Worst: Dishonesty Runs Rampant
In any form of media, the most important thing is trust. And this year we saw way too many examples of that trust being harmed or broken. Chad Ford’s ludicrous re-ranked draft classes to make him look better in hindsight is an exercise in dishonest and pointless vanity. Just recently, Detroit sportswriter Drew Sharp was exposed as a plagiarist, the worst crime a writer can commit. (And he wasn’t the only one.) And then there’s ESPN, whose sourcing policies (while improved) are still half-measures. It’s amazing to think that these people can think they can get away with such dishonesty in 2015, when everything is seen and heard in media.
– Matt Yoder
Best: Fox Sports Innovation
This was especially notable at the Women’s World Cup: Fox invested so much into a tournament that many thought would draw no ratings outside US matches, from building a giant set on site to bringing their own countless analysts, commentators and reporters to delivering massive amounts of programming, and on the broadcast network as well as FS1 and FS2. It worked out very well on the ratings side, but they took that gamble without knowing that it would, and they delivered incredible coverage that even far exceeded host broadcasters CTV/TSN/RDS (who didn’t have their own fancy tournament studio or their own announcers for non-Canada games). They also broadcast women’s soccer even after the tournament ended, a good step forward for that sport. Similarly, Fox deserves plaudits for pushing on with an unconventional and hilarious highlights show (Fox Sports Live, which has made highlights regular viewing for me again) and for investing in an array of interesting web content, from longform to a variety of podcasts (particularly The Jay And Dan Podcast, The Audible with Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel, and Peter Schraeger’s PSchrags Podcast). Fox has a lot of talented people, and when they give them the necessary resources, it makes for great sports content.
– Andrew Bucholtz
Worst: ESPN’s Decision Making
Was it the shutting down of Grantland?
Was it the huge set of cuts to ESPN staff, jettisoning some of the very best people in the business with multiple decades of accumulated savvy and wisdom?
Was it the continued emphasis on outsized personalities and First Take-ization of content?
ESPN’s decisions on several levels, when taken together and seen from a higher perch, reveal a set of priorities which couldn’t be more antithetical to the responsible path in sports media.
– Matt Zemek
Best: Women’s World Cup
Last year my best was ESPN’s World Cup coverage and I said Fox had a lot to live up to. Well, Fox got the job and even more so for its Women’s World Cup coverage in Canada. Host Rob Stone showed the gravitas of Bob Ley and stepped up to the table. It was nice to see JP Dellacamera get to call big games once again and he got the job done. Fox’s first foray into an international event had many of us worried, but at the end, we got better than expected and it was a bonus for Fox that the U.S. Women won as well.
– Ken Fang
Worst: FS1 Embraces Debate
Hiring Jamie Horowitz is not being an ESPN alternative, it’s repeating ESPN’s worst mistakes and thoroughly embracing pointless debate. The increased promotion of Clay Travis and hires of Jason Whitlock and Colin Cowherd, plus the push for debate-focused “Fox Sports Countdown,” all speak to an outlet that’s looking to become a factory for the hottest takes. The partnership with and airing of TMZ Sports shows how Fox is going for the lowest common denominator, too: why care about such things as journalistic reputation and accuracy if you can get viewers? Similarly, at the same time Fox is putting more and more money into these questionable projects, they ended their thoughtful and nuanced baseball site, Just A Bit Outside. Hopefully, Fox’s best will outshine its worst in 2016, but the recent trend away from quality and towards debate isn’t promising.
– Andrew Bucholtz
Worst: ESPN Layoffs
ESPN’s layoffs cut a lot of good people loose. Some 300 people lost their jobs and it cut what some in Bristol felt was the heart and soul of the Worldwide Leader. Now how ESPN recovers is the next story. With cord cutting become more prevalent and doomsday predictions about its future, the network has to decide where to go next. The media behemoth had its meteoric rise for 30 years becoming the dominant player in the industry. Where it decides to go in the next few years in an ever-changing landscape will be quite interesting.
– Ken Fang
Best: Gregg Popovich’s Reunion With Craig Sager
— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) December 4, 2015
Over at Sports Illustrated, Craig Sager and Shelley Smith were Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media People of the year. Given their comebacks from cancer treatment, there aren’t more worthy choices for 2015. And when it comes to feel-good moments, seeing Sager back on the sidelines with best friend and arch-nemesis Gregg Popovich was the best there was in 2015 and a great reminder of what really matters.
– Matt Yoder