The new co-host of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” says she has a keen understanding of the legacy that previous anchors such as Chris Berman, Dan Patrick and Stuart Scott have left.
“‘SportsCenter’ is ESPN’s baby,” said Jemele Hill, who begins anchoring with her former “His & Hers” co-host Michael Smith at 6 p.m. Monday. “They’re leaving their baby in the hands of Mike and me. What we’re trying to do, while being ourselves, is carry on the tradition.”
Hill and Smith had been paired as hosts on ESPN2 since June 2013; their show became “His & Hers” a year later and concluded last month. Hill said they share sensibilities as former print journalists and have a strong allegiance to journalism while doing commentary.
“I realized a long time ago in college that it didn’t really matter what I wrote about, a negativity was going to be there,” she said. “Why not just say what I wanted to say? Let the backlash be damned.”
She dismissed as fantasy the view that politics and sports don’t mix.
“Politics have always been in sports, always,” she said. “People who say we should just stick to sports, it’s a very privileged position to come from. I wish I could have peace of mind to stick to one thing and not think about anything else in the world. I’m just not built that way.”
She tied ESPN’s ratings losses to established trends in an on-demand society and said Nielsen’s approach to measuring “is kind of antiquated.” ESPN’s expectations for the new “SportsCenter” team have never been spelled out, she added.
“We don’t talk ratings. We talk relevancy and content,” she said. “That’s all we really care about. We are in a great spot with ‘PTI’ as our lead-in. That’s arguably the best show on ESPN.”
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