In the wake of high-profile controversies such as Jemele Hill’s tweets about President Donald Trump as a white supremacist (which drew ire from the White House and Trump himself) and tweets about a boycott of NFL sponsors (which actually got her suspended), ESPN has revised their 2011 social media policy, and done so in ways that are going to mark a drastic change for their reporters if fully enforced. ESPN president John Skipper’s memo about the policy is posted on ESPN Front Row here, and the whole policy is posted here. (Here is the 2011 one for reference.)

The new policy, which has Undefeated editor-in-chief Kevin Merida as its principal author (as per ESPN’s release), has some notable updates for commentators like Hill as well. It includes lines like “Do nothing that would undercut your colleagues’ work or embroil the company in unwanted controversy,” and wants all social media commentary on political or social issues to be approved by editors or producers. But the biggest hard-and-fast changes appear to be for those involved in hard news, who are now being told to avoid stances on political and social issues completely. And interestingly enough, the new policy repeats a part of the 2011 policy that wasn’t often enforced: to not break news on social platforms.

From the new policy:

+ Do not break news on social platforms. We want sto 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.

From the old policy:

+Do not break news on Twitter. 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 TV or Digital news desks. Once reported on an ESPN platform, that news can (and should) be distributed on Twitter and other social sites.

If fully enforced, that rule would mean big changes. The “do not break news on social platforms” rule in particular would seemingly put ESPN at a massive disadvantage against competitors, as vetting news through a desk and posting it on an ESPN platform takes time. And that would seemingly hurt the likes of Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski, who break a ton of news on Twitter, but also have competitors in the space.

But Awful Announcing has learned that the “do not break news on social platforms” rule is still unlikely to apply to ESPN’s top newsgatherers, but will instead apply to others at the company. ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys tweeted that this isn’t actually a policy change, so the status quo may prevail of Schefter and Wojnarowski filing their content and tweeting it out without waiting for editor approval, and that’s certainly positive for ESPN’s breaking news efforts:

A notable element of the new policy that wasn’t in the old one is telling reporters to avoid commentary on social or political issues. From the new policy:

+ 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.

The guidelines for commentary are also new, and are different:

+ The subject matter should merit our audience’s interests, and be worthy of our time, space and resources; we should be in position to discuss the issue with authority and be factually accurate.
+ The topic should be related to a current issue impacting sports, unless otherwise approved by senior editorial management. This condition may vary for content appearing on platforms with broader editorial missions – such as The Undefeated, FiveThirtyEight and espnW.
+ Commentaries on relevant sports-related issues are appropriate, but we should refrain from overt partisanship or endorsement of particular candidates, politicians or political parties.
+ 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.
+ 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.

What will this actually mean? Well, it again will depend on the enforcement, but if applied to the letter of the law, this would mean that anyone involved with ESPN’s hard news side would have to avoid any tweets on “political or social issues,” and it will be interesting to see what those are defined as.

And it also would mean that commentators like Hill would have to “communicate with producers and editors” before tweeting about anything that could be considered “a political or social issue.” That could be a big change, and could dramatically reduce the volume of ESPN personalities opining on anything at all related to social issues. But these guidelines are far more restrictive than those of many media outlets, and they might spark some blowback in the ranks if ESPN tries to fully enforce them. We’ll see how this plays out.

[ESPN Front Row]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • Brian C. Lee

    Finally ESPN does something right (assuming they have the stones to actually enforce this).

  • Raymond Terry

    Good luck Katie Nolan.

  • Kaight

    ESPN, located in Connecticut, is merely another northeastern far left wing supporter of a discredited Democrat Party belief system. ESPN, in short, is a mouthpiece for the kind of liberalism patriotic Americans reject.

    • Spencer Jacobson

      LOL yes the Fake Christians that make up the Republican party are MUCH more credible.

      If you don’t see that BOTH parties are terrible, you have the mental capacity of a child.

      • Keith Mueller

        I agree with you, but it has been the liberals/Progressives whose stated goal is a fundamental change to the country and Bill of Rights. They are the danger, at this moment.

      • Ucefphlas

        You contradicted yourself…

    • Bonanzadrver

      Kaight, we’re going to bury Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry which includes the NFL and sports mouthpieces like ESPN in the same unmarked grave.

    • Not sure how much of what you say about Connecticut actually rubbed off on ESPN… but yes, its governor, the mayor of its state capital (which is going bankrupt), its congressional representatives and both senators (one who lied about his military service in Vietnam but was still elected) are all Democrats.

  • Chris .

    LOL ESPN who lives off of Liberal Social issues as the platform of every show…said this? LOL failing fools

  • BHU

    Looks like they can still take a knee.

  • Rocc E. Normyss

    I avoid this network and all their hate 100%!

  • Leo Gomez

    Stopped watching espn when a former Olympic gold medalist was awarded a so called courage award for wearing a dress.Hell even leftist Obama called to congratulate.

    • EddieGin12

      I heard he had beautiful stockings on and a matching garter-Belt to boot, stop the ‘Hate’ 🙂

    • ESPN probably had Obama on speed dial, their ties were that close. On a related note, the former president had to like the fact that their ‘E:60′ and ’30 for 30’ “investigative journalism” reports on Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky never mentioned that the Obama administration actually hired the official who covered-up Sandusky’s decade-plus serial sexual abuse of children. (Washington Post’s Emily Heil wrote about it in the 2012 article ‘Graham Spanier’s gig as a federal worker is a mystery’). Spanier, accused by prosecutors of “allowing evil to run wild,” has since been found guilty of Child Endangerment. He faces jail time but is appealing his conviction.

  • DrChimRichaldsOBGYN

    I hope ESPN implodes.

    • Dee Snutz

      It is my friend. The dominoes are falling.

    • Pedro

      I am doing my part..

  • EddieGin12

    Cut the CORD, starve ESPN, Bankrupt this Pissant organisation. PUKE

    • Bonanzadrver

      Eddie, we are going to break the entertainment industry once and for all…of course, sports and their mouthpieces like ESPN are part that despicable industry. Cutting the cord is the way we are going to do it…

      • EddieGin12

        Hear, hear

      • GreenLivesMatter

        1 million cable customers cut the cord last month. #FreeFall

  • 2ndprotectsall

    R.I.P. ESPN!

  • Dee Snutz

    LOL fuck ESPN and Jigaboo Hill.

  • William Whelpley

    To late, Do not watch ESPN anymore. Cut the cord and will get a book and reconnect with the outdoors

  • Brian washere

    Avoid social issues? They’re all leftist, social justice warriors. You might as well ask them to stop breathing.

  • Freedomlost1976

    Too late. ESPN is stage 4.

    • Michael Tocco


  • DWarren

    If ESPN (Especially Stupid Political Network) reporters don’t peddle radical, alt-Left, anti-American, socialist, Progressive Democrat Party propaganda via social media, how will they push the Dims’ extremist elitist agenda, since the networks viewership continues its precipitous decline?

  • Dave

    Too little, too late.

  • Observer_wi

    People seem incredibly confused these days. Professional sports is entertainment. The athletes are entertainers.

    The sportscasters are entertainers. Why are entertainers trying to lecture and offend their audience? Look at what has happened to Hollywood.

    There is no epidemic of cop violence against blacks. Blacks get arrested and shot at a higher rate than whites and other races but it’s something like just over twice as likely. That’s a problem but it’s not an epidemic of violence. By all means, campaign for police to use their tasers instead of guns in your spare time. That’s good. But don’t disrespect the entire country because the media have been trying to spin a narrative that’s not true for a number of years.

    There is no reason to teach little kids to have a bad attitude, be ashamed of their country, talk down on their country, etc… You’re not helping anyone.

    You want to know what they tell disabled people? Get over your feelings of ‘life isn’t fair and live’ and you can have a great life. Why would they do that? Shouldn’t they teach them to be pissed off?

  • es

    ESPN, NFL, never good to piss off your main audience. Just a small business tip. Yeah, the ones that voted for Trump

    • Spencer Jacobson

      1/4 of the country voted for Trump.

      • usatravler

        You guys get more ridiculous with each posting.

  • Very Fake News

    That is all well and good but I won’t be watching ESPN again until they fire the racist Jemele Hill.

    • Dee Snutz

      Why stop there? Too late to clean house when the avalanche of filth has trapped you.

  • quaichang

    This is just lip service. ESPN’s devotion to SJW propaganda will not change. Remember, that before giving racist hater, Jemeille Hill a platform to spew her filth, this was the network that said Bruce Jenner’s mental illness was “courage,” and gave him an award for behaving like a woman.

  • Loligag1953

    I wish they’d let these Left Wing loons Tweet their childish brains out. The more they insult Middle America, they the more viewers they lose.

  • Hanover Fist

    ‘New policy’ notwithstanding, ESPN is still run by inveterate Leftists. It is only a matter of time until ESPN fails and takes its rightful place atop the dung heap. I wont miss it a friggin bit.

  • jmatt55

    It’s hilarious that media liberals are so stupid they have to be ORDERED not to piss off 50% of their potential clients.

  • johnholliday

    Too little, too late

  • Ashley West

    Good bye ESPN. You are going down.

  • usatravler

    I would think they’d honor freedom of speech like the NFL kneelers are doing. ESPN is only alive because of cable bundling. When it goes, ESPN and CNN will both go.

  • Sting Rey

    i stopped watching espn years ago. it had nothing to with political commentary. it had everything to do with their talking heads getting more screen time than duke basketball or the new england patriots.

  • Bob Burns

    They talk the talk, but will they walk the walk?

  • Bonanzadrver

    The cable monopoly has held Americans hostage for forty years. In that time, the entertainment industry skewed hard left and gave the finger to anyone who didn’t think the same. No more! Cable cutting is going to bury these fools. 15% of Americans are cable cutters and that pace is accelerating rapidly.

  • Ranger 93

    I quit ESPN when they held on waaaay to long to the social rantings of Keith Overblown (Olbermann).

  • Larry Wright

    ESPN hasn’t been about sports in years. They employ racist libtards who spew vomit everyday without fear of any backlash. I guess that story about losing 15k subscribers a day was true. Hope the company burns to the ground. You wanna make a change for the good? Fire that racist pos Jemele Hill immediately!!!

  • jbstoner44

    Espn thought that they were too big too fail and the viewers proved them wrong. The power is always in the consumer. Their ratings tanked tremendously. I think its too late to regain their notoriety. They already showed their true identity and it’s that of a left wing organization.

  • relee

    Much, much, much too late….ESPN will be a shell of company on a couple of years…see ya. I say, tax the s**t out of them.

  • Scott Allen

    So its ok to silence dissent at ESPN, but you can’t silence dissent at the NFL.

  • OtisGumbo

    The fact that ESPN is having to issue guidance like this shows that they have lost control. It’s kinda like calling a company wide meeting to inform everyone that they can’t sleep while on the clock.

  • One Voice

    With all the major sports leagues packaging and presenting highlights on their OWN sites why does anyone even watch ESPN nowadays? It might have made sense in 1985, but its basically a horse and buggy in today’s age.

  • Public_Citizen

    This is what you get when you have an entire generation of “journalists” [mostly made up of party school attendees who took a slacker major] who place a higher priority on putting their name in front of the public instead of doing the job of a ~real~ ~journalist~ which is to report the ~news~, through the channel that gives them a pay check.
    Every single one of these individuals engaging in the above reported activity is abusing their press credentials and doing so in a fashion that would have seen them not just fired [and therefore bereft of press credentials] but with a giant black mark on their record that would make it difficult for them to find gainful employment in the field of journalism in the period of time when “journalistic integrity” actually meant something.

  • HidingandWatching1

    ESPN was better back in the beginning when it only featured things like Irish hurling and Australian rules football. At least it was about sports then.

  • HidingandWatching1

    It’s pretty obvious where they went wrong. Why hasn’t there been a complete management housecleaning?

  • Rex Seven

    I just hope ESPN does to social media what it did to sports.

  • Terenc Blakely

    “ESPN has revised their 2011 social media policy, and done so in ways that are going to mark a drastic change for their reporters if fully enforced.”

    Somehow I think this will be unevenly enforced.

  • kettlecorn

    ESPN, committing suicide by insane libturd announcers, I love it.

  • Michael Tocco

    To late espn you’re toast!

  • Two months ago, John Skipper tried to control the damage with his laughable “ESPN is not a political organization” memo that had near everyone rolling their eyes. The SJWs working there are more interested in hearing themselves than Making Sports Great Again. The four-letter network tarnished its brand when people tuned-in to see a game but found the focus on players who disrespect our country, our military, our flag and our national anthem… which ESPN wouldn’t even televise! That’s not good. That’s not showcasing the joy and happiness that sport can bring. We got that last night when the Astros won it all. We even saw their SS propose on TV 🙂

  • Hey Now

    Too late. We won’t forget. Damage done.
    F’ off !!

  • TheBruce

    Nothing ESPN does at this point — even if they were to find a cure for cancer — would encourage me to tune into their channel. It’s now a left-wing SJW channel, posing as sports news, and is one of the reasons I “cut the cord” two years ago.

  • Christopher Bates

    Can I assume that a link to this story was posted on Drudge Report, or something like that? I mean, look at the cesspool of a comments section.

  • skirkpat12

    Why watch ESPN when you have the MLB Network, NFL Network Network, and NHL Network? It’s always nice to get highlights and good analysis around the league, and not have to wait through all the nonsense like player twitters and other B.S


    ESPN didn’t mind one bit when Stephen A. Smith and other ESPN “sports pundits” were lambasting Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, or black NBA players. But as soon as the subject of white supremacy is brought up — “It’s time for a new social media policy.”

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