ESPN asks Adam Schefter to take a Twitter holiday during the NFL draft

AdamSchefter-TwitterAdam Schefter’s lifeline is Twitter. And it is quite a lifeline.

The NFL reporter for ESPN has 3.73 million Twitter followers. They receive NFL tweets from Schefter early and often on most days.

Twitter is a big reason why Schefter carries two cell phones with him.

“There are a lot of times when I’m getting news from someone on one phone and typing [in the tweet] on the other phone,” Schefter said. “Multi-tasking.”

Yet on one of the biggest nights of the year for breaking news in the NFL, the first-round of the draft Thursday, Schefter will tell his 3.73 million followers that he will be going dark on Twitter. They won’t be getting any tweets from him about all the various machinations taking place in draft war rooms around the NFL.

Normally, the draft is a Twitter paradise for NFL reporters like Schefter. However, a couple of years ago, viewers got upset when Schefter was tweeting  upcoming first-round picks before they were announced on TV. The telecasts aren’t always real time, as the NFL doesn’t wait for the networks to come out of commercials to announce the selections.

When viewers complained that Schefter was ruining their suspense, ESPN decided to put him on Twitter hiatus during the draft last year. NFL Network, which also airs the draft, does the same with its reporters.

Big Lead reports the NFL has asked all broadcast partners not to tip picks this year.

“We’re not doing this for journalistic reasons,” said Seth Markman, ESPN’s producer for the draft. “We’re doing this because viewers told us this is what they want.”

Schefter admits being told not to tweet during the draft “feels very odd.” Yet when he shut it down prior to last year’s opening round, he also found it liberating.

“If someone else tweets out news, my bosses don’t care,” Schefter said. “I’m almost granted immunity. It was refreshing. I was able to concentrate on reporting stories (for the telecast) without having to worry about putting up tweets. It almost felt like what it was like to be a sportswriter 20 years ago.”

Schefter was that reporter 20 years ago when he covered the Denver Broncos for the Denver Post. He had plenty of scoops on the beat. He would file his story; it would get edited; and people would read it when the paper hit the doorstep the next morning. Meanwhile, his newspaper competitors couldn’t follow up on his scoop until the following day.

“Back then, the shelf life of a story was 24 hours,” Schefter said. “Now it’s 24 seconds. Twitter has completely redefined how we operate. The job is different.”

Twitter now has Schefter on call 24/7. A few weeks ago he was at a New York restaurant with his wife and friends on a Friday night when his phone started buzzing. He thought, “What’s going on here?”

Somebody told him Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey was receiving a contract extension. “I got the contract terms while we were having appetizers,” Schefter laughed.

Schefter excused himself to do additional reporting and then post his tweets.

“My family has become very understanding about it,” Schefter said. “They know what my job is about. News can break at any moment.”

Twitter is the outlet for the majority of his reports. He said he used to write three stories a day when he worked for the Denver Post. “Now I write in 140-word characters,” he said. “It’s the world we live in.”

Schefter says he has developed a sense of what should be tweeted. He tries not to be excessive and stays away from rumors. Instead, he would prefer to hold off until he is able to nail down the story.

Schefter practices something that isn’t necessarily a trait in the post-it-now Twitter world: Patience.

“You want to be first. You want to be accurate,” Schefter said. “You have to figure out how to strike the right balance.”

Schefter doesn’t win every battle. The NFL reporters at his level are among the best in the business. It is not a good feeling when Schefter sees someone else got a scoop.

“You try to make sure it doesn’t happen,” Schefter said. “Inevitably, it does happen. It’s disappointing. You have to be like a pitcher who just gave up a home run. You shake it off and go on to the next play.”

Schefter, though, hasn’t lasted this long by being on the other side of scoops. He has established himself as a go-to source on the NFL, the essence of being an insider.

When Schefter first started on Twitter, he said it was “intoxicating” to land 20 new Twitter followers. Now he likely will crack the 4-million mark by the end of the year.

The good news for Schefter is that Twitter has made him one of the biggest brands among reporters in sports. The bad news is that Twitter always is hungry and constantly must be fed.

The question was posed to Schefter: Do you like the world you live in now?

“There’s good and bad in everything,” Schefter said. “There’s no sense fighting it. I love my job, but there are some things I would like to change. Everyone has their challenges. Mine just happen to be related to social media.”


Recommended reading on sports journalism:

Ryan Glasspiegel of Big Lead did an interesting two-part series on Howard Cosell. Part 1 dealt with why he became disillusioned with sports. Part 2 examines what kind of work he would do if he existed today.

Matt Zemek of Awful Announcing details why Google might affect Twitter’s ability to break news.

Tim Kurkjian is the latest subject in the “Still No Cheering in the Press Box” series by the Povich Center for Sports Journalism at Maryland.

Ed Sherman writes about sports media at Follow him @Sherman_Report


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