ESPN, Lebron ‘overkill’ complaints are nonsense

ESPN’s Lebron Show: If everybody’s talking about it, how is it overkill?

By ADAM BUCKMAN

NEW YORK, July 9, 2010 — So many complaints about one measly TV special, you would think ESPN had committed a capitol crime.

Sure, the Lebron prime-time special — an entire hour (and more, when you consider the wall-to-wall coverage ESPN devoted to the subject before and after) — was overdone.   Yes, everyone who labeled it “overkill” was correct — it WAS overkill.

But having said that, I have to ask: What’s the harm?

The overkill complaint is the same one leveled at TV and the rest of the media every time there’s a big story that everyone seems to cover at once from a dozen different angles.  That amounts to a lot of coverage, certainly, but on behalf of the entire media (which never asked me to act as spokesman), I have to plead not guilty to the overkill accusation.

What do people expect the media to do when there’s a big story — not cover it?  I hate to inform the entire world of this, but we have a lot of media.  It’s on television, it’s on the radio, it’s in print, it’s on the Internet.  Get used to it; it’s here to stay.

The Lebron story was big news for the simple reason that a lot of people were interested in it.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be talking about it now — complaining about the ESPN show, railing about Lebron’s lack of loyalty to Cleveland and the state of Ohio, and everything else.

At such times, if you’re a news organization and you choose to not cover the moment’s big story, or perhaps under-cover it, then you’ve made a decision to drop out of the news media.

That’s not how it works, folks — at such times, everyone covers the Big Story or no one does.   There’s no in-between.  And in the case of ESPN in particular, this network is a sports-news network — of course they’re going to cover this Lebron story like it’s the inauguration of a president.  They’d be crazy not to.

It is true that ESPN’s quickie production was subpar — for reasons having nothing to do with the story’s relative importance.  The production of this show amounted to little more than a bunch of lights in an old gymnasium.  What irked me most was the time it took to get to the announcement, which took all of five seconds for Lebron to utter.  A day before the telecast, a top-ranking ESPN exec insisted the announcement would come 10 or 15 minutes into the broadcast.  Instead, it came about 22-25 minutes into it, which only goes to teach us once again how slippery the statements of TV execs can be.

But that’s not really news, is it?  What was news was Lebron James’ plans for his future, and what effect that would have on his new team and the market in which he decided to play (in this case, Miami).

Was it overkill?  Maybe, but just for one evening.  News stories come and news stories go.  Sure, ESPN devoted an entire evening (and the better part of a day or maybe even a week) to Lebron James.

It was, for a brief time in the scheme of things, the biggest story in the world, right up until the next one came along.

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com

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