Thursday, March 23

Introducing the Sarcastic Hand Clap Award.

As (I certainly hope) you've figured out by now, I don't take this blogging thing all that seriously. You're never going to see my name on the cover of a book about how blogging is revolutionizing society's relationship with the media, nor will you ever read an indignant post on this site about how Big Corporate Media is cruelly attempting to silence the brave voice of the independent blogger.

But maybe I've been too quick to discount the idea that some in the major media really don't have a lot of respect for what bloggers do, because a blog I happen to enjoy quite a lot, The M Zone, got royally screwed (twice) by ESPN today. Our story actually begins a few weeks ago, when Yost from The M Zone responded to the Vince-Young-bombed-the-Wonderlic rumor-story by posting his "M Zone Collegiate Wonderlic Test." Like most of the stuff they put up on there, it was funny stuff. So funny, apparently, that ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd felt substantial portions of it were worth pinching verbatim for his March 22 program -- without giving Yost or The M Zone a bit of credit.

Yost, understandably, was ticked at this, so he sent Cowherd an e-mail and encouraged The M Zone's readers to do the same. Today he got a response from Cowherd, which went as follows:

Subject: RE: From the M Zone
Date: 3/23/2006 7:35:54 A.M. Pacific Standard Time
Reply To:
To: michiganzone(at)adelphia dot net


Now, I don't know Colin Cowherd well enough to be able to call him a dick, but this was most assuredly a colossal dick move on his part. First of all, he apparently sends his e-mails in all caps with ellipsis instead of actual sentence breaks, which drives me batshit. But the larger issue here is that he basically plagiarized from somebody, never so much as mentioned where he got it from (allowing people to assume that someone at ESPN Radio had come up with it on their own), and then, when the original author dared to take offense at that, basically told the guy to piss off (and explicitly informed said author he planned to perpetuate the dick move by continuing not to give him any credit).

Now, The M Zone has already done his richly-deserved venting over the witheringly unethical (and probably illegal) nature of what Cowherd did, so I won't go into that. Instead, at the risk of making too much of this, I'll simply pose this rhetorical question -- Who the fuck does ESPN think they are? It's no secret that an increasing number of fans are beginning to take issue with the way the once-infallible Worldwide Leader in Sports goes about its business, and that they perceive a growing level of arrogance on the part of the network; you've got the premature anointing of Southern California as OMG Greatest College Team Ever this past football season, the never-ending stream of obtuse sports-talk shows built around singularly unlikeable personalities, the overall sense that ESPN has become less concerned with the actual sporting events than with what their own pundits think about them. In short, they appear to have been working nice and hard to give the impression that they really don't care about the average sports fan all that much anymore -- and Colin Cowherd's callous treatment of one such fan (a fan who made him look like a comic genius, by the way) sadly fits right into that pattern. If this is all the respect ESPN can muster for its listeners/viewers, then perhaps they need to get out of sports broadcasting entirely and get into something else . . . like political punditry, perhaps.

Anyway. Since e-mailing Cowherd himself appears to be so much brick-wall-shouting, help Yost and the M Zone crew out by following this link and e-mailing ESPN's ombudsman, George Solomon, about your displeasure. (I'll be posting my own e-mail up here later on in the day.) Cowherd's shameless pilfering is something for which I can recall people specifically getting fired when I worked at The Red & Black in college, so I'm curious to hear why ESPN thinks their ethical standards don't need to be any higher than those of a student newspaper. I'm also curious to see why their journalistic standards should be lower, now that I think about it, since Cowherd claims to have just been "sent" the item by some random person yet apparently was too lazy to do the 30 seconds' worth of Googling it would've taken to find out where it actually came from.

So anyway, Cowherd wins Hey Jenny Slater's inaugural Sarcastic Hand Clap Award for his douchebaggery, along with an eyeroll and a "Smooth move, Ex-Lax" muttered under my breath. Again, since this kind of static would be a firing offense at pretty much any media outlet I've ever worked at, I'm pretty interested to see what, if anything, happens with all this. Yost, I stand with you, homes. Attica! Attica! Viva la RevoluciĆ³n! or something like that.

ADDED: Here's the e-mail I submitted to George Solomon via the ESPN Web site.

You've no doubt been e-mailed numerous times today concerning Colin Cowherd, the material he appropriated from the blog The M Zone (, and the thoroughly arrogant, unprofessional way in which he chose to respond when this was brought to his attention.

I know this incident is hardly the end of the world for either side, but Cowherd's carelessness and unprofessionalism is still something that could harm the reputation of your network, and it's something that needs to be dealt with.

If all Cowherd did was read something on the air without being aware of its source, then at the very least he is guilty of careless "vetting" in not bothering to find out where it had come from, not to mention an extremely specious breach of journalistic ethics by permitting listeners to believe he'd come up with it on his own.

But if, in fact, he knew where the material had come from and deliberately chose not to give credit to the original author, then what he did is straight-up plagiarism, and as a journalist myself, I can tell you that there is not a single place I have ever worked where this would not have been a firing offense. Furthermore, the incredibly snide attitude he took toward the M Zone blogger who e-mailed him today would seem to indicate that he neither knows nor cares about such ethical issues, and that shouldn't be tolerated at your network or at anyone else's.

It's not my place to demand specific actions to be taken by you or anyone else at ESPN, but an on-the-air acknowledgment, by Cowherd, of where the material came from hardly seems too much to ask. What you do beyond that is up to you. To take no action at all, though, would speak to an incredible level of arrogance on ESPN's part, and would be enough to cause me to stop watching/listening entirely.

Thank you for your time and attention.


Anonymous said...

Bravo. This is one of your tightest, most well-written and well-argued blogs to date. And a good fun read.

Anonymous said...

First it wasn't funny, so he should be fired for stealing unfunny material.

Anonymous said...

...are you going to acknowledge the source of your term "smooth move ex-lax"? I have heard that one many times from your Dad, and you should cite him as the source of your material!! (Still says that, does he? Teach him something more up-to-date!)