ESPN's top NFL reporter Adam Schefter is facing blowback from some in the sports journalism community after it was revealed this week he sent an unpublished story to a source for review before submitting it to his editors.
The story, written in 2011, was sent to former Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen, according to the Los Angeles Times, and was revealed as part of a wide-ranging investigation and report that the league conducted into the workplace culture of the Washington franchise.
As he sent Allen the story, which focused on the lockout between players and the NFL that year, Schefter wrote to Allen, a high-level source close to team owner Dan Snyder, “Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked."
“Thanks, Mr. Editor, for that and the trust. Plan to file this to espn about 6 am. . . .” Schefter added.
The email from Schefter to Allen was highlighted by NBC Sports NFL reporter Mike Florio on his Pro Football Talk blog, which noted Allen had previously insisted in a sworn statement as part of a defamation case with Snyder that he “maintained a low profile with respect to the media” and that he “never served as an anonymous source for any news or media reports.”
Schefter addressed the Times's reporting on Wednesday morning while speaking on local sports talk radio in Philadelphia.
"I’ve learned for a long time in this business not to discuss sources, or the process or how stories are done," he told 97.5 The Fanatic. "But I would just say that, basically, it’s a common practice to run information past sources, and in this particular case, during a labor intensive lockout that was a complicated subject that was new to understand, I took the extra rare step again to run information past one of the people that I was talking to. You know, it was an important story to fans, a host of others, and that’s the situation.”
ESPN issued a statement supporting its highly paid scoop-chasing journalist, who has been with the company since 2009.
“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 company said.
Schefter's decade-old correspondence with Allen sparked a debate online among sports journalists about the ethics of balancing objectivity in reporting against the importance of checking facts and effectively extracting information from sources with key information.
Pretty big difference between doubling back with a source to ask if you have specific wording right and sending someone an entire story for review before it is filed to an editor https://t.co/RsaKObWTSZ— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 13, 2021
No we haven't. I don't know anyone who has sent a full story to a source. https://t.co/4zRAxjtekp— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) October 13, 2021
I'd rather have the argument before than after a story is published. The goal is to be fair and accurate. The harsher the column or story, the more of a heads up I like to give. (Unless a subject can't be trusted)— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) October 13, 2021
Not a great look for sports journalism.— Kendall Baker (@kendallbaker) October 13, 2021
What's next? An NBA reporter writing a glorified press release so he can have those same sources leak the name of the 17th pick in the draft to him 23 seconds before it's announced? https://t.co/Kqa9XWxIMN
This is going to get out of hand. Lmfao. I don't want to hear anything from anyone until you make every conversation you have EVER had public. Otherwise shut up and stop throwing stones. https://t.co/hSrcLTf5fm— Dominique Clare (@DomClare) October 13, 2021
The messages were picked from a trove of more than 650,000 emails that the NFL has compiled in its investigation into the football team.
The revelation comes as other emails, revealed Monday by the New York Times, have dominated headlines after they showed former Las Vegas Raiders head coach and ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden using a litany of racist, homophobic and other vulgar language in messages to Allen.
Gruden resigned on Monday, with ESPN saying his comments were "clearly repugnant under any circumstance."