ESPN, the “Worldwide Tweeter” – err — “Leader in Sports,” drew the ire of some of its employees yesterday when it issued a set of formal guidelines limiting their use of social networking.
“The hammer just came down, tweeps: ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN,” Ric Bucher, one of the network’s NBA analysts, wrote to followers of his Twitter feed yesterday. “Kinda figured this was coming.”
Bucher continued: “I’m probably violating some sort of policy just by telling you. In any case, stay tuned.”
“My guess is I can still tweet about my vacation/car shopping, etc.,” he added an hour later. “Which I will do, if I can. But the informal NBA talk is prob in jeopardy.”
According to a memo issued by ESPN, the “first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content.”
The guidelines prohibit “personal websites and blogs that contain sports content,” and talk about internal policies, a relatively standard practice for any media company. But they also aim to define when and what employees are allowed to Tweet about, including sports.
“If you wouldn’t say it on the air or write it in your column, don’t tweet it.”
It seems that the network that routinely broadcasts athletes’ Twitter updates on "SportsCenter" is getting concerned that its talent is getting off-message.
“Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head.” (As one commenter on the Big Lead, a well-regarded sports blog, pointed out, “Doesn’t that prevent them from being the ‘first’ to break a story?”)
One of the reasons for the guidelines being issued now, also detailed in the memo, is that ESPN is working on a platform that will allow it to publish its employees’ Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously across “ESPN.com, SportsCenter.com, Page 2, ESPN Profile pages and other similar pages across our web site and mobile platforms” in the fall.
But, the network warned, “if ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms.”
Violation of the guidelines, ESPN said, could result “in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.”
Here, via an ESPN employee, are the guidelines:
ESPN’S ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR SOCIAL NETWORKING
ESPN regards social networks such as message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter as important new forms of content. As such, we expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms. This applies to all ESPN Talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content.
ESPN Digital Media is currently building and testing modules designed to publish Twitter and Facebook entries simultaneously on ESPN.com, SportsCenter.com, Page 2, ESPN Profile pages and other similar pages across our web site and mobile platforms. The plan is to fully deploy these modules this fall.
· Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted
· Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head
· ESPN.COM may choose to post sports related social media content
· If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms
· The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content
* Assume at all times you are representing ESPN
* If you wouldn’t say it on the air or write it in your column, don’t tweet it
* Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans
· Avoid discussing internal policies or detailing how a story or feature was reported, written, edited or produced and discussing stories or features in progress, those that haven’t been posted or produced, interviews you’ve conducted, or any future coverage plans.
· Steer clear of engaging in dialogue that defends your work against those who challenge it and do not engage in media criticism or disparage colleagues or competitors
· Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN’s employee policies and editorial guidelines
· Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, should not be shared
Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.