ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, gave its worldwide audience a quick and dirty object lesson in social media and crisis mismanagement Thursday afternoon, with coverage of the death of Aaron Douglas that you might find objectionable if you've got, say, a pulse:
This piece, posted on ESPN's subscription-only Insider blog, began, "Possible starter found dead in Jacksonville, opening door for five-star signee Cyrus Kouandjio." It somehow got worse once subscribers clicked past the paywall and into the body of the post, calling Nick Saban "prescient" for giving left tackle snaps to players besides Douglas in spring practice. And it stayed up for at least a half hour after we were first alerted to its presence by our friends at Football Outsiders, before being quietly yanked and replaced with text that now reads, "xx." For this, you are asked to pay a monthly subscription fee.
The WWL wasn't quite fast enough with the vaudeville hook. Every major news outlet is subject to instant feedback and international scrutiny on this vast, nigh-unnavigable frontier of new media, and when you're as big as the Mouse and its subsidiaries, the jokes start fast and spread faster. When they did get out in front of it, they did it frankly and directly -- ESPN's editor-in-chief himself apologized via the same social media waves that brought down the post in the first place -- but what I can't figure out is what a grab like that was doing on Insider in the first place. Post author Albert Lin was so immeasurably out of line here that he managed to anger Alabama fans talking about their own depth chart. Why even go there? Ever? It's a brave new world out here in God's green internet, but they're still ESPN. It's not like they're hurting for pageviews.