Month: February 2017

NewsTrack 4: Fake News

Sports reporting seems like the obvious antitheses to “fake news” and “gaslight reporting.” There are replays, statistics follow hard-and-fast algorithms, and biases are mostly rivalries or grudges.

But we treat athletes like celebrities, and with that objectification also comes gossip and constant rumors. While not the same as the current “fake news” debate, gossip is based in similar roots: people and writers with individual agendas producing content that runs counter to established fact or without reliable sourcing. For the sake of this post, we will define “fake news” as simply any news that is unfounded in its information and potentially biased in its sourcing.


FiveThirtyEight, the statistics website hosted by ESPN, posted this video analyzing the rise and existence of “fake news,” mainly through the lens of their language-analysis tracker and the user-generated “news aggregation” site Reddit.

This video specifically defines “fake news” as the ways readers can gather data and make their own conclusions about language and reporting trends, and does not make any directive about how readers should go about digesting or “combating” fake news.

As for ESPN itself, the site protects itself from spreading any heavy “rumors” by keeping speculations to their subscriber-only page Insider, as well as pages specifically labeled for rumors, such as this trade tracker.

Rumor-based posts are also easily noted by their use of vague “sources.”

On the whole, “fake news” in sports reporting or data journalism does not carry the same connotations as it would in, say, the front pages of the Boston Globe or Wall Street Journal. But for a style of writing almost entirely based in data analytics and visual replays, perhaps it’s all the more difficult to make conjectures and “alternative” news in the first place.




NewsTrack 3: ESPN and Imagery

Sports reporting requires dynamic action shots to effectively cover athletic events, but emotional still photos and videos can also add to the quality of a reporter’s story, or in ESPN’s case, the way a company brands itself.

In this week’s NewsTrack post, I analyze how ESPN’s use of photography, videography, and other image-based media matches with their mission to be “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”.

ESPN is typically associated with the talking-heads on shows like SportsCenter, or live coverage and replays of events like on “Monday Night Football.” Their websites and social media accounts also display colorful, less serious images (below), editorial shoots (above) as well as graphs, fan interactives, and grabs from athletes’ social media accounts.

imagine brady.png


This balance of traditional and experimental media presents sports journalism as a multifaceted, entertaining venture, rather than something restricted by a particular demographic, a conclusion repeated in my previous NewsTrack posts. Sports is sometimes seen as serious, and only appealing to men, but ESPN’s coverage shows that it can be both serious and calculated, but also silly and fun — and silliness is not exclusionary at all.

Features News and the Super Bowl

Let me preface this by saying I only see the Super Bowl as another hurdle to Spring Training.

This week, as part of my ongoing NewsTrack assignment, I followed ESPN’s coverage of Super Bowl 51. I focused on their pre-game coverage, starting from the evening of Friday, Feb. 3 up until right before kickoff, and analyzed their use of social media and statistics to prepare for and even predict the Super Bowl. One standout I noticed: ESPN’s extensive use of feature news and “fun” interactives to enhance the pre-game experience.


Pre-game coverage included videos on Twitter and Instagram, shown above, and an “inside the numbers” analysis of the Falcons’ defense. Both of these approaches predict the Super Bowl from two different angles: human interest, and statistics and data. One of the interesting and appealing parts of ESPN’s sports coverage is that they give equal weight to both points of view, that emotion is just as important as hard and fast stats.

Also on ESPN’s Snapchat story: a “cute” edit of Falcon’s quarterback Matt Ryan, after being named the NFL MVP, and an interactive fill-in-the-blank.


As far as reaching final conclusions and predictions, as of Feb. 2, the staff at ESPN predicted the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl 51 by an average of 20 points over the Atlanta Falcons.


Two hours before game time, ESPN posted more predictions and analysis, as well as a masterpost of links to watch the game, statistics, and previously posted analysis and prediction reports. As of 4 pm, game day, one prediction held the Patriots to a 20-point win over the Falcons.

Returning to human-interest angles, ESPN Twitter posted this photo of Tom Brady, his father, and his mother, who missed all of her son’s games in the regular season.



After coming back from an almost 20-point deficit after halftime, the New England Patriots claimed a win in Super Bowl 51. And Mr. Gisele comes home with a new shiny ring.

Tracking ESPN

ESPN describes itself as the “worldwide leader in sports,” and fulfills this commitment by extending its coverage beyond basic sports reporting.

ESPN embraces the multimedia journalism practice with its news and radio stations, social media accounts on platforms like Twitter and Snapchat, and interactive feature stories.

photo courtesy of ESPN Snapchat

ESPN is also the parent company of FiveThirtyEight, the analytics blog known for things like Super Bowl and Presidential election predictions. By hosting FiveThirtyEight, ESPN can add statistics and “data journalism” to its already well-known sports commentary.

Likewise, ESPN produces more features and breaking news about sports than politics. Hosting FiveThirtyEight adds another genre for ESPN to claim and publish, widening its potential audience.

Recent coverage of American politics on FiveThirtyEight includes podcasts, statistical analysis, and other overviews of things like the 2016 Presidential Election and President Donald Trump’s current agenda.

screengrab courtesy FiveThirtyEight

This mixture of analytics, up-to-the-minute commentary, and even some “fun” feature stories (like the Snapchat screenshot above) indeed supports ESPN’s claim to become an international sports news source.