What did Adam Schefter’s email say? Why the NFL Insider Reported Email Situation is a Big Problem
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But your emails.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigned in the wake of a whopping 650,000 emails generated by an investigation into the Washington soccer team, which included racist, homophobic and sexist comments.
MORE: Jon Gruden’s Email Situation Explained
However, the emails would not end with Gruden’s controversial words: On Tuesday, it was revealed that ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Schefter is the latest to be the center of attention of the controversy, as according to He reportedly sent an unpublished story to a former Washington soccer team executive. , which is a very large and serious violation of the ethics of journalism.
This is what happened:
What did Adam Schefter do?
According to the LA Times, ESPN NFL informant Adam Schefter would have sent an unpublished story about the 2011 NFL lockout to former Washington football team president Bruce Allen. The emails were discovered as part of an ongoing libel lawsuit between Allen and Washington owner Dan Snyder and led to Jon Gruden being reverted to the Raiders head coach.
Schefter reportedly emailed a posted story to Allen asking if there was anything in his unpublished story that needed to change. Schefter also called Allen “Mr. Editor.”
“Please let me know if you see anything that needs to be added, changed or modified,” wrote Schefter. “Thank you Mr. Editor for that and trust. Plan to present this to espn around 6 am …”
ESPN bosses responded to the story with a statement:
“Without sharing all the details of the reporter process for a story from 10 years ago during the NFL lockout, we believe that nothing is more important to Adam and ESPN than providing fans with the most accurate, fair and complete story.”
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk adds that the emails became relevant because Allen said that he “kept a low profile with respect to the media” and that he “never served as an anonymous source for any news or media reports.”
Schefter commented on the story on Wednesday:
I’ve learned a long time in this business not to discuss the sources, the process, or how stories are made. But I would just say that it is common practice to pass information through sources. And in this particular case, during a labor-intensive lockout, it was a complicated subject that was new to understand. I took the weirdest step of passing information in front of one of the people I was talking to. You know, it was an important story for the fans; many others, and that is the situation.
Running information for a source to verify its veracity is in fact common practice (more on this later), but submitting a complete, unpublished and unprocessed story to a source is not.
Why Adam Schefter’s Emails Are Really Important
To the untrained eye, the Schefter process may seem like a problem. In reality, however, it is a major violation of independent reporting and journalism processes.
Journalism, contrary to recent popular belief, is actually backed by serious ethical standards in which journalism students spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) to learn. Teachers spend hours ad nauseum Explain the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists to students seeking to enter the world of journalism, while most journalists, insiders, and reporters follow these rules to the letter.
In common sense, put simply: submitting an unpublished story to a source is a big no-no in the field of journalism. This allows the source or sources to change a story, potentially adds bias, and most importantly removes the “independent” from the “independent reports.”
There is also the added problem that Schefter is asking executives and management for comment, which, in a history of labor dispute against players, is not fair, balanced or impartial.
While Schefter does not have to inherently accept “edits” made by Allen (or any source), asking the source for “adjustments” is already a violation of journalistic process. There is nothing wrong with consulting a source to confirm a quote or the accuracy of a passage; in fact, it is recommended. Trust but verify, and everything.
Asking a source to edit or approve a story goes directly against the idea of ”special interests” and acting independently and without the favor of a journalist. This causes problems when it comes to the credibility of a journalist or writer, and raises questions of the agenda, when in fact, journalists should (the keyword here is “should”) reproduce stories in the middle.
To make matters worse, the story allegedly surrounded the 2011 NFL lockout, which is slightly more important than trying to get information about a player’s injured hamstring by entering a benign Week 7 game.
Full disclosure (as is one of the SPJ Code of Ethics guidelines): As a graduate of the Rutgers University School of Journalism and Information and a part-time professor at the school, this is something that is explicitly taught to students on the road to receiving titles, and something that journalists follow throughout their careers.
The first lesson is free, folks.
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