ESPN apparently does not like giving credit where credit is due.
Case in point: After ESPN originally credited sports blog Sports by Brooks, which "broke the story" of Louisiana State University's head football coach Les Miles's contract with his school, the sports network dropped that attribution in lieu of the more general "reports." Deadspin had the apparent smoking gun with a memo, provided by an anonymous "ESPN insider" to Deadspin, that read:
"IMPORTANT: DO NOT CREDIT SPORTS BY BROOKS FOR THE ORIGINAL STORY ABOUT MILES HAVING AN OFFER. CREDIT REPORTS"
iMediaEthics asked ESPN about this report and claims of questionable attribution standards. ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz told iMediaEthics by email that the memo in question isn't specific to this news report or Sports by Brooks, but instead one of the ways ESPN maintains consistency in reporting on a breaking story. He wrote:
"We have an internal newswire that provides daily guidance to all our news gathering entities (TV, radio, ESPN.com, etc.) on how to best report stories accurately and consistently, including applicable attribution. The 'Do Not' wording is a method we use often within that newswire to provide direction and clarity on rapidly evolving stories, regardless of what external outlets are involved."
Krulewitz added that none of the outlets reporting on the memo -- Deadspin or Awful Announcing -- reached out to ESPN asking about the memo. He said: "had they, they would have learned what I told you about our reporting process, specifically the relevant aspects of our newswire."
Deadspin's John Koblin, who wrote the post in question, confirmed with iMediaEthics that he didn't contact ESPN to verify the memo's authenticity or ask for information about the memo. Koblin told iMediaEthics by email that Deadspin relied on a "trusted source" for the memo, writing:
"That's correct. We received the memo from a trusted source at ESPN (as we reported, The Times-Picayune sourced SportsByBrooks down to the dollar amount. They had the first report up after SBB's tweet). I knew the memo was real and I suppose I could have placed a courtesy call to ESPN's PR department to make them aware that the item was running, but the thought didn't occur to me. I didn't actually have any questions since the item spoke for itself. "
Questions about ESPN's attribution practices seems to be a recurring issue. Awful Announcing, in fact, commented on the memo in a report also posted on the Huffington Post, questioning a larger issue of attribution at ESPN. In March, iMediaEthics reported when YES reporter Jack Curry claimed ESPN's Buster Olney took his scoop about Andy Pettitte being re-signed by the New York Yankees without credit. Olney responded to the criticism and said he "had no idea" Curry had tweeted about the news before him. Awful Announcing and the Big Lead at the time claimed sourcing issues were a problem at ESPN, but ESPN declined to comment to iMediaEthics about their reports.
iMediaEthics asked ESPN's Krulewitz if ESPN had any further comments about its attribution standards. Krulewitz said this week: "We are constantly examining our policies and practices in this area to ensure the best approach."
iMediaEthics has written to Sports by Brooks for comment on the memo and to Awful Announcing for confirmation it didn't seek comment from ESPN before reporting on the memo. We will update with any responses.
Hat Tip: Ryan Chittum
UPDATE: 12/6/2012 9:43 AM EST: Copy edited