ESPN Rulebook Sets New Guidelines For Employees Talking Politics

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“Our audiences should be confident our original reporting of news is not influenced by political pressures or agenda.” That’s the gist of new guidelines from ESPN that cover its employees’ discussing politics “in any public-facing forum.”

Separate guidelines now are in place for ESPN staffers working on news stories and those who provide commentary. Read the document below.

ESPN Public Editor Jim Brady posted on the sports giant’s ombudsman page today a 1,400-word breakdown of its new guidelines and what they mean to viewers and readers. “The timing of the release of the election guidelines is a bit unusual — such guidelines are rarely released right after a presidential election; they’re usually updated near the beginning of a presidential campaign,” he wrote. “But we are living in unique political times, which ESPN apparently recognized, which explains the revised guidelines for discussion of political and social issues.”

Patrick Stiegman, ESPN’s VP Global Digital Content and the chairman of the company’s internal Editorial Board, which drafted the new guidelines, said no single issue or incident led to the change, but another exec credited the country’s political climate.

“We have the convergence of a politically charged environment and all these new technologies coming together at once,” said ESPN VP and Managing Editor of Newsgathering and Reporting, as quoted by Brady. “Based on that, we wanted the policy to reflect the reality of the world today. There are people talking about politics in ways we have not seen before, and we’re not immune from that.”

A couple of examples of the new Worldwide Leader order:

“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.”

Here is the full document:

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