In response to recent controversies—most notably involving Jemele Hill—ESPN has released a new social media policy.
The network’s original policy was released in 2011 and revised in 2012. ESPN also issued guidelines for talking politics before the 2016 election and tweaked those in April. The new policy, though, includes a few significant alterations.
The one that will pop out to followers of prolific newsbreakers like Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski is the edict not to break any news on a non-ESPN platform.
“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.”
It’s unclear if tweeting a link to a newsbreak on the ESPN Now platform would satisfy this requirement.
On issues of politics, the policy does not outright forbid ESPN employees from addressing social issues on their feeds but it does urge them to use caution. ESPNers are urged to limit their political commentary to topics “related to a current issue impacting sports” but regardless of the relevance to sports “we should refrain from overt partisanship or endorsement of particular candidates, politicians or political parties.”
The policy also requires employees to ask a supervisor before posting about politics and superiors may deny permission to post based on whether other employees are making political posts.
“Communication with producers and editors must take place prior to commentary on any political or social issues to manage volume and ensure a fair and effective presentation.”
The new guidelines were written primarily by Kevin Merida, editor in chief of The Undefeated, ESPN president John Skipper said.
“I ask that we all work together to ensure that we produce the highest quality sports content for fans, and to assure that we do so in an environment of uncompromised journalistic standards,” Skipper wrote in a note to employees.