USA Today Joins ESPN in Telling Writers to Shut Down Political Messaging on Social Media

USA Today (Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty)
Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty

Perhaps USA Today has been reading the tea leaves and decided that the future of sports reporting is better off concentrating on sports and less on politics.

Sports Illustrated reports that an email from the international news outlet’s editor-in-chief, Patty Michalski, instructed senior editors to put the brakes on their sports writers sharing political views on social media.

“While personality and conversational language are encouraged, let’s keep in mind that no one outside of those who are paid here to share opinion should express political views on personal social media accounts, even if your account is private and even if you don’t report on politics,” Michalski wrote.

Telling their reporters to “stick to sports” may make sense given today’s political landscape where Americans continue to march against Donald J. Trump despite his win last week to become the 45th president of the United States. USA Today sees what has happened to long-time liberal leaning  ESPN and the NFL suffering viewer diminution due to the leftist sympathies of the likes of Collin Kaepernick’s protest of “racist” law enforcement as well as taking stances on other hot-button issues, such as gay marriage and transgender bathroom laws.

Nevertheless, commanding employees what to say on private social media outlets appears to have crossed a line for Matt Yoder who writes at USA Today: “Is it realistic or fair though to go the other direction as USA Today is doing and basically making ‘stick to sports’ a company policy?” he asks.

Yoder continues, “The [presidential] election is so divisive that perhaps it’s understandable they would ask their sportswriters and editors to stay out of it so as to not be drawn in the political quagmire and inevitably turn off parts of their readership who may not have the same viewpoints. However, denying the ability to comment on private social media accounts seems like an extreme step (that is also nearly impossible to regulate) and squashes the freedom to comment on very important issues.”

In an article reported at Breitbart News, Jim Brady, a former sports and executive editor at the Washington Post and now an editor at ESPN, observes that an expanding list of commentators at ESPN have been fired or punished for expressing conservative opinions but that liberal commentators haven’t suffered the same consequences.

Very good chances that the decline in ESPN subscribers of some 3.2 million in a little over a year, and the stunning loss of 621,000 subscribers in October alone, contributed to USA Today‘s management to tell their writers to stop spewing leftist ideas on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.


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