ESPN not seeing the big picture on social networking issue

twitter ESPN has now issued new guidelines to its employees on how they will interact on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. 

Essentially, the guidelines are two-pronged.  First, they prohibit discussing (on any social network forum) internal policies or how stories are “reported, written or produced”.

Second (and more open-ended), they prohibit employees from having sports-related blogs or websites.  Further, they require a supervisor’s approval before discussing sports matters on a social networking forum.  If employees violates the new policy, they are subject to dismissal or suspension.

To the first point, I agree with ESPN’s point.  Internal matters stay within the business.  To not do so would open up a whole can of messy legal worms.

As to the second point, I feel ESPN is going down the wrong road.  They are missing the whole point of social networking.  I don’t want to subscribe to Rob Neyer’s twitter stream so I can hear about his vacation. 

Will ESPN abandon Twitter and Facebook altogether?  I’m sure they won’t.  They will have ESPN-sanctioned accounts in which the content will be very factual indeed but come off as stilted and will smack of the “company line”. 

Should ESPN have come out with guidelines on how to deal with these new-fangled social networking sites?  Of course!  Employ new guidelines to encourage responsible online behavior.  Encourage employees to interact with the public and put a good face forward.

But to totally ban discussing the very topic that they are in the business to report seems so backwards to me.  And to threaten dismissal as a punishment… the mind reels. 

Get with the times, ESPN.  It’s a brand new world out here.

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