If there's one thing ESPN is most concerned about, it's making sure nobody steps out of line in social media. Deadspin leaked an ESPN memo today that reminds everyone to behave themselves on Twitter and elsewhere. The rules are so stifling, I wouldn't be surprised if EVERYONE there created fake aliases on Twitter just so they could trash each other without consequence.
Here is the memo in full, with some comments in-between:
To all ESPN Talent
We continue to be in the midst of a very busy time here, with game and studio coverage around very high profile events. As we move forward, PLEASE be mindful of the guidelines below, in particular, the item highlighted in yellow. In some situations, we’ve not shown the professionalism this item requires. We are better than that.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this.
ESPN EDITORIAL GUIDELINES FOR STANDARDS & PRACTICES
For Talent and Reporters
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 distribution. 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.
(It's nice that ESPN still sees things like Facebook and Twitter as scary "new" forms of communication.)
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 to provide coverage of this content on ESPN domains.
Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted
(You mean I can't even blog about how RAD my job at ESPN is??? Lame.)
The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content
(So I can't even make fun of that stupid Brad Paisley song?)
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
(Wait, I have to get permission to tweet something to CBS about my awesome secret blog that's secretly disguised as a plea for employment elsewhere that doesn't maniacally try to dictate what I can or cannot say??)
ESPN.com will choose the sports related social media content that it will post
If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, those individuals are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on their personal platforms
(What personal platform?? You said I couldn't have one!! I'm SO confused)
Understand that at all times you are representing ESPN
(Silently, of course.)
Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN's employee policies and editorial guidelines. If you wouldn't say it on the air or write it in your column, don't post it on any social network
(I thought that was the POINT of a social network. Yes? No? Maybe?)
Exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans
(Well, I guess it's time to delete all those scheduled tweets to Skip Bayless.)
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.
(After all this avoidance and discretion, I feel like I will inevitably be on the receiving end of this question:)
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
(Translation: We suspended Bill Simmons from Twitter and we'll suspend you TOO! Also, no interacting with those crazy people from that Awful Announcing blog.)
Confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN, may not be shared
Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.
We realize this is a fast moving space and recognize the guidelines will have to be assessed frequently and amended as needed.
I mean, ESPN could have saved their HR and legal departments a lot of time by just saying, "No one join Twitter. And if you DO join Twitter, you're only allowed to retweet LeBron James."
These guidelines are honestly laughable – it's like you're not allowed to verbalize an opinion, positive OR negative, without going to arbitration, and by the time that's over, your original thought is no longer relevant. Geez. ESPN is the Worldwide Leader all right – though it might be of "Ridiculous Social Media Policies" rather than sports.