Linda Cohn: Political slant has hurt ESPN

Linda Cohn regularly “anchors” ESPN’s SportsCenter show. I haven’t watched SportsCenter in many years, so I hold no opinion about her as an anchor.

But having been an ESPN stalwart for almost 25 years, Cohn probably has a good sense of her audience. Thus, her views on the network’s woes are worth considering.

Cohn expressed her views shortly after ESPN’s mass layoff last week. She cited the loss of cable subscribers and the vast overpayment for products like the NBA.

Cohn also cited ESPN’s sojourn into politics. She said:

I felt that the old school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all these other changes [in the focus of ESPN’s coverage]. And they forgot their core. You can never forget your core and [to] be grateful for your core group.

Asked whether she feels there was “distaste” among viewers for programming decisions that focused on the political, Cohn responded that there was “definitely a percentage of it.” She added, “I don’t know how big a percentage, but if anyone wants to ignore that fact, then they’re blind. And that’s what I meant about the core group of what made ESPN so successful.”

It seems almost incomprehensible that ESPN would alienate a significant percentage of sports fans by feeding them left-wing politics. But think back to 2006-2009. Many on the left believed a new day had dawned. “The ones we’ve been waiting for” had finally arrived in the form of “we.”

In this setting, perhaps it becomes easier to understand why a well-entrenched operation like ESPN thought it could get away with moving ostentatiously to the left. As ESPN executives may have seen it, they weren’t ignoring their core, they were educating it. They were facilitating its transition into the new era that had arrived — one core viewers had no choice but to accept eventually.

This sort of hubris is the left’s Achilles’ heel. The belief that “history is on your side” may carry with it the sense that you can get away with an awful lot. It may lead you to think that the rubes in TV-land will be swept along, and soon.

This kind of triumphalism is not unknown among conservatives. However, it’s antithetical to traditional conservatism. Not succumbing to it would provide our side with an important advantage.

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