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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

wtf: ESPN lets LeBron James dictate the news, ScienceBlogs lets Pepsi dictate science…

Are there any real journalists left anywhere? And does anyone care?

Tonight, ESPN will turn over an hour of its airtime to an athlete — basketball player LeBron James — so he can announce which team he’ll play for next season. I’m not any kind of sports fan, but I was under the impression that ESPN was a legitimate source for news and commentary on what’s happening in the sports world. But I’m with Michael K. Ozanian, who wrote at SportsMoney, a Forbes.com blog, that this:

confirm[s] three things: There is no longer any difference between reality television programming and professional sports; ESPN has become a parody of itself; the game has become less relevant than its star players.

Also at SportsMoney, David Lariviere complains:

The bottom line is a legitimate news organization is supposed to cover the news when it happens, not have the news dictated or sold to it. This move by ESPN makes it much more like the National Enquirer than 60 Minutes.

We also discovered this week that the highly respected ScienceBlogs — which hosts lots of great writing by real scientists, including P.Z. Myers’ Pharyngula, which I really love — had given over a new blog called Food Frontiers to PepsiCo, which ScienceBlogs editor, Evan Lerner, claimed would cover (quoted at the Guardian):

how the company is developing products rooted in rigorous, science-based nutrition standards to offer consumers more wholesome and enjoyable foods and beverages. The focus will be on innovations in science, nutrition and health policy. In addition to learning more about the transformation of PepsiCo’s product portfolio, we’ll be seeing some of the innovative ways it is planning to reduce its use of energy, water and packaging.

In other words, pure PR.

Lots of readers and scientists objected, and ScienceBlogs has canceled the project.

But how did this Pepsi blog — or the LeBron James ESPN mess — ever get past the supposedly smart, supposedly honest people in charge of these endeavors? Who thought these were good ideas?

That this things come on top of yesterday’s news about the film critic who reviewed Inception without having seen it, and not be embarrassed to be called on it is extremely disheartening to me… and I was already really, really glum about the prospects of survival for intelligent, meaningful journalism. Maybe it’s already dead, at least in any form that gets in front of mainstream audiences.



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