ESPN’s Doria on Twitter: A big headache; Worries about diminished standards

Vince Doria does have a Twitter account. He is pictured with his perfectly-groomed white beard.

And that’s about all you’ll get from Doria on Twitter. He has yet to post a tweet.

“Somebody went behind my back and signed me up,” Doria said.

Doria, ESPN’s senior vice-president and director of news, has little use for Twitter. In fact, when asked about it, he said the whole social media thing gives him “a headache.”

Of course, this attitude flies in the face of the importance of Twitter to ESPN. NFL reporter Adam Schefter has 1.6 million followers who hang on his every tweet about football.

The majority of ESPN’s personalities are well into six figures when it comes to followers, and they stay connected with 24/7 tweets. It’s 2012. Tweet or die.

Yet Doria’s concerns about Twitter are telling and highly relevant for the entire media industry, not just ESPN. Social media definitely will a topic during this week’s Associated Press Sports Editors convention in Chicago. Many are sure to take note of their former colleague’s views: Doria was a sports editor at the Boston Globe and the National in a previous life.

Indeed, I can’t believe how much I’ve written about Twitter since I started this site two months ago. It has provided me plenty of material.

And now I have some more Twitter talk. Here’s my Q/A with Doria.

Why did you say Twitter is a headache?

Well, yeah…(long sigh) if social networking never existed, we wouldn’t miss it. We wouldn’t know it ever existed. We wouldn’t feel our life was impaired in any way. We lived without e-mail. How did we operate without it?

What are some of the pitfalls?

I’ll give you an example. You may recall (somebody at) the Washington Post hit a wrong button and prematurely reported John Wooden’s death. It was out there. Somebody saw it and sent it to Adam Schefter. Adam retweeted it. The next thing I know, I see Adam Schefter reported that John Wooden had died. All he did was pass it along.

I said our guys, why are you doing this? It’s not your stuff. You’ve got to let your followers know that the Washington Post is reporting John Wooden died?

If your identity touches it, people want to lay it on you, particularly if you’re ESPN. It’s one of the dangers.

But you know Twitter is essential these days in this business.

Look, social networking is a terrific resource. The ability to directly to interact with viewers, listeners, readers.

But it also makes it very difficult when you have a process in place to properly vet material to the point where you’re satisfied with sourcing. Social networking flies in the face of that.

We all get it. We all appreciate the immediacy of it. On the other hand, trying to do that and maintain the traditional standards of journalism is a challenge. There’s no other way to put it.

Specifically, what do you see that’s being compromised?

There’s so many people chasing stories. Everybody is a wire service now. Anybody can break a story. Once they’re out there, you’re not always sure of the accuracy of them. I can’t speak for everyone, but there’s not the same concern for being accurate. In some cases, it’s ‘here’s what we hear.’ Here it is. Maybe it’s right, maybe it isn’t.

But the very nature of that, you can’t have that kind of information and expect everyone would adhere to the standards of journalism that have been in place for so long.

Isn’t this all about being first with a story on Twitter? And then you’re first for about 35 seconds. 

There’s no doubt that some of being first is diminished by the fact that everyone has it within 10 seconds. They may have it, but you don’t know they’re sourcing. Why you certainly can attribute the story, you wonder about the veracity, particularly with the crowded landscape. It’s one thing to be satisfied with sourcing from the Washington Post or New York Times. It’s another thing when it’s a blogger or somebody tweeting it who is essentially unknown to you. You don’t know their sources; you don’t how diligent they’ve been.

How important is it for ESPN’s reporters to break stories?

There may come a time when maybe that won’t matter anymore. But if you came up in the journalist era I did, it’s still important to be first.

Yeah, we want to be right more than anything. But right after that, yeah, you want to be first. There’s an expectation that we’re going to be first on stories. We can’t be first on all of them, but we’ve branded ourselves the World Wide Leader of Sports. Not sure what that means, but part of it is trying to get out in front of stories. We hope we can bring fresh reporting to it. Fresh perspective. But being first still is a part of it. It’s in your DNA to a certain extent.

You know there are people who say Doria is behind the times. If you were 25, you would be all over Twitter.

Yeah, but it’s got its inherent risks. For every good piece of information that comes out on social networks, a lot of mindless patter comes out too.

You have many great thoughts. Why have you resisted tweeting?

Social networking provides a lot of information. That’s great. It also provides a lot of vapid discussion that I can’t believe anyone is much interested in. It also provides a great risk in terms to entities in terms of putting their foot in their mouth. I’ve seen plenty of examples. That’s the reason why I’ve resisted.

People who know me well know I like to be sarcastic. Given my role here, objectivity is very important. For me, the danger of social networking is the appearance that I’m not objective in a certain area. I’d prefer not have that perception.

So we shouldn’t expect any tweets soon from Vince Doria?









2 thoughts on “ESPN’s Doria on Twitter: A big headache; Worries about diminished standards

  1. “It also provides a lot of vapid discussion that I can’t believe anyone is much interested in.”

    Is he talking about SportsCenter, ESPN First Take, or Twitter?

  2. “…It also provides a lot of vapid discussion that I can’t believe anyone is much interested in. …”

    Uh, Vince? Have you ever even watched your own network?

    And you really can drop the “objective” stuff already. Even my 11-year-old knows that ESPN exists to support and extend the Disney empire, your “news” op especially so.

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