Last week Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) made national news when he accidentally publicly tweeted something that was supposed to be a DM: The Patriots were on the verge of trading Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Simmons’ tweet only stated “Moss vikings” but as soon as it appeared in 1,200,000+ Twitter feeds of his followers, reaction was strong and sports reporters throughout the industry started digging for information.
In Simmons’ latest article, he explains exactly what happened, and gives an inside look at ESPN’s Twitter policy for breaking news.
First, the brief version of what happened: Someone close to Simmons told him that the Patriots and Vikings were working on a trade for Randy Moss. He was shocked (as a Patriots fan) and wanted to confirm this information with someone else before he shared anything. However, he was in the middle of taping a TV episode and was frazzled. Therefore, what was supposed to be a DM went public.
Now, a look at ESPN’s Twitter breaking news policy:
We have a rule at ESPN that all breaking news must be filtered through our news desk (not tweeted). That’s why our reporters (Schefter, Stein, Bucher, whoever) tweet things like, “JUST FILED TO ESPN: Timberwolves sign Frederic Weis to $35 million deal.” Even if I wanted to tweet something like the Moss scoop, technically, I couldn’t do it without flagrantly violating company rules. You never want to be in the same sentence with the words “flagrantly” and “violating.” A great rule of thumb.
Basically, ESPN requires its reporters to file all breaking news, and their breaking news tweets must mention that fact. It makes things a bit more complicated, but also keeps reporters honest and encourages solid leads rather then unsubstantiated rumors make it to Twitter.
If you have time to read the full article, it provides a great inside look at the process and stress that sports reporters must go through when breaking a story.