ESPN BEGS FOR CONSERVATIVE VIEWERS: Ratings and Earnings PLUMMET

And Then…There Are The Politics

In addition to the Political/Social guidelines, additional changes were made to the network’s Election Coverage guidelines, that state:

  • Original news reports should not include statements of support, opposition or partisanship related to any social issue, political position, candidate or office holder.
  • Writers, reporters, producers and editors directly involved in ‘hard’ news reporting, investigative or enterprise assignments and related coverage should refrain in any public-facing forum from taking positions on political or social issues, candidates or office holders.
  • Outside of ‘hard’ news reporting, commentary related to political or social issues, candidates or office holders is appropriate on ESPN platforms consistent with these guidelines.
  • The topic should be related to a current issue impacting sports. This condition may vary for content appearing on platforms with broader editorial missions — such as The Undefeated, FiveThirtyEight and espnW. Other exceptions must be approved in advance by senior editorial management.
  • The presentation should be thoughtful and respectful. We should offer balance or recognize opposing views, as warranted. We should avoid personal attacks and inflammatory rhetoric.
  • All interviews, features, enterprise efforts or produced pieces involving candidates must first be approved by senior management. This is to ensure a coordinated and fair effort, and includes considerations as to location, interviewer, timing and format.

Giving his POV on these new changes, Mr. Brady also commented:

The interesting note here is what was removed from the previous version of the policy, which said, “All interviews, features, enterprise efforts or produced pieces with a sports angle, including attempts at humor (emphasis mine) involving candidates must first be approved by senior management team.”

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While this may seem to be in conflict with the guideline in the Political and Social Issues policy, I suspect the real reason it was deleted was to make sure employees understand that it applies to all political topics, not just those relating to sports.

This is where the potential for problems exists. ESPN news reporters tweeting political opinions from their own social accounts would technically violate this policy. Again, hard news reporters are less likely to use social media for this purpose than commentators, but how effective this policy is will depend on how hard executives choose to look at social media. Let’s be honest: It’s not too hard to find ESPN employees tweeting political opinions.

Perhaps, Mr. Brady, it’s not the ESPN top brass looking to muzzle their entire line-up, but rather establishing the ground rules for that ‘one particular TV-anchor’ who has been hopping on-and-off the network’s merry-go-round for years.

Veteran ESPN anchor Bob Ley, and one of the network’s few open Conservatives has been a vocal critic of the one-sided slant:

“We’ve done a great job of diversity,” said longtime ESPN anchor Bob Ley. “But the one place we have miles to go is diversity of thought.”

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