ESPN Apologizes for Radio Host's Attack on Blog Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio recently urged listeners of his syndicated show to flood a sports blog called The Big Lead, which got so many hits that the Web site went offline for about 48 hours. ESPN's ombudsman later criticized Cowherd, and the network apologized.
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ESPN Apologizes for Radio Host's Attack on Blog

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ESPN Apologizes for Radio Host's Attack on Blog

ESPN Apologizes for Radio Host's Attack on Blog

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We've heard much about Don Imus and his troubles this week. Well, another radio talk show host also got into trouble this past week, but for a very different sort of offense.

Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio used the airwaves to initiate a virtual attack that shut down a sports blog. The episode has exposed tension between old sports media and new sports media. And here to talk about all this is sportswriter Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal, who joins us on Fridays. Hello, Stefan.

Mr. STEFAN FATSIS: Hey, Michele.

NORRIS: Tell us exactly what happened here.

Mr. FATSIS: Well, late last week during his syndicated talk show, Cowherd told his listeners to simultaneously visit a sports blog called the Big Lead. The idea was to flood the site with so many hits that its server couldn't handle it and the site would crash. In Internet lingo, that's known as a denial of service. It can also be achieved by programming a computer to flood a particular site with hits.

NORRIS: Now Stefan, before we go on, let's actually listen to what Colin Cowherd had to say.

(Soundbite of archived radio commentary)

Mr. COLIN COWHERD (Host, The Herd): Wouldn't it be great if we went and basically gave out every day like an - a Web site, like a new, young Web site just blow it up; like we could have a sound effect and blow up a Web site. Wouldn't that be - if I told my audience every day, just one that's annoying, and could give it to - and it would blow - the audience would blow it up...

NORRIS: That audio that we just heard is from ESPN Radio. Stefan, what happened after that aired?

Mr. FATSIS: Well, it's not clear how technically this was achieved, but it worked. Cowherd boasted a little while later that we shut it down for 90 seconds, and he instructed his listeners to knock it out again just for fun. And the Big Lead was down for about 48 hours. ESPN's new ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber, who's a former New York Times sports editor, was sharply critical of Cowherd and the network. ESPN apologized. It said it would have zero tolerance for this sort of thing in the future, but Cowherd was not disciplined.

NORRIS: So why would Colin Cowherd try to take down the Big Lead Web site? What was the motivation there?

Mr. FATSIS: Not really clear. He sounded as if he had never heard of the site. The Big Lead is written by three anonymous guys, one of whom is a former journalist. They have jobs. They write commentary on the day's sports events. They conduct periodic interviews with sports media types. The site has been critical of ESPN, but so have lots of blogs. And as for Cowherd, last year, he took some original humor from a sports blog. He didn't credit the source. He refused to apologize before he finally did on air. He does not sound like a fan of sports blogs.

NORRIS: Now, we mentioned this growing tension between the old media and the new media in sports. How wide is that chasm?

Mr. FATSIS: What sports blogs have done, I think, is provide a greater range, and in some cases, a lot more sophisticated commentary and analysis than traditional media. And most of it is produced by non-journalists. And the collection of all that - you've got news and humor and stats, whatever else -it gives consumers more opportunity to bypass the mainstream media, and that is creating some tension. And one of the most interesting examples has been a blog that was just started by Boston Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling. Schilling has written about 2,000 words after each of his starts, so far this season. He details his performance pitch by pitch. Now, he told that the site had nearly 400,000 visitors in its first week. And he said those people will know about things they could never read about, 12 hours before the newspapers ever come out.

NORRIS: And what's the response from the old media to something like that?

Mr. FATSIS: Well, in some quarters, it was very telling. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a fake question and answer column, mocking the blog. Every question was simplistic and it was sycophantic. And he trotted out the old line that all bloggers live in their mothers' basements.

Now, I found it kind of sad. It sort of justified the argument that a lot of traditional, from-the-mouth sports commentary is just on its way out, and in few years, it won't exist.

NORRIS: Or at least maybe they'll work together.

Mr. FATSIS: You're starting to see that and it's inevitable. You look at the biggest Web sports Web site, Deadspin, it gets about 250,000 visitors a day. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, they're starting to look toward the blog world to bolster their own coverage.

NORRIS: Thanks, Stefan. Have a good weekend.

Mr. FATSIS: Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: That's Stefan Fatsis. He covers sports and the business of sports for the Wall Street Journal.

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