Deadspin obtained a copy of ESPN’s Editorial Guidelines for Standards and Practices and has re-printed it in full on their website. The manual outlines editorial and advertising guidelines for the World Wide Leader, including restrictions on when condom commercials should be aired (Condom advertisements may not air in any programming ESPN reasonably believes to have significant audience concentrations or appeals to persons under age 17.)
Deadspin takes ESPN to task for what it describes as situational ethics.
In the section on “Civil suits,” which addresses ESPN’s cockeyed treatment of the Ben Roethlisberger story, the entry makes some sensible points about the tricky nature of civil cases and rightly urges “extreme caution” in deciding whether to cover these stories. And then, a few paragraphs later:
“Perhaps, most significantly, is the Associated Press reporting it?”
In other words, let’s let a couple of guys in the AP’s Reno bureau or wherever determine corporate policy for the largest sports media outfit in the world. That’s fine. A little craven, but fine. I’m all for situational ethics. ESPN is a great big monument to situational ethics. Everyone knows that, except maybe the yammering Poynter lady. That’s why a formalized guide to standards looks so silly in a company whose only inviolable standard, that I can tell, is that the folks in charge get to make shit up as they go along.
Yeah, that’s really no different from any other huge company. The bottom line is don’t mess with the brand. If you think the brand is a nest of hypocrisy, well then, mess away. Just be prepared to deal with the consequences.