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Volume 24 No. 239
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ESPN Releases New Social Media Policy Following High-Profile Controversies

ESPN today released a new social media policy in the wake of several high-profile controversies that started with Twitter posts. The new policy is not much different from ESPN’s old social media policy that was developed in ’11. ESPN employees are encouraged to be “civil, responsible and without overt political or other biases that would threaten our or your credibility with the public,” according to the lead paragraph of the policy, which was written by The Undefeated Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida. ESPN consulted with some of its high-profile talent, like “OTL” host Bob Ley, to draft the rules. “It’s going to be disappointing if people are expecting some dramatic, new proclamation,” ESPN President John Skipper told THE DAILY. “We’re mostly going to proclaim, we examined it. We still are who we are. We still believe what we believe. We’re going to ask people to adhere to that.” ESPN’s social media policy follows similar guidelines issued recently by the N.Y. Times and Wall Street Journal. Skipper described the guidelines as “common-sense” rules that apply the same standards for publishing on social media that ESPN uses for television, print, online and radio. “Do nothing that would undercut your colleagues’ work or embroil the company in unwanted controversy,” the guidelines read. “We reserve the right to take action for violations of these principles.” “We are an organization that when we are practicing journalism, or even when we don't, we want to be grounded in the principles of journalism,” Skipper said. “That is a slight change in emphasis.”

NOT A RESPONSE TO HILL, PONDER: Skipper said the guidelines were not created in response to recent social media controversies. ESPN last month suspended “SportsCenter” host Jemele Hill because of some of her tweets. “Sunday NFL Countdown” host Sam Ponder also created a stir internally for a series of tweets about Barstool Sports, which was launching a show on ESPN. That show has since been cancelled. “It’s all intertwined with a moment in our culture and our political environment of polarization,” Skipper said. “It’s the right time to do it. We would never react to one incident or two incidents and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to look.’ It’s a unique moment in time.” Similar to its ‘11 guidelines, ESPN’s new document reminds its employees that social media feeds are public. “And everything we do in public is associated with ESPN,” it says. It also emphasizes that ESPN’s focus is sports. “While we acknowledge that our employees have interests beyond sports, it is essential that we not compromise our authority as the worldwide leader in sports coverage.”

DON’T BREAK NEWS ELSEWHERE: The guidelines also point out that employees should not break news on social platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. It also emphasizes that employees keep internal deliberations confidential. “Do not post any confidential or proprietary company information [or] references to ESPN polices,” it reads. “We’re engaged in running a sports media business here,” Skipper said. “We all benefit from it. Just as we do on the air and in publishing online and the magazine and talking on the radio, we’re trying to do things that work for fans and build our business. These other platforms should not be mechanisms to undermine that collective effort. They should be a mechanism to underpin that effort.”