SBD/October 5, 2012/Media

Poynter Reviews ESPN's Attribution Policies, Highlights Discrepancies In Social Media

Media organizations today “face a host of new pressures, from the growing number of rivals reporting news to the increasing importance of social media in disseminating and sharing that news,” and amid such “rapid change, news outlets such as ESPN face challenges in taking their editorial standards beyond familiar pages and airwaves to new platforms,” according to Jason Fry in the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project. VP & Editor-in-Chief Patrick Stiegman said that ESPN’s standards and practices “require ‘appropriate and proper credit’ when an ESPN report references another news organization’s story.” Stiegman said that ESPN “doesn’t have a specific policy about attribution in tweets, but noted that ESPN’s standards and practices apply to all of its journalistic efforts.” There is “no exception for social media such as Twitter.” But ESPN’s standards are “less clear-cut about when to provide a Web link to another news organization’s report.” Stiegman said that ESPN stories “generally include such links, particularly in its many blogs or when referencing a report that relies on anonymous sources -- but that every situation is different.” Still another “bone of contention was over divergent U.S. and European journalistic standards.” ESPN Italian soccer correspondent Adam Digby argued on Twitter it was very “rare to see credit” for quotes on social media, especially tied to European media sites. Stiegman acknowledged “there are, unquestionably, cultural journalistic differences,” adding ESPN editors from various regions had been engaged in “a healthy and fair debate” about them. He said plans are under way for "a much deeper alignment" of philosophies and standards with those of ESPN's U.S. operations. Fry wrote ESPN’s policies “for attribution and credit strike us as sound, and ESPN is right to apply them to social media, as well.” Fry: “We would suggest, however, that ESPN re-examine its standards for linking to other organizations’ stories. ESPN’s argument that it can be confusing to send readers to stories with potentially contradictory information strikes us as well-intentioned but not terribly helpful” (, 10/3).
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