SBD/Issue 221/Sports Media

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  • ESPN Issues Policy To All Talent Regarding Social Networking Use

    ESPN Personnel Cannot Directly Post News On 
    Twitter Due To Company's New Official Policy
    ESPN yesterday sent a memo to all ESPN talent outlining guidelines for the use of social networking, including Twitter. The net said personal Web sites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted, and all ESPN employees must receive permission from a supervisor before engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports. ESPN.com reserves the right to post sports-related social media content, but if the Web site elects not to post that content, staff members are not permitted to discuss any opinions on sports-related topics on a personal platform. ESPN staffers also must avoid discussing internal policies, including how a story was reported or edited. The memo states that a violation of the guidelines could result in consequences, including suspension or dismissal (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the ESPN guidelines "restrict the freedom that ESPN employees might previously have enjoyed." ESPN Senior VP/Corporate Communications Chris LaPlaca said, "We've been in the social networking space for a long time, and will continue to be there. But we want to be smarter about how we do it" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/5).

    REASONS FOR POLICY: ESPN.com Editor-In-Chief Rob King said of the net's policy, "It's an important opportunity to reiterate to folks that this technology is the equivalent of a live microphone. In that respect, it should be treated with some measure of awareness about how it represents those individuals who are forward-facing talent and how it represents how ESPN wants to connect with the audience. There's a lot of education that goes along with it. Anyone who's ever had a tweet re-tweeted by the audience knows that it can be presented in ways that you might never have understood or intended when you originally articulated those 140 characters." While some speculate that ESPN reporters may lose scoops due to the policy, King said, "I'd sooner make sure that I've got the right number of words to tell the story as well and as accurately as possible then fret about whether my 140 characters get out into the digital space first" (John Ourand, THE DAILY). For more from King on the issue, please see today's Closing Bell.

    ESPN PERSONNEL RESPOND, VIA TWITTER: ESPN NBA reporter Ric Bucher tweeted, “The hammer just came down, tweeps: ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN. Kinda figured this was coming. … I'm probably violating some sort of policy just by telling you. … My guess is I can still tweet about my vacation/car shopping, etc. Which I will do, if I can. But the informal NBA talk is prob in jeopardy.” NFL reporter Adam Schefter: “Have seen ESPN's new Twitter guidelines. And I now have no choice. Before I start there Aug. 17, I must check myself into Twitter rehab. … My mailbox has BLOWN UP with your Twitter policy comments. Thank you for them. All I can say with certainty, for now, is: To be continued.” On-air personality Kenny Mayne: ”Was informed 2nd hand of Taliban-like decree against further Twitter. I leave noting that I am a fan of Fiona Apple.” ESPN The Magazine reporter Ryan McGee: “Its being blown out of proportion. My interpretation wasn't ‘you can't do it’ but ‘be smart about what you say.’” ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons: “My take on the great unspoken: Ultimately it's good if (redacted) incorporates (redacted). Had to start somewhere.” ESPN Event Production Manager Katie Richman: “I'm tweeting now and no one has dropped out of the ceiling on a wire to arrest me. Don't worry, Twitter, we ESPN'ers are still here... ;).”

    One Theory Behind Policy Is Fans May Read
    Twitter Posts Instead Of ESPN.com
    POSSIBLE THEORIES FOR THE DECREE: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the new policy "seems to compel ESPN employees who are posting substantive sports-related information to do so in a manner that advances the ESPN agenda of getting as many people as possible to visit ESPN.com and/or tune in to one of the many ESPN television networks." The guidelines demonstrate the "concern that big media companies have regarding the extent to which their products will become undermined by Twitter feeds that cannot now -- and likely never will be -- monetized." With ESPN staffers such as NFL reporters Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen "posting regular NFL updates on their Twitter feeds, people might decide simply to follow them on Twitter, and to never visit ESPN's on-air or online properties" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/4). THE SPORTING BLOG's Dan Levy cites a source as saying that ESPN is "upset with on-air talent breaking news on Twitter, rather than on an ESPN platform." Levy: "The WWL is working on a system to pick and choose ESPN tweets to post on their .com platform, so if news is broken via Tweet, it will be posted on the website as well. But until that service is up and running and can find its place on the site, ESPN brass would like the breaking news to be toned down a bit" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/5). BIZ OF BASEBALL's Maury Brown writes ESPN "may be looking at the possible PR landmines that come with writers and on-air personalities out from behind the editorial purview," and "preventing a possibly embarrassing tweet could be ESPN's goal" (BIZOFBASEBALL.com, 8/5).

    REAX: CNBC’s Darren Rovell writes, “I have absolutely no problem with this policy. As long as your name is associated with ESPN, you are reporting for the company. The fact that it’s 140 characters or less doesn’t change that” (CNBC.com, 8/5). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote the policy "sounds quite reasonable, actually." Best: "Why should media companies allow their people to post news and opinions elsewhere before they do so for the mothership?" (NEWSDAY.com, 8/4). MASHABLE.com wrote, “ESPN took to Twitter to tweet their official statement to us ... and it’s not only refreshingly honest, but the method of response was certainly well received. ... To be completely fair, the social media guidelines, albeit a little vague and overbearing, are not as bad as we expected” (MASHABLE.com, 8/4). Sports Media Challenge President Kathleen Hessert: “Be assured ESPN cares & is committed 2 SM. ESPN is made up of people grappling w/ new environment. Intentions are good. Results maturing.” CBS News' Armen Keteyian: “If this new ESPN tweeting policy is what it appears to be, did the directive define 'serve?' A delicate dance at all networks/leagues. … understandable from corp perspective, but 'good luck' walking that high wire.” New York magazine Contributing Editor Will Leitch: “Very friendly -- and good-luck-bringing! -- ESPN employee saw my Tweet that I was at Citi and came by to say hi. Hope THAT isn't banned now" (TWITTER.com, 8/5).

    AND FOR THE OTHERS? After the ESPN policy was released, SI was asked if it would implement a Twitter policy for editorial purposes. The magazine, which has more than 30 writers tweeting, operates on a culture of trust with regard to social media. SI VP/Communications Scott Novak said this morning, “We view writer communication with social media platforms as an extension of what they’re already doing with many TV networks. Our mission is to deliver SI’s award-winning journalism to fans through every medium, including social media communications” (THE DAILY).

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  • Deford's NPR Commentary Tackles ESPN's Hold On Sports Media

    Does ESPN Claim Too 
    Much Credit For Stories?
    On his NPR commentary, Frank Deford today offers a tough take on ESPN, saying the company “rules the land, the seas and the firmament of sport, and ESPN sees that it is good.” Deford: “What it covers is so often what it owns the rights to -- in almost every major sport. ... ESPN can make you. ... In no other significant part of American culture does one media entity enjoy such domination.” Deford acknowledges being paid in the past by ESPN and that he “enjoyed working there.” Deford: “I don't come to criticize so much as to just nestle up to the elephant in the room and ask, perhaps, that it act with a wee bit more humility and a lot less self-promotion.” He states ESPN “has a very unbecoming habit of subtly claiming it alone uncovers all the news. Typically, a valid report will come out, but hours later, ESPN will declare that it has ‘confirmed’ such-and-such. That's kind of tacky stuff. Exclusive: ESPN hereby confirms that it is Wednesday.” ESPN is also “known to cozy up to the very superstars it purports to cover. Just suppose that CNN regularly had cutesy commercials for CNN starring Nancy Pelosi, John McCain and Rahm Emanuel. Well, that's the equivalent of what ESPN regularly does with top sports personalities. The practice is, simply, a journalistic disgrace, and, because ESPN is so powerful, it diminishes the integrity of all sports journalism.” Deford concludes, “ESPN does so much quality work, but at a certain point, in whatever field, if you become omnipotent, and if you are secure, you stop being a conceited smarty-pants and start exhibiting a measure of grace” ("Morning Edition,” NPR, 8/5).

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  • NBA '09-10 National TV Sked Unveiled, Coverage To Begin October 27

    Griffin's Regular-Season Debut To Be Part
    Of Doubleheader On TNT
    The NBA and its TV partners yesterday announced the league's full regular-season schedule. The '09-10 season will begin October 27 on TNT with a doubleheader featuring Cavaliers-Celtics and Lakers-Clippers, marking No. 1 Draft pick Blake Griffin's first regular-season appearance. ESPN's coverage will begin October 28 with Hornets-Spurs opening a doubleheader, followed by Jazz-Nuggets. TNT will air 53 games total. ESPN will air 75 games, with an additional 15 on ABC. ESPN Radio will carry 26, and ESPN Deportes will televise 22. TNT's schedule features a maximum 10 appearances each by the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Magic. Highlights include doubleheaders on Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, plus a Martin Luther King Jr. Day tripleheader. ABC's games include six appearances each by the Celtics and Lakers, while on ESPN, the Celtics, Cavs, Lakers, Suns, Trail Blazers and Spurs each have 10 appearances. ESPN and ABC will air a combined five Christmas Day games (THE DAILY).

    CUTTING BACK: SPORTS MEDIA WATCH noted "unless there are major changes," ABC's 15 NBA telecasts will be its "fewest amount of NBA games" since it became the league's network TV partner before the '02-03 season. Fifteen is the "minimum amount of regular season games the network is contractually obligated to air," and the net will "only air games involving 8 teams next season." The "lack of NBA games on ABC is surprising, considering that NBA regular season ratings have increased for two consecutive seasons" (SPORTSMEDIAWATCH.com, 8/4). ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan noted with Rockets C Yao Ming and G Tracy McGrady injured and former F Ron Artest signing with the Lakers this offseason, the Rockets "now apparently have no national appeal at all," as the team will not appear on TNT, ESPN or ABC this season. The Nets, Kings, Bucks and Bobcats also have no nationally televised games, not counting broadcasts on NBA TV (ESPN.com, 8/4).

    Magic Scheduled To Play Franchise-High
    24 Games On National Television
    GAINING EXPOSURE: In Atlanta, Sekou Smith notes the Hawks have "seven nationally televised games on their regular-season schedule this season," five more than the number during Hawks coach Mike Woodson's "first five years combined and equal to the amount the franchise has had the past 11 seasons." Woodson: "The first four years we were here, we couldn’t have bought our way onto the air. But since we’ve made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons you could sense things were turning around for us, and this is huge. This is a huge turnaround and one that I think goes right along with all the strides we’ve made as a team and franchise" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 8/5). In Orlando, Josh Robbins note the Magic will play a "franchise-record 24 games on national television during the upcoming season." Magic C Dwight Howard: "We've always wanted that kind of exposure, especially for our city. So now we've got it. It's going to be on us to go out there and perform to the best of our abilities" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/5). On Long Island, Alan Hahn notes the schedule includes the Knicks' "first appearance on the annual Christmas Day schedule of games since 2001," as the team will host the Heat in a 12:00pm ET game televised by ESPN. The Knicks will also play against the Hawks on New Year's Day in Atlanta and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day against the Pistons at MSG (NEWSDAY, 8/5).

    STARS, WINNING IMPORTANT: In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes if the NBA's TV partners believed Thunder F Kevin Durant "was the second coming" of Cavaliers F LeBron James, the Thunder "would not have just one measly national telecast this season." However, the NBA is a "star-driven league," as the Clippers have "eight national-TV games this season" to showcase Griffin (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 8/5). In Sacramento, Jason Jones notes the Kings' sole national appearance will be on NBA TV on November 8 against the Warriors. Kings coach Paul Westphal: "If you start winning enough, they find a way to put you on. It's certainly not something I get worked up about" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/5).

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  • Blazing Saddles: UAB Signs 10-Year Extension With ISP Sports

    The Univ. of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) yesterday announced a new 10-year multimedia rights deal with ISP Sports valued at a total of $7M. UAB AD Brian Mackin said the new terms represented a 125% increase over the Blazers' previous deal with North Carolina-based ISP. Included in the contract are several facility improvements that ISP will pay for, including new, state-of-the art scoreboards for Bartow Arena, Young Memorial Field and the school's new on-campus softball facility that is scheduled to open for the '10 season. The scoreboards will be produced by Daktronics. The video equipment will be run by a new mobile truck that will provide live game production services and instant replay capabilities that will also be used at UAB home football games at Legion Field (UAB/ISP Sports). In Birmingham, Steve Irvine notes the deal will run through June '19 and is an increase over the current deal that guaranteed $259,000 per year "plus some potential added money each year through revenue sharing." Mackin said the first phase of the "athletic facility upgrade, which included a new weight room, training room and academic center for athletes, was 'more internal' while the scoreboards will be visible for fans and visitors outside the athletic program." Mackin: "It shows that we are making progress. With these enhancements, the fans and general public are going to see the scoreboards and see (the improvements). That's the outward growth that we need." ISP Senior VP Dan Barrett indicated the company has partnerships with "about 65" schools (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 8/5).

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  • Media Notes

    Did N.Y. Times Break The Law By Reporting
    Positive Results From '03 MLB Testing?
    Baseball writer and former N.Y. Times writer Murray Chass asked, "Is The New York Times breaking the law in reporting the positive 2003 tests of Ramirez, Ortiz and Sammy Sosa? Why doesn't anyone care if the Times is breaking the law?" MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr last week issued a statement "in which he said quite clearly that the Times is breaking the law." But the paper "disagrees with Fehr's view, saying it is not breaking any laws or doing anything improper." N.Y. Times Assistant General Counsel George Freeman: "This is a reporter's duty. You try to get people to give you information all the time. If you pay somebody to do something illegal or facilitate their finding something illegal, that's one thing. The law is pretty clear on that. The reporter has to be actively involved in a crime." Chass noted the N.Y. Times "frowns on its reporters breaking the law." Chass: "Why then does the Times allow, no, encourage a reporter to induce lawyers to violate a court order?" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 8/4).

    EXCHANGE PROGRAM: WEEI-AM and the Boston Globe yesterday announced that Globe sports writers "will be allowed to appear as call-in contributors on all programming on WEEI." Globe writers have not appeared on WEEI programs since '99 "after a disagreement over the shows' content" (BOSTON.com, 8/4). In Boston, gossip columnists Fee & Raposa cite sources as saying that Globe writers will not appear "in the studio." Meanwhile, Boston Globe columnist Tony Massarotti reportedly is "close to fleeing" the paper for an afternoon show on WBZ-FM (BOSTON HERALD, 8/5).

    UP CLOSE & PERSONAL: Golf Channel will unveil a new broadcast enhancement this week that allows fans to see and hear player and caddie conversations by putting a stationary microphone and dedicated camera on the tee box of select holes. "Inside View presented by Citi" is also expected at the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and Presidents Cup. All audio and video will be tape delayed (Jon Show, SportsBusiness Journal).

    PEOPLE & PERSONALITIES: K.C. Star columnist Joe Posnanski is leaving the paper to become a senior writer for SI. Posnanski: "I have been offered what I honestly believe is the best job in American sports writing." Posnanski has been writing for SI and SI.com since last August (K.C. STAR, 8/5)....L.A. Daily News writer Brian Dohn has announced that he is "moving to New Jersey." Dohn's "Inside UCLA" blog was "one of the, if not the, highest traffic blogs in the Daily News stable" (LAOBSERVED.com, 8/3).

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