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Knight Center


#ESPNfail: New Twitter guidelines for ESPN prompt criticism

Following in the footsteps of other media outlets and organizations that have taken a stand on how to use Facebook and Twitter, in August ESPN issued a new social media policy, according to Scribbal.

IESPN's social media guidelines, available in a PDF download here, tell journalists to "think before you tweet," and "think before you re-tweet." Warning journalists to "exercise discretion" and "keep internal deliberations confidential," the policy also states that journalists must not "break news on Twitter."

John Karalis of Bloguin laments the rule telling journalists not to break news on Twitter, saying the "suits" at ESPN are "a little out of touch when it comes to how we get our information nowadays." This guideline, Karalis wrote, could be the beginning of the end for ESPN. "The more other sites and reporters break news on social media sites, the more they get recognized as the leaders. The more they're recognized as the leaders, the more likely I am to go to them, rather than ESPN, for the news."

Journalists should be allowed to break news via Twitter, wrote David Silverberg of Future of Media, arguing that ESPN's new guideline "runs contrary to how media should operate in a digital age where people flock to Twitter for the latest news from their favourite reporters."

Writing that ESPN's ban on breaking news on Twitter is a step back in time, ZombieJournalism offered two possible reasons for such an old-fashioned policy:

1.) The company brass is worried about their role in consistently passing along rumor and speculation. But come on, let’s be serious, they know that’s why we sports fans even visit ESPN.
2.) ESPN must be so certain of its stranglehold on sources within the sports world that it has no fear of losing an exclusive to a social media source.

The American Society of News Editors in may issued a similar controversial social media guideline, advising news outlets to "break news on your website, not Twitter."

In response to such negative feedback about their new policy, ESPN spokesman Paul Melvin responded -- ironically via Twitter -- saying, "ESPN policy not a ‘ban’ – just sets guidelines for leveraging powerful media tool responsibly.”

In a Q&A, Editor-In-Chief Rob King told Sports Business Daily 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...When it really comes down to fretting over 140 characters, 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."

Other Related Headlines:
» Knight Center (Bloomberg issues social media guidelines: "Ask questions first. Tweet later")
» Knight Center (Associated Press editor tells staff to rein in personal opinions on social media)
» Knight Center (Washington Post memo says reporters can't respond to critics via Twitter)


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