After coming under scrutiny for inconsistent enforcement of its social media policy, ESPN announced in September that it would revise the company’s guidelines.
That policy was released on Thursday.
In the wake of Jemele Hill’s suspension, ESPN communicated a more specific stance on political and social issues when it comes to social media. But, at first, it also appeared to change how reporters like Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski will report news.
The new social media guidelines included the following passage, prohibiting reporters from breaking news on social platforms:
“Do not break news on social platforms. We want to serve fans in the social sphere, but the first priority is to ESPN news and information efforts. Public news (i.e. announced in news conferences) can be distributed without vetting. However, sourced or proprietary news must be vetted by the Universal News Desk. Once reported on an ESPN platform, that news can (and should) be distributed on social platforms.”
If enforced, this would be a major shift in how some of ESPN’s top news breakers operate. Schefter and Wojnarowski have built major followings thanks in part to their ability to accurately be first to a story. If they had to wait for an article to be posted on ESPN.com before tweeting the news, they would almost certainly have to watch as competing outlets break the news on Twitter.
But Woj Bombs aren’t going anywhere. An ESPN spokesperson noted to For The Win that the passage hadn’t changed much since 2011, adding that the company’s enforcement approach will not change either. From that 2011 policy:
It is a policy that, at face value, has been broken on a daily basis, but ESPN often turns those breaking-news tweets into segments on ESPN platforms in real time. ESPN VP of communications Josh Krulewitz explained:
“This part of the policy has not changed, and our top reporters make their content available to ESPN’s news desk and tweet it at the same time.”
ESPN president John Skipper introduced the new policy with an emphasis on how ESPN personalities commentate on divisive social and political issues. He wrote:
Given recent events, I have been engaged with a number of our colleagues, including journalists, editors, producers, as well as content and communications executives, to re-examine those guidelines. As a result of that work, we are today releasing updated Social Media and Political & Social Issues editorial guidelines.