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The Don is back: Ohlmeyer to be ESPN's Ombudsman

July 14, 2009 |  5:54 pm

Veteran television executive Don Ohlmeyer, who was never shy about critiquing the media, is going to try his hand as an internal media critic for ESPN.

As ombudsman, Ohlmeyer will write a monthly column for for 18 months starting in August analyzing the journalism at the cable sports powerhouse.

Ohlmeyer A legendary figure in the industry for his producing prowess and his hard-charging lifestyle, Ohlemyer has been involved in practically every major sporting event around. He also helped create the MTV Awards and was at the helm of NBC's entertainment operations during the network's heyday in the mid-1990s. Most recently, Ohlmeyer has been teaching directing and filmmaking at Pepperdine University.

In an interview, Ohlmeyer, 64, said the challenge for ESPN -- which has grown from a single cable network to an empire of channels, websites and a magazine -- is not losing touch with its audience.

"One of the Achilles' heels that large companies have, and that is what ESPN has gotten to be, is it is hard to remember how you thought when you were small," he said, adding that he will be looking at how ESPN balances its business interests with its journalism.

"There is a potential conflict that exists.... You can be friends with these people and have access, but your real obligation is to the viewer, not the athlete or even your own career," he added. Unlike his predecessors at ESPN -- Le Anne Schreiber and George Solomon -- who were journalists, Ohlmeyer has an industry background with production credits that include the Olympics, Super Bowl, "Monday Night Football" and "ABC's Wide World of Sports."

Ohlmeyer, who often called reporters to challenge their stories, said contrary to popular opinion he didn't hate dealing with the media when he was an executive.

"I had disdain for things that were inaccurate, not things I didn't agree with.... I might say you might have missed these points. It wasn't just, 'Joe, you ignorant slut.' "

-- Joe Flint

Photo of Ohlmeyer by Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times