ESPN will not be publishing any version of reporter Arash Markazi’s story about a night LeBron James spent at a nightclub and hotel in Las Vegas after the piece was removed from ESPN’s servers on Wednesday morning. The network claims that Mr. Markazi did not identify himself as a reporter while he was working on the story.
“We looked into the situation thoroughly and found that Arash did not properly identify himself as a reporter or clearly state his intentions to write a story,” wrote Rob King, editor-in-chief of ESPN digital, in an statement. “As a result, we are not comfortable with the content, even in an edited version, because of the manner in which the story was reported.”
“To be clear, the decisions to pull the prematurely published story and then not to run it were made completely by ESPN editorial staff without influence from any outside party,” Mr. King added.
The network also supplied a statement from the Mr. Markazi himself, who said he understood why his editors decided to retract his work. “It is important to note that I stand by the accuracy of the story in its entirety, but should have been clearer in representing my intent to write about the events I observed,” he wrote in a statement.
ESPN has not said that any information in the story is inaccurate. The fact that Mr. Markazi did not identify himself as a reporter does not look good, but it’s hard to think of many other news outfits that would remove a story after it was made available to readers. Other companies would probably hide behind the the age-old adage of “We stand by our story,” while privately scolding Mr. Markazi and praising him for bringing home the goods (“Teach Me How to Dougie” dance-off!). ESPN’s statement today lends clarity to the situation, but the events of this week go to show that the network doesn’t want to make a practice of publishing any story that might limit the network’s access to sources in the future. Considering the network’s priorties recently, this isn’t surprising.