Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Twitter Guidelines for ESPN Will Have Sports Fans Looking Elsewhere

I joined the Twitter craze a couple weeks ago. I like it because it's a convenient forum to post links and quick thoughts that wouldn't work in blog form. Also Twitter actively creates and encourages dialogue with millions around the world. That's kinda cool too.

A lot of people think Twitter is useful. A lot of people think it's stupid. Some don't know what it is. ESPN evidently wants no part of it. The sports network has severely cut off and censored its employees from social networking. Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com has the entire ESPN memo.

It's a lot of information so let's break down some of the key points and how they relate to Twitter content:
· 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
Obviously SportsNation will keep doing its thing on Twitter. The Sports Guy will probably get clearance to talk as well, but someone like Marc Stein who reports NBA rumors, observations and trends will probably be muzzled to a certain extent.
· ESPN.COM may choose to post sports related social media content
What I'm guessing this means is tweets from ESPN employees will eventually become a hub for two things: personal thoughts and ESPN links. No more sports opinions, sports rumors and sports tangents from folks like Linda Cohn and a lot more of "NBA Preview Roundtable at espn.com/_____" Taking what Ric Bucher said and going a lot further I expect ESPN to add very little substantial sports talk on Twitter.
· 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
Damage control. Expected but warranted.
· The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content
Emphasis mine. That first part seems like a directive more fitting for an organization like Ingsoc.
· If you wouldn't say it on the air or write it in your column, don't tweet it
Say goodbye to rumors. Also sayonara to ESPN being the first to break any sports stories. Every major transaction during the recent MLB trade deadline was first mentioned on Twitter by local and national sportswriters. Traditional ESPN reporting was already behind the curve before today's directive. Take for instance the Brett Favre sage over the past two years. Despite ESPN's obsession with the indecisive #4 the WWL has whiffed on both big offseason stories. Last year it was Jay Glazer being the first to report Favre being traded to Jets. Last month it was the Minnesota Star Tribune, which scooped the news that Favre was staying retired.
· Any violation of these guidelines could result in a range of consequences, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal.
The new guidelines certainly have some merits. It holds ESPN personalities to high standards and expects them to avoid some of the slippery and unethical qualities of such an immediate medium like Twitter. That being said, ultimately this guideline makes everyone a loser. ESPN employees, now with a lot less to say about the things they know most about, end up being less interesting and informative. With all the possibilities and personalities on Twitter expect sports fans to turn elsewhere and tune out the WWL.

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