ESPN wrestling with fiction/non-fiction in determining to ‘cover’ WWE
September 8, 2016 - WWE
Consumer media options have exploded in a past decade, and ESPN has attempted to keep gait by expanding a possess niche offerings. Those efforts have enclosed stand-alone sites such as Grantland (later shuttered), FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated, as good as attempts to aim specific audiences in a form of espnW and ESPN Deportes. The organisation has also launched new calm verticals inside a incomparable ESPN digital footprint, such as esports, MMA and gambling.
From a vital standpoint, these efforts make sense, as they guarantee to move new consumers into a ESPN fold. And where there’s new audience, there’s routinely new revenue. Plus, in a digital world, a constraints of airtime have left and patron choice has exploded. There’s never been a improved time for media companies to diversify.
But in my May mainstay on esports, we alluded to one new theme area that we could not absolutely get behind: ESPN’s stretched coverage of pro wrestling, privately WWE.
Inside of ESPN, those who adored a preference to launch a WWE territory — that debuted on ESPN.com on Aug. 11 — disagree that it’s a possibility to strech new audiences and represents a large business opportunity. That’s positively true. But a last cause for ESPN coverage areas should be some-more than business — otherwise, we could make a clever evidence for rising all sorts of things that have no tie whatsoever to sports. And it can’t simply be possibly a theme matter inherently involves “athleticism” as that would lift questions about esports, worker racing, poker, spelling bees and other subjects ESPN now covers.
To me, a line ESPN has to be clever when channel is a one separating novella and nonfiction, genuine foe and pristine entertainment. And pro wrestling is simply well-performed fiction. For a news organization, we consider this is a bad fit, and one that comes with genuine risk.
This opinion isn’t formed on carrying a quite clever personal feeling possibly approach about pro wrestling. we don’t watch it, yet know copiousness of people who do and have a passion that matches any you’ll see about any subject. we also don’t have concerns that an assembly would be hoodwinked by a staged inlet of pro wrestling; flattering many everybody who watches it is in a know.
The emanate is that ESPN’s preference to cover something where a outcome is bound — yes, insert your Jets-Patriots fun here, Bostonians — positively creates journalistic hurdles for a network.
First off, what qualifies as “news” when an whole eventuality is scripted? Certainly, a outcome of a compare matters to those who care. But it isn’t “news” a approach ESPN defines it, and can’t be forsaken inside a list of headlines about a NFL, NCAA or MMA, any some-more than coverage of a Jed Bartlet debate from “The West Wing” would have done a approach into CNN’s tip news stories.
Dan Kaufman, ESPN’s comparison emissary editor of calm development, oversees a new WWE straight and is wakeful of a hurdles of “covering” pro wrestling.
“We apparently know that a bound inlet and scripting means we have to cover it a opposite approach and be clever about it,” he said. “We’ll acknowledge it’s a book and news how good they did with it. It’s all about specifying news and plot.”
I like Kaufman’s separate between “news” and “plot.” But, alas, that’s accurately a rub. As prolonged as an activity is truly rival and not scripted, a formula and actions of a participants can be deliberate news — and can simply fit inside ESPN’s stating structure.
When it’s plot, it’s not so simple.
Here’s a hypothetical: What if you’re “covering” a WWE compare and a wrestler goes down with an apparent injury? Is that news? Is it even an damage or usually partial of a script? What act would it take to infer to a publisher that a wrestler was indeed injured? And if that damage proves to be real, how do we cover that in a context of a compare in that a buildup and outcome are both staged? Do we apart a news from a tract and furnish dual opposite stories or segments? we don’t know a answers, yet we do know there’s no necessity of questions.
“It’s an open discourse about how to make it work and to make certain we don’t get played,” Kaufman said.
The new WWE territory is ESPN’s primary pull into pro wrestling yet not a usually one. Each Tuesday, a 9 p.m. ET SportsCenter facilities anchor Jonathan Coachman narrating a package about WWE.
I asked a series of people during ESPN about how pro wrestling will fit into a network’s news coverage, and a answer was flattering simple: hardly during all.
“I consider it frequency will fit into a news world,” pronounced David Kraft, ESPN’s executive editor of news operations. “I don’t have a outrageous problem with doing [a wrestling section]. we usually consider we need to be transparent that we’re covering a philharmonic of it. we don’t consider there are too many ‘news’ events, like who won or who got traded.”
Another area of seductiveness will be how ESPN uses a absolute channels to foster a WWE coverage. The network was assertive in compelling WWE’s SummerSlam in a days after a straight launched — with, for a time, 5 WWE stories among a tip 8 equipment listed underneath a news territory on ESPN.com — yet that was expected some-more to foster a launch than what I’d design to see normally. On a new Monday, for example, there was usually one wrestling object on a initial 10 “screens” of ESPN.com, an essay on a genocide of fable Harry “Mr. Fuji” Fujiwara.
Despite media reports to a discordant this past fall, ESPN has no grave business attribute with WWE. While there is communication between a organizations, ESPN binds no rights to WWE events and “covers” WWE events a same approach it does others. The miss of grave understanding with a WWE is substantially a good thing, as it gives ESPN an easy out should any controversies arise.
Look, there’s positively a trail here that could work, even with all a issues this raises: Keep WWE out of a news section, prominence calm about it usually in areas in that difficulty would be minimal and wish that those meddlesome will find pro wrestling coverage around approach maritime click, amicable media or search.
The SportsCenter diagnosis of WWE, for example, avoids any snarl by doing one bound shred per week, anchored by Coachman — a former WWE commentator. Coachman’s impasse fits into SportsCenter’s plan of enlivening anchors to plainly arrangement personal passions in sequence to improved bond with fans. Outside of that weekly segment, SportsCenter doesn’t uncover highlights of WWE — in fact, it didn’t cover a new SummerSlam during all.
Kaufman, for one, is confident ESPN can work WWE into a platforms though formulating confusion.
“We’re not entrance into this observant it’s sports; we’re observant it’s entertainment,” he said. “We know that a outrageous shred of a fans are wrestling fans. And, like with esports, we’re also looking for new fans. … We apparently know that a bound inlet and scripting means we have to cover it a opposite approach and be clever about it in a opposite way.”
Readers who responded around email, Twitter and Facebook to my query about ESPN’s coverage of WWE were mostly split. Most of a email was negative; many of a Facebook comments were negative; and Twitter leaned positive, yet that was goosed a bit by some pro-WWE supporters propelling their supporters to pronounce up. Here’s a representation of a disastrous feedback:
“It’s like putting a tacky novel in a nonfiction section, creation all around it argumentative by association.” — Matthew Silverman, around Twitter.
“I know a need for page views yet to cover a scripted uncover is kind of silly. Maybe I’ll consider differently when there’s a Star Wars news section.” — Matthew Edwards, around email.
“Athletic + foe = sport. If we are blank one of those elements, it isn’t sports. Chess lacks athletics. WWE lacks competition.” — George Arnold, around Facebook.
Others were some-more positive:
“No harm, no foul. If we don’t like a WWE, don’t click on a links, follow a Twitter account, etc. and we won’t even know it’s there. But for those that do like it, it’s a cold demeanour during how ‘mainstream media’ covers pro wrestling. So far, so good.” — James Bunting, around email.
“I adore all a new WWE calm violation news that ESPN is providing. we go to ESPN for all my other sporting news it’s good to not have to go to other websites to get my WWE news it’s finally all in a same site, app, etc. we can finally undo my Bleacher Report app now!” — Richard Garza, around email.
But even some who were excellent with WWE coverage haven’t been tender by a early returns:
“I am still peaceful to give a WWE territory time to see if there is any vicious coverage of WWE. It seems to be overly optimistic. However, it seems so distant instead of exclusively stating WWE news … we are reposting from WWE.com.” — David Taub, around email.
“Acting as an additional arm of WWE’s PR dialect isn’t unequivocally worthwhile. But, stating on both a good and a bad of WWE sincerely would be.” — Daniel Jackson, around email.
“The stating is usually certain and seems some-more like PR. It avoids argumentative subjects. In speculation it’s great. In practice…” — Adam Bergman, around Twitter.
Few would doubt that ESPN’s coverage of a WWE is a poignant assembly and income opportunity. And, as settled earlier, we have no oppose with ESPN holding risks in a fast diversifying media market. But erratic outward your journalistic comfort section comes with even larger risks, and we think there might be some tough lessons schooled along a way.