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Prominent Journalist Criticizes ESPN Coverage of WWE

It’s no secret that WWE has been in good graces with ESPN for quite a while now. From prominent cross-promotion with sports broadcaster Michelle Beadle, to live SportsCenter coverage of WrestleMania 31 immediately following the show, WWE has benefited from an increased presence on America’s sports juggernaut. But some journalists aren’t very happy about it.

Michael Bradley of the National Sports Journalism Center wrote a piece titled, “Let’s hope media outlets remember what “E” in WWE means.” In it, he took to task ESPN for prioritizing entertainment over actual sport.

It’s OK to conclude a broadcast with some silly pabulum, but when media companies decide to get a little too involved in the entertainment world, things can get dangerous. That’s what happened in late March, when ESPN (mostly) and CBS (a little) devoted some time to World Wrestling Entertainment in advance of the company’s WrestleMania show.

His criticism didn’t stop there, however. He goes on to remind fans (in case you didn’t know) that, yes, professional wrestling has predetermined outcomes and yes, unfortunately, that means it lacks, in Bradley’s words, “credibility.”

…it was not unusual at all to see the company walking hand-in-hand with the WWE. What was strange was seeing how cavalier the company was about giving credibility to something that a few decades back had to declare that the outcomes of its matches were pre-determined.

THEN, as if taking a cheap shot at WWE and it’s ‘not really athletes’ (my impression, not his words) wasn’t enough, Bradley goes on to say that ESPN’s coverage of WrestleMania 31, and really professional wrestling as a whole, undermines the authority that is sports broadcast journalism.

Forging alliances with legitimate leagues is one thing. Trying to build an audience by making something that isn’t real sport seem more legitimate is far more cynical and potentially explosive. First comes the WWE. Then come full highlights of the Globetrotters’ next game. After all, that team has fans all around the world…

…It’s fun to talk about Lesnar and his fellow rasaslers, but it’s not journalism

At one point in the middle of the piece, Bradley does recognize WWE as a “carefully honed product.” But it comes in-between talk of equating WWE with a sports movie, and reminding readers of the “embarrassment” that occurred when professional wrestling had to admit it was scripted.

Also, Bradley fails to reflect on how important entertainment is to not only ESPN, but its business partners The Walt Disney Company and Hearst Corporation. Criticizing ESPN for doing ANYTHING entertainment-related is like calling UFC to task for building interest in its fights through pre-scripted promos and mini documentaries. Does Bradly also think The Ultimate Fighter shouldn’t exist because it is more “entertainment” than competition? What about anything to do with Stephan A. Smith, who spends as much time making the news as covering it? Unfortunately, most news these days is a blend of palatable television and entertaining segues… hard-hitting beat reporting alone can’t pay the bills anymore.

But there you go, fellow wrestling journalists. “It’s not journalism.” Sorry, y’all.

Still on the WrestleMania 31 hangover? Catch up with our impressions of the show here! Also, make sure to watch our live Wrestlemania 31 video straight from Levi’s Stadium.

About Michael A. Wiseman

Michael A. Wiseman
Michael is a pro wrestling enthusiast and all-around geek. When not blogging, he likes to catch up on TV shows or dig into the latest tech news.

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