ESPN’s decision to give an hour of its prime-time schedule tonight, (Thursday, July 8, 2010, at 9 p.m. ET) to LeBron James to make his team pick announcement is raising a number of questions. These questions range from the ethics of the plan to how ESPN will fill an hour with what otherwise would be a 30-second announcement, report two execellent reporters, Scott Collins and Joe Flint, in the Los Angeles Times.
While James will donate the proceeds to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, ESPN’s decision raises a red flag among journalists, with one journalism professor questioning whether it’s a donation or a direct payment to James, the article says.
The move also could represent "a turning point in the relationship between mega-celebrities and perpetually ratings-hungry media," the article says. The deal, brokered by James’ business manager Maverick Carter, gives James’ camp both creative and financial control. For instance, ESPN allowed James to pick his interviewer, ex-ESPN reporter Jim Gray, the article points out.
ESPN executive Norby Williamson defended the network, telling the Times that it doesn’t believe it’s more or less paying for an interview although in a perfect world "maybe we don’t draw it up exactly like this."