Thursday, December 2, 2021

Journalistic principle broken, Schefter to blame

Carly Newton

A journalist’s duty is providing accurate and unbiased information to their audience — no exceptions. Despite this, some journalists continue to break these basic fundamental principles of their profession. 

The latest journalist and reporter to do so is ESPN reporter, Adam Schefter. 

Schefter has been a well-known, reliable sports reporter for many years now, but his reputation took a hit when old emails of his were leaked.

Like Jon Gruden, Schefter’s emails were released as a part of the ongoing Washington Football Team investigation. Unlike Gruden, Schefter didn’t say anything homophobic, sexist or misogynistic.

Instead, Schefter had sent an entire article to former General Manager Bruce Allen of the Washington Football Team, so that he could edit it before it was published. 

According to the sporting news article, “ESPN’s Adam Schefter responds to criticism stemming from an email to Bruce Allen,” Schefter’s leaked email said, “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.”

This is a totally unacceptable way for a journalist to behave with a source. Schefter should have never handed over that much control to Bruce Allen — it is a shady tactic, and it is not being honest with his readers. 

In a world where the public is becoming less trusting of the media, stories like this continue to damage journalism. 

After the email was leaked, Schefter issued an apology. Schefter’s apology, for a high-profile reporter, was pathetic, and it seemed forced and insincere.

“Fair questions are being asked about my reporting approach on an NFL Lockout story from 10 years ago. Just to clarify, it’s common practice to verify facts of a story with sources before you publish in order to be as accurate as possible. In this case, I took the rare step of sending the full story in advance because of the complex nature of the collective bargaining talks,” Schefter said in the statement. “It was a step too far and, looking back, I shouldn’t have done it. The criticism being levied is fair. With that said, I want to make this perfectly clear: in no way did I, or would I, cede editorial control or hand over final say about a story to anyone, ever.”

While Schefter does admit that he was wrong, he downplays the severity of the situation by saying he was fact-checking with a source. Fact-checking is entirely different from what Schefter actually did — he surrendered control of what was written in his story to a source he is meant to hold accountable. 

When a journalist hands over this power to a source, they lose credibility. Even though Schefter said he didn’t do this, his email says otherwise. It’s one thing to make a mistake and own up to it, but it doesn’t seem like he believed he did anything wrong. 

Luckily for Schefter, he has built up a solid reputation in the years since that email. He will likely not face much backlash or repercussions from this incident unless something else comes out. 

The lack of consequences for Schefter’s actions is concerning. Aspiring journalists may see how the situation was handled, and they may believe that his behavior was acceptable.

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