Sports journalist Michael Smith Reveals How ESPN Stifles Talent's Creativity

By: Foote Communications
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Toure Show
Toure Show
NEW YORK - Oct. 31, 2019 - PRLog -- Veteran sports journalist Michael Smith sheds light about his 15-year career at ESPN and the political tightrope he walked during his tenure there during an interview on the Toure Show podcast.

Smith tells Touré that SportsCenters' producers had "a certain way of doing things" that rebuffed suggestions from the show's hosts, which, in effect, stunted much of the shows' creativity.

"I'm of the opinion if you're going to do a show with Michael and Jemele, then you probably want to do what Michael and Jemele want to do," Smith says, discussing SC6, a short-lived revamped version of SportsCenter. "We knew how to put together shows. It just they don't like being told what to do. And I wasn't in the business of telling them what to do, I just wanted it done right."

Earlier this month, Smith left with a settlement after ESPN bought out the remainder of his reported multi-million-dollar contract. Smith has reported on a wide variety of issues and co-hosted the popular and innovative "His & Hers" Show with Jemele Hill.  After ESPN canceled the show, Smith appeared as a guest on several shows, but rarely in a lead role.  Hill, now a writer at The Atlantic, left ESPN in the aftermath of a controversy related to her Trump-related Tweet.

When discussing his role as co-host of SportsCenter with Hill, he responded to critics who felt they forced their way into the show. "People think we just bum-rushed and held up the spot like, 'We taking over the SportsCenter and running amok,'" Smith explains. "They asked us to do SportsCenter because they needed to breathe life into that brand."

Smith explains that ESPN, like many other cable and TV networks, are trying to survive in a world where TV viewership was shifting to streaming, and networks were trying to navigate their way through the changing climate. He says John Skipper, the president of SportsCenter at that time, selected Michael and Jemele as a way to help rebrand SportsCenter.  But from almost Day One, Smith said he knew what he and Hill had been promised had changed.

"We got the impression, both in terms of word and contract, that we would be able to come to SportsCenter, do exactly what we were doing on His & Hers … and have significant say in staff," Smith says. "We wanted a certain coordinating producer on our show. Didn't get her. … Basically, to quote [Coach] Bill Parcells, we were cooking the meal, but we couldn't shop for the groceries."

Audio clips are available for rebroadcast. The full hour-long interview is available for download on any podcast platform.

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