ESPN writer Adam Schefter criticized for sending draft of story to Redskins GM in 2011
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ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter is under fire for a past email to a team executive where he appeared to give him editorial input over an article.
In a leaked July 2011 email from the extensive NFL investigation into the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Redskins, Schefter contacted then-General Manager Bruce Allen for a story about the ongoing lockout.
“Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked,” Schefter wrote. “Thanks, Mr. Editor, for that and the trust. Plan to file this to espn about 6 am. . .”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Schefter sent Allen a draft of the story and published it later that day.
ESPN appeared to defend Schefter’s work in a statement.
“Without sharing all the specifics of the reporter’s 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 the most accurate, fair and complete story,” the network said.
Schefter himself released a statement later on which said the criticism against him is fair but that he never ceded editorial control of his reporting to anyone.
“Fair questions are being asked about my reporting approach on an NFL Lockout story from 10 years ago. Just to clarify, it’s common practice to verify facts of a story with sources before you publish in order to be as accurate as possible. In this case, I took the rare step of sending the full story in advance because of the complex nature of the collective bargaining talks,” the statement reads. “It was a step too far and, looking back, I shouldn’t have done it. The criticism being levied is fair. With that said, I want to make this perfectly clear: in no way did I, or would I, cede editorial control or hand over final say about a story to anyone, ever.”
Passing a draft along to a top league figure drew criticism of Schefter, one of sports media’s most recognizable figures and known for his extensive sourcing and news scoops on the league.
“It’s a fascinating glimpse into the sausage-making process as it relates to NFL news. And it’s definitely not normal for reporters to send entire stories to a source for a review, a fact-check, a proofread, or whatever,” NFL writer Mike Florio wrote.
Fourth Watch newsletter editor Steve Krakauer slammed Schefter, saying he enjoyed an advantage over other sports journalists by making nice with league executives.
“That’ll give you a leg up over journalists who would never do that” he wrote.
“[It’s] not like Schefter has never purported to be anything other than league mouthpiece,” New York Times reporter Astead Herndon tweeted.
Schefter had some defenders, with some suggesting he was merely looking for guidance on a complicated story and used the “Mr. Editor” moniker as a joke.
One of his backers, former ESPN writer Darren Rovell, was savaged online for writing it wasn’t “the best of journalism practices” but “we’ve all done this in the name of accuracy.”
He deleted it but claimed most journalists will show sources parts of their stories.
Rovell’s defense of Schefter became a mini-meme on Twitter, with users sharing famous scenes of unethical or shoddy journalism while quoting his words.
The league investigation into misconduct at the Washington Football Team has already felled an NFL giant in Jon Gruden. The Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigned on Monday after his past offensive and derogatory emails came to light. Gruden previously coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship and provided color commentary on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” from 2009 to 2017.
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