Robert Lipsyte named ESPN’s fifth Ombudsman

Award-winning writer and Emmy recipient Robert Lipsyte has been appointed as ESPN’s fifth ombudsman.

Lipsyte, a native of Rego Park, N.Y. and graduate of Columbia University — where he also earned his Masters in journalism — will begin his 18-month term in June, offering independent examination, critique and analysis of ESPN. The role will include written pieces on, on-line chats and other multi-media interactions with fans.

Robert Lipsyte (Photo courtesy of PBS)
Robert Lipsyte (Photo courtesy PBS)

“During his days at the New York Times, PBS and throughout his distinguished career, Robert Lipsyte has always been recognized as an impeccable journalist with a true gift for reporting, writing and analysis,” said ESPN President John Skipper. “His deep and thorough understanding of sports media will assuredly be an asset for ESPN and our users.”

“We at ESPN have long admired Bob’s keen awareness of the sports world and how the media interact with the industry,” said ESPN Executive Vice President and Executive Editor, John Walsh. “During our interview with Bob, we agreed about a blueprint for the ESPN ombudsman in the digital age. So we will be looking at a multi-platform focus along with paying attention to the views of our audiences.

“We have always been interested in new ideas with the goal of making us better,” Walsh said. “Bob’s reputation as an independent thinker and fearless reporter and columnist will be important qualities.”

Lipsyte started as a copy boy at the New York Times in 1957 before becoming a sports reporter and then a sports columnist. The accomplished author left the paper in 1971 and continued his career as a freelance writer, television scriptwriter, journalism professor, radio commentator (for National Public Radio, 1976-82) and as a columnist for the New York Post (1977).

Lipsyte’s experience in TV included serving as a sports essayist for CBS Sunday Morning and as a correspondent for NBC. He hosted The Eleventh Hour on PBS in 1989, where he won an Emmy Award for On-Camera Achievement.

“Given the multitude of touchpoints we have with our audience, it’s imperative that the ESPN ombudsman have both the breadth of experience and cross-platform consumption to serve as an advocate for fans across mediums,” said Vice President and Editor-in-Chief,, Patrick Stiegman.

“This role is not about being a critic, per se, but instead helping demystify ESPN for fans, explaining our culture and standards, and commenting on journalism and programming decisions,” Stiegman said. “Bob’s decorated background in print, broadcast and digital is ideal for serving fans.”

In 1991, Lipsyte returned to the New York Times to write a sports column and a year later began penning a column in the magazine American Health. In 2002, he left the Times. Lipsyte wrote for periodically between 2003-2006. He was also a consultant for the network, a regular on Classic Sports Reporters and was part of the critically acclaimed SportsCentury series.

“I’m thrilled at the chance to help the ESPN audience — which means just about all sports fans — to understand how the decisions are made, or not made, that affect the presentation of its sports news and entertainment,” Lipsyte said. “Sports is an immensely important aspect of American social, moral and economic life and ESPN is the most important window on sports. My job is to keep that window transparent.”

Lipsyte’s books include The Contender, SportsWorld, Jock and Jill, One Fat Summer, Summer Rules, The Summerboy, The Brave, The Chief, The Chemo Kid, In the Country of Illness and his memoir, An Accidental Sportswriter. In 2001, Lispyte was honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring lifetime contribution in writing for young adults.

Lipsyte follows prior ESPN ombudsmen: George Solomon (2005-07); Le Anne Schreiber (2007-2008); Don Ohlmeyer (2009-2010) and The Poynter Institute (2011-2012).

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