ombudsman. Well, actually, they’ve named a new “public editor” as the job has transitioned to a new title. The role will remain mostly the same and now it will be filled by Jim Brady, who picks up the flag from Robert Lipsyte.
Brady’s appointment is a forward-thinking step in the context of previous ombudsman/public editor appointments. Whereas previous ombudsmans made their names in television (Don Ohlmeyer) or print journalism (George Solomon, Le Anne Schreiber, Lipsyte), Brady’s expertise is mostly in the online realm, working for years at AOL. It’s a subtle statement on the current state of the industry and a wise choice by ESPN at least in that regard. With so much media content trending towards digital and social, it makes sense to bring in someone as public editor with a strong background in that area.
In addition to the traditional columns, ESPN says Brady will also be active with podcasts and in social media.
Jim Brady, an award-winning editor and news executive with more than 20 years of experience in digital news, has been named ESPN’s public editor, making him the sixth in line to hold the position formerly known as ombudsman. He will assume his new duties Nov. 15 and will serve an 18-month term.
Brady will offer independent examination, critique and analysis of ESPN’s programming and news coverage on television, digital, print, audio and other media. The role will include written pieces on ESPN.com, podcasts and use of social media, with additional timely responses as issues arise.
“In these transcendent times for media, ESPN is serving more fans across more platforms and more devices in more global locations than ever before,” said Patrick Stiegman, vice president and editorial director for ESPN Digital & Print Media and chairman of ESPN’s Editorial Board. “We are proud of our commitment to the ombudsman role over the past decade, and believe those who have occupied that chair have mutually benefitted fans and ESPN.
“We are updating the title to ‘public editor’ to better reflect the goal of transparency and advocacy for fans, especially in this increasingly multimedia world,” Stiegman said. “And given the multitude of touch points we have with our audience, it’s imperative that the public editor have the breadth of experience and journalistic credibility to serve as an advocate and explainer for fans across all media.”
And the relevant quotes from Brady himself:
“To me, ESPN has always been one of the most fascinating media companies on the planet,” said Brady. “Whether it’s managing extremely complicated relationships with professional leagues, trying to stay ahead of its ever-growing list of competitors or adapting its business in an ever-changing media landscape, ESPN faces fascinating challenges. This made serving as public editor too good an opportunity to pass up. I look forward to getting started.”
It’s a bit of a relief to see ESPN name a new public editor given Lipsyte’s last column was eleven months ago. In that lengthy span, there were several fairly big stories where an ombudsman’s voice would have been a helpful contribution: the death of Grantland, hundreds of layoffs, the Curt Schilling controversy, Disney stock prices and the future of ESPN, departures of Bill Simmons and other high profile talent, and many more stories.
However, give credit to ESPN for this fact – at least they’ve hired a new public editor and remain committed to the position. That’s something none of their competitors have even really tried in a substantial way (could you imagine how busy a public editor would be at FS1?) so it’s encouraging to see ESPN continue to provide this outlet to sports fans and people who care about their content.