Star ESPN Reporter Adam Schefter Has History of Sketchy, Unethical Behavior
The 650,000 emails unearthed as part of an NFL investigation into the infamous NFL owner's toxic and misogynistic culture turn out to be the rancid gift that keeps being given - a rare glimpse into the behavior of men at the Top of the soccer food chain when you think nobody is watching. First up was Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who was revealed to have fired messages riddled with all sorts of bigotry. Now we're also getting a look at what it takes for a great reporter to score his precious shovels.
Adam Schefter, ESPN's NFL insider bar none, chatted to then-Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen a decade ago when he broke a fundamental principle of journalism: he was sharing the contents of his story with a source for pre-release review .
"Please let me know if you see anything that needs adding, changing, or tweaking," wrote Schefter, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Journalists do not let sources of any kind have the final say on their reporting. You are probably not even making a quasi-joke about the source as "Mr. Editor ”, as Schefter did. The reasons for this should pretty much go without saying. By allowing Allen, who is not cited by name in the resulting article, to stamp his work, Schefter was functioning as a stenographer rather than a reporter at best.
Schefter made a statement on Wednesday afternoon. In it he admitted that "the criticism that is raised is fair," and denied in the next breath that he had participated in the activity for which he was criticized. Namely the task of editorial control.
Those who confront Schefter are not inherently wrong. But in doing so they are giving Schefter a lot more credit than anyone with his track record deserves.
For the past decade, as ESPN's most influential football reporter, Schefter has explored other behaviors that most reporters find anathema to. He's appeared in commercials, invested in gambling with an NFL owner, joined the board of directors of a young NFL development league, and for a hot minute in 2013 anyone with a $ 3,000 burnout would have Pay to hang out and watch play with Schefter.
After all, Schefter's job is to spread NFL-approved gossip and carry water for the multi-billion dollar entertainment company he is supposed to be covering. To shine in this type of access journalism is often not nice. Schefter and others like him have to cultivate and properly cultivate friendly, transactional relationships with the power brokers and agents of the NFL, distribute selected information and put others on the hips. In return for their clever horse trading, they are rewarded with proper exclusives about threatened trades and ongoing contract negotiations. Fans who like fans of betting or fantasy football will eat this stuff up. As such, Schefter has been given a high seat at ESPN. If the release of this highly valued product means Schefter occasionally defending a house molester or advocating preferred NFL policies while claiming to be apolitical, then those are the sometimes dire costs of doing business.
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As long as he continues to attract eyeballs, there is no chance ESPN will remove Schefter from his high profile profile if he grinds around the clock and is adamant. These successes can be the reason that whenever Schefter is caught doing a questionable sideline, the Worldwide Leader makes a slurred statement and sits out every brief outcry. You're more than pot committed.
In a statement, an ESPN flack said Tuesday: "Without sharing full details of the reporter process for a story from 10 years ago during the NFL suspension, we believe nothing is more important to Adam and ESPN than giving fans the most accurate." , fair and complete story. "
Did Schefter provide "accurate" coverage or the "full story" as ESPN is now? At first glance, this does not seem to be the case. As Barry Pechesky discovered at Defector, Schefter wasn't tugging a front office manager's sleeve to see if the star QB's shoulder had turned into a hamburger at the time. While Schefter and Allen wrote emails, the NFL and NFLPA were negotiating the new collective agreement. The owners had a clear and vested interest in moving their version of events forward and getting NFL fans on their side. Schefter, as his email made it clear, saw no problem in writing a story that would serve them no matter how much it cost the league's workforce, Pechesky wrote. And ESPN readers weren't the wiser.
This has been a question ESPN has been asking since its inception: How can they act as a financial partner with both professional and college leagues responsible for broadcasting and promoting their product while doing rigorous, adversarial reporting? Make no mistake, there is no shortage of Bristol staff doing an excellent job. But when it comes to companies they got to bed with, like UFC and its main attraction, Conor McGregor, as The Daily Beast reported, the priorities of one (profitable) aspect of the company can make these (more prestigious, but far, far less profitable) Muckraking aspirations.
Schefter doesn't seem to care too much about the latter, especially if it could hurt his ability to make money or strengthen his brand. For years he has been selling a variety of goods, both in commercials and on social media, some of which also have a financial relationship with the NFL.
Other prominent ESPN figures have also embarked on this path, such as Adrian Wojnarowski, their high-profile NBA reporter, and Matthew Berry, possibly the most famous fantasy football writer in the world. When readers raised an eyebrow at the amount of shillings Berry did for DraftKings - which at the time was still a daily fantasy sports hub rather than a full-fledged gambling portal - he had to admit that he hadn't revealed it was a paid sponsor. It's okay, however, wrote Berry, because he really loves the company.
However, there is a difference between getting paid for ads or joining management in some way. Schefter pulled it off briefly.
In 2017, Schefter joined the board of directors of the Pacific Pro League, a young team that provides high school students a paid route into the NFL without being pulled into servitude by the NCAA. When asked if Schefter might have violated his reporting practices, ESPN told the Sports Business Journal that Schefter's role was "unpaid and ceremonial," and they agreed to it. Schefter resigned a few days later. The network reiterated that the now sunk performance was "minimal and unpaid," as ESPN said in a statement, and so "[Schefter] decided that this was the appropriate outcome".
Equally appropriate, according to ESPN, was Schefter's recent investment in Boom Entertainment, a company that develops gaming apps. Another investor in the company is Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. An astute reader might be asked to ask if Schefter would bury a juicy nugget over the Patriots, which was detrimental to his financial partner. Or, because Schefter's usual terrain directly overlaps the interests of the players, which prevents him from benefiting personally from this information in one way or another.
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Bloomberg reached out to ESPN in September in hopes of answers to exactly those questions, but the website couldn't get them to say whether there was a conflict of interest policy in place, let alone whether Schefter had conflicted with it. Of course, ESPN also dodged the bigger question of whether Disney's efforts to get on the largely legalized gambling frenzy might have affected its coverage in general.
ESPN has tirelessly promoted Schefter as the central source for all of your football news - a man who sticks to his phone 24/7 and lives for nothing but beating his competitors, even if that slap is a tweet that would be confirmed by a team or league published press release shortly thereafter. (At one point, his thirst for a shovel led Schefter to tweet screenshots of the medical records of a defensive end whose hand was shredded by fireworks. The player sued Schefter and ESPN. The case was settled in 2017.)
Nobody claims that Schefter's job is not difficult and time consuming, or that he failed to post newsworthy stories. According to a 2014 profile on the Washington Post, it sounds like hell to keep up with your busy schedule. But maybe it's time to stop asking him to stick to journalistic standards. If ESPN really had a problem with its behavior - brand boosting, or sideline business, or overly cozy relationships with sources, or some way the firewall between the business and editorial sides crumbled in Schefter's hands - it would have long ago said.
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American sports journalist and television analyst
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