Jemele Hill

ESPN public editor Jim Brady’s response to the company’s decision not to punish Jemele Hill for tweets about President Donald Trump drew plenty of criticism (as did his tweets doubling down on his position that Hill was wrong, and his firing of a writer at his other media venture who blasted him and his column). Brady has now weighed in on ESPN’s subsequent suspension of Hill for “social media policy violations,” apparently over tweets discussing the idea of a boycott of Dallas Cowboys’ sponsors in protest of owner Jerry Jones saying that players must stand for the anthem, and this time around, he’s much more critical of ESPN and more supportive of Hill. (On this issue, at least; he makes it clear later in the column he still disagrees with her tweets on Trump despite all the criticism he’s taken for his position.) In particular, Brady raises questions about the lack of clarity on why exactly ESPN suspended Hill this time, and if that’s indicative of larger business/journalism interference issues at the company:

When it comes to this latest action by ESPN, I am a bit perplexed.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand exactly what it is that upset ESPN about Hill’s actions: One of its highest-profile personalities suggested an advertiser boycott that would impact an important network partner, and she did so on Twitter, the same platform she used to call out Trump. And, make no mistake: Many of the NFL’s advertisers are also ESPN advertisers. Additionally, the calling for a boycott — or, at least, a strong encouragement of it — treads close to activism.

But it’s not the job of Hill — or any other ESPN journalist, for that matter — to concern herself with the network’s business relationships. In fact, the separation of “church and state” is a longstanding core concept in any news organization worth its salt. So it shouldn’t matter whether Hill’s comments put ESPN in a bad position with the NFL, any more than with the network’s excellent reporting on concussions that has done the same. I’m not suggesting that months long investigative reporting efforts and tweets are of equal importance; they’re not. But both should be treated the same when dealing with the impact on ESPN’s core business relationships.

ESPN has dozens of journalists who spend much of their time chasing stories that don’t reflect well on the network’s business partners, and the network has done a good job defending its journalists in those cases. That’s why the company’s reaction to Hill’s tweets should be worrisome to other journalists at the company.

…Hill’s Sunday tweets trod into a sandbox journalists aren’t supposed to worry about — the one that houses ESPN’s business relationships.

…Hill’s suspension seems to suggest that journalists should consider ESPN’s business relationships before speaking out, and that, in turn, does undermine the independence of journalists.

We’ve brought up the business/journalism questions raised by this suspension before, and they fit in with a long history of questions about ESPN’s business side interacts with its journalistic and other on-air sides, from cancelling Playmakers (which prompted then-executive vice president Mark Shapiro to say “we’re not in the business of antagonizing our partner”) to pulling out of the PBS League of Denial concussion documentary (initially a joint project) to the many questions raised over the years about their behavior in college football to their decision to give Bill Simmons one of the harshest suspensions in company history for calling Roger Goodell a liar. And we’re not alone; there have been plenty of other media outlets questioning different interactions of ESPN’s business and journalism sides over the years. (Those have swelled up again lately, too, specifically with ESPN’s very public on-air criticisms of Chris Petersen following his complaints about Pac-12 kickoff times and their decision to put College GameDay in New York City around a massive NY carriage dispute involving their college-focused networks, a dispute eventually resolved in their favor.) But it’s notable to hear those criticisms coming from inside the house, and that’s why this Brady column is worth paying attention to.

Of course, it goes without saying that plenty of strong journalism is done at ESPN, that they do often run reporting critical of their business partners (especially when it comes to the NFL and concussions), and that their on-air talent express negative opinions about leagues the network is in business with. There are numerous times where ESPN’s journalists and commentators appear to operate without much or any business-side interference. And Brady’s column points that out too, and also suggests that problems here could be from ESPN’s lack of transparency over their suspension of Hill rather than pure business interests; maybe they have a reason they aren’t revealing. And that’s possible; maybe there are  journalistic reasons for this decision, and maybe it was made based on those then the more-obvious business reasons.

But Brady also quotes a recent memo about fundamental principles from ESPN president John Skipper that says “We are a journalistic organization and we should not do anything that undermines that position.” That’s a good position to have (even if it’s more in the context of what talent should and shouldn’t say), but what’s really undermining the journalistic credibility at the moment is the perception that ESPN makes some editorial, personnel and on-air decisions based on business interests and business partners, not journalistic principles. The Hill suspension is just the latest example of that, but it’s a highly prominent one, and one that has these business/journalism questions being discussed by the public editor. And moves like this call into question if ESPN’s behavior and policies will “undermine the independence of journalists,” and that’s potentially far more problematic for the company and its perception than anything its employees tweet.

[ESPN Public Editor]

 

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • Mark Anderson

    I know Jemele Hill is a sportscenter host, I wasn’t aware she was type of investigative journalist?

    • Kyle J

      Exactly, his points make sense for an actual journalist. She talks about highlights and plays the race card.

    • Patrick Ryan Williford

      Well she also did Sports Reporters I believe and just because you’re a host doesn’t mean you’re also not a journalist. You’re just using a different medium.

      • PAI

        Patrick she’s not going to suck your dick, OK?

  • Kyle J

    Jemele is not a journalist so she does not deserve to be treated like one by ESPN. She is an activist and just can’t shut her mouth with her racism.

    • Patrick Ryan Williford

      Actually she is a journalist. If you think hosts don’t do as much work if not more than traditional typed out journalists than you’re dislusional. Hosts just have a different medium for their journalistic traits. Also in your above comment about talking about highlights. SC6 is not a highlight show. The only SC brand I would call a highlight show now is SC@Night from LA.

      • Tookie Clothespin

        You’re wasting your time, man. He’s never watched the show so, he wouldn’t know what it is. Breitbart just told him that he should bitch about everything Jemele Hill related.

  • MrBeepo

    Ms. Hill is a dung beetle.

    • Christopher Bates

      You know, the more articles you post this EXACT SAME COMMENT, the more valuable your “insight” gets.

      • MrBeepo

        When she stops being a dung beetle I will post something else. Thanks for following my posts though. There’s always room for one more fan! A word of advice …lose the caps. Nobody thinks it’s impressive.

        • Christopher Bates

          Thanks, but I don’t think I’ll take advice on…well, anything from a racist POS like you.

          Now, don’t you have a tiny little penis to go play with?

          • MrBeepo

            Wow..right to the race and homosexual card. Not surprising though. Face it boy…you lost again. It seems that is happening to you more and more.

          • Christopher Bates

            Well, you ARE a racist, so why shouldn’t I point that out? (Oh, and do I have your permission to put ARE in all caps?)

            As to the homosexual card, what? Are you projecting, maybe?

          • JWJ

            racist, racist, white supremacist, homophobe, racist, (and the occasional) dick size, etc.
            It’s a little sad and pathetic you think that is a winning argument. You have my pity.
            Good luck with a turnaround.

          • Christopher Bates

            Oh, no. I have lost the respect of some anonymous guy on the Internet. Whatever will I do with myself? I must commit seppuku.

            By the way, you’re defending a guy whose “winning argument” is that Jemele Hill is a dung beetle. So, maybe your judgment in this area is not so good.

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  • Roger Bournival

    She’s a ‘journalist’ like I’m a professional cyclist.

    • PAI

      How do we know you aren’t one?

  • sportsfan365

    Funny how this wasn’t mentioned when ESPN fired all those other folks for tweets and off the cuff remarks.

  • John Danknich

    ESPN is being hypocritical? Whodathunkit?

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  • Grumpy Old Man

    This article – and this issue – highlights a larger problem.

    Today’s “journalists”, including most everyone on this site, do not understand the difference between “reporting” and “editorial”.

    The editorial sections of the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal are deliberately placed on pages separate from news coverage.

    A reporter covering a murder trial cannot say, “Oh, and I think he’s guilty”.

    If you reread the last 2 paragraphs of Brady’s article, you’ll clearly see a scathing indictment of how ESPN’s people are not following those basic tenets of reporting.
    And that indictment apparently went right over the head of the writer of this article.

    In another thread, I suggested the best way for ESPN to create this wall between news and editorial would be to create a show that clearly has no boundaries – or sports news – for a couple hours a day.

    I think we can all guess what those ratings would like after a couple of weeks.

    Until they figure out the difference between – and try to separate – news and editorial commentary, controversies like this one will continue and continue.

  • Ladislav Din

    I can understand the political frustration and activism of Jemele Hill of ESPN and her compatriots among protesting NFL players. Unfortunately for them, they are well-compensated employees of very lucrative businesses, the purposes of which do not include ON-THE-JOB political commentary, action and partisanship. Off duty, out of uniform, speaking as individuals not employees, they have every right to say whatever they wish, within the law.

    Given her continuing problems with ESPN business and management, Ms. Hill might be wise to take her talents and activism to another employer where they will be respected, supported and better compensated. Ummm… oh wait.

    • Marie Barf

      “Unfortunately for them, they are well-compensated employees of very lucrative businesses, the purposes of which do not include political action and partisanship.”….on their employers time.

      That’s the rub. Pseudo-journalist / SJW activist Jemele Hill and the players want to be able to air their grievances while on the clock AND get approval for such activism. Well, nowhere in the real working world is this nonsense tolerated and now they are all discovering that sports fans are rejecting this manure…ergo Goodell’s letter to the league (finally) realizing they have to stop this, owners saying they have had enough because fans are tuning out and Hill’s (2nd) suspension. Hill is the textbook definition of political activist. Nowhere does she meet the criteria of “journalist.”

  • Yo Trump be uh bum

    Shes getting uh paid vacation. You lose cracker. HAHAHAHA…

  • Nathan Walter

    It’s 2017. If companies haven’t figured out how to incorporate a journalist’s Twitter page into their editorial review process, then I don’t have sympathy for them.

    There is no justifiable reason why Jemele Hill’s Twitter isn’t under editorial scrutiny. If ESPN insists on displaying her Twitter handle at the beginning of each show, then they need to take some responsibility for what exists on that account.

    • PAI

      This. Every sports broadcast across almost all live sports, pre-game, post-game, have to share the twitter handle of the person in question (or in NESN world, put @NESN if the person, like Dave O’Brien, doesn’t do twitter).

  • OOS

    If AA insists on calling Jamelle Hill a journalist, then she is a journalist who incorrectly interprets and reports the news based on her preconceived biases – which she seems incapable of putting aside. She doesn’t belong on ESPN for that reason alone.

  • Jason H.

    She stopped being a journalist in spirit a long time ago, IMO. But technically speaking, reading the news of the day does makes her a journalist. But what she got in trouble for wasnt journalism.

  • Carter_Burger67

    Hard to undermine something that’s been gone for 20 years.

  • BobLee Says

    “Journalists” of all opinions and “politicians” of all ideologies are alike in that “we” (a.k.a. “the great unwashed”) like the ones we agree with and dislike the ones we don’t agree with. Use whatever occupational noun you wish to categorize “Jemele” (she has reached the coveted “one name only” pantheon). She is whatever she claims to be and/or you/I/us says she is.
    … If she fulfills whatever purpose her employer employs her to fulfill she should logically be retained… otherwise ESPN gets to find someone for that stated purpose.
    … If she was hired to be a provocative lightning rod of ever-increasing controversy, I’d say she is certainly doing that. If that is in ESPN’s best interests, then Hellfire, she deserves a raise.
    … If a car salesman sells a lot of cars, the guy that owns the dealership will probably tolerate his eccentricities. If “Jemele” attracts more viewers than she repels, Skipper will tolerate her eccentricities so long as she does so. … Is she doing that ?? – attracting more than she repels? … I can’t answer that. …. Has she become “more trouble” than she is worth? I can’t answer that. I doubt anyone on the AA staff can either.

  • djwess

    Difference between “partners” (i.e. the NFL or NBA) versus sponsors (i.e. AT&T, Verizon, Budweiser, etc) that Hill went after. She called not for a boycott of the Cowboys, but a boycott of the sponsors that would hurt Jerry Jones’ bottom line. That some bottom line would also affect ESPN’s. Not apples = apples.