It started years ago. Before Daunte Culpepper made his first start for the Vikings, Chris Mortensen announced that Dan Marino was going to be the next starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. It was a pretty monumental mistake the CBS Sportsline quickly refuted and was the flashpoint of Sportsline's dominance at breaking NFL megastories such as Joe Gibbs' comeback to coaching. Over the years, ESPN has taken credit for stories that weren't their own, which is the benefit to being the number one 24 hour sports news network: unless you spend as much time on as many sites as me, you're likely to see breaking sports news on ESPN. So if Sporting News Radio, the Contra Costa Times, or Adam Schefter breaks a big story, ESPN can throw it on their ticker preceded by a "Len Pasquarelli reports" and they can plant a flag on a story most people have not yet heard, perhaps only minutes after another media center reports it.
But lately, ESPN has become journalistically sloppy, Mortensen in particular. He defied conventional wisdom and said Michael Vick had nothing to worry about when the Feds raided his Virginia mansion. He said Eli Manning would miss at least a month with a shoulder injury when he didn't miss a start. John Clayton got into the act this weekend reporting Derrick Ward would miss the Sunday Night matchup with the Eagles; he got the start and had over 100 yards from scrimmage. Some false stories they've reported have gone uncredited: they reported Michael Vick wouldn't plea to killing dogs or gambling in his plea deal, which was absolutely preposterous. (Note the lack of an author) In the indictment of the worldwide leader, they reported Niners QB Alex Smith was seeking a second opinion for whether or not he needed surgery, while The Sacramento Bee reports surgery isn't being considered.
What has happened at ESPN is that everyone wants to be Chris Berman, (ubiquitous during football season) no one wants to be Bob Ley (invisible except during Vick-caliber scandals). Even the legitimate reporters they have such as Michael Smith and Kelly Naqi seem more interested in airtime than getting a story right. It's gotten to the point the Ed Werder and Buster Olney are literally the only people who you can trust on ESPN.