At ESPN, our reputation and journalistic credibility are of paramount importance — and that extends to our coverage of the Presidential Election, candidates, issues and the intersection of sports and society. Our audiences should be confident that political pressures or personal interests do not influence our news decisions. At the same time, the news cycle has evolved and there is an increased appetite for broader coverage of candidates, placed in proper sports context.
To that end, after a thorough review by the ESPN Editorial Board, we have revised our guidelines for the upcoming Presidential Election to allow for increased relevant and compelling coverage of candidates in advance of the nominating conventions, maintaining coordination across platforms. We will continue to focus on standards of fairness and impartiality, while also ensuring we are covering appropriate topics of interest to our viewers, readers and listeners.
Following are key points of our updated guidelines:
2016 President Election Coverage
- All interviews, features, enterprise efforts or produced pieces with a sports angle, including attempts at humor, involving candidates must first be approved by senior management team. This is to ensure a coordinated and fair effort, and includes location, interviewer, timing and format. Criteria should include: Is this appropriate for our audience, are we in position to report with authority, and what impact will the coverage have? Approved content should be communicated in advance across all editorial platforms, ensuring consistency, eliminating redundancy and promoting fairness.
- Should a candidate appear at or attend a live event on our air (e.g. MLB game, college football game, etc.), announcers should avoid any political commentary or prolonged references. A brief mention accompanying video of the candidate is appropriate. If approved by senior news managers, interviews may be conducted live or taped, depending on circumstance.
- As it relates to news assignments, feature stories and profiles on candidates or their campaigns, we should seek interesting and compelling stories that represent the points of view and experiences of a broad range of candidates on sports-related issues (exceptions will be made for entities such as FiveThirtyEight.com, which covers politics as a regular beat).
- We should refrain from political editorializing, personal attacks or “drive-by” comments regarding the candidates and their campaigns. Approved commentaries on sports-specific issues, or seeking responses from candidates on relevant news issues, are appropriate. However perceived endorsements should be avoided. (In others cases guidelines on social media, acceptable commentary and political advocacy should prevail).