Adam Schefter: “I shouldn’t have” sent unpublished story to Bruce Allen

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The Washington Football Team email scandal has created far more problems for non-employees of the team than for anyone who ever worked there.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter became ensnared in the situation, thanks to an exchange he had with former team president Bruce Allen in 2011. Schefter sent an article to Allen before publishing it.

“Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked,” Schefter wrote. “Thanks, Mr. Editor, for that and the trust.”

The story caught a surprising amount of interest and attention, given that the average fan cares not about the manner in which the sausage is made. But it’s one thing to hear people explain in isolation the mechanism that gives an “insider” a head’s up on transactions that will be announced five minutes later. It’s quite another to see what the insider does to get in position for such a gratuity.

As Myles Simmons, who previously worked for the Rams and Panthers, said on Wednesday’s #PFTPM, multiple teams will inform their in-house media operations that Schefter will be breaking the news, and that the team will then announce it later. That type of deference doesn’t happen accidentally or spontaneously. It requires the careful cultivation of a relationship that will put Schefter at the front of the line — ahead of even the ever-growing army of reporters who literally are on the payroll of the NFL.

Appearing on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning, Schefter addressed the situation.

“I’ve learned for a long time in this business not to discuss sources, or the process, or how stories are done, but I would just say that, basically, it’s a common practice to run information past sources, and in this particular case, during a labor intensive lockout that was a complicated subject that was new to understand, I took the extra rare step again to run information past one of the people that I was talking to,” Schefter said. “You know, it was an important story to fans; a host of others, and that’s the situation.”

After spending the full day trending on Twitter, Schefter issued a statement on the ESPN PR Twitter account. (But NOT on his own Twitter account, which has 8.625 million followers. In contrast, the ESPN PR account has only 121,000 followers.)

“Fair questions are being asked about my reporting approach on an NFL Lockout story from 10 years ago,” Schefter said. “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. 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.”

The radio comment and the statement have some mild differences. He said “extra rare” on radio, and only “rare” in the statement. Also, the radio comment included an explanation but no expression of regret. Indeed, when one of the hosts expressed support for Schefter’s decision to send the article to Allen before publishing it, Schefter expressed appreciation.

Thus, at some point between Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, Schefter either changed his mind or someone suggested that he change it. Regardless, the situation provides a valuable look behind the curtain; whether this kind of stuff is “rare” or “extra rare” or “not rare at all” will depend on whether other emails regarding other stories surface, regardless whether those emails were sent to Allen or other Washington coaches/executives or other employees of other teams or the league office.

25 responses to “Adam Schefter: “I shouldn’t have” sent unpublished story to Bruce Allen

  1. I’ve never liked Shifty Shefter. I promise there’s some skeletons in his closet that are dying to get out. The sooner the better.

  2. Anyone see the attachment to the email and compare it to the story he ran with? That would be telling.

  3. Fair is fair – let’s open up all of Schefter’s emails to the public for scrutiny…..He’s had a lot to say about Gruden and being critical of the person. Let’s now see if he has skeletons – right?……

  4. Al Davis has been gone for a while, yet still all the owners are taking shots at the Raiders trying to bring them down years after? When the Raiders make the playoffs this season I’m sure they’ll be something else!

  5. If you can’t acknowledge and admit that many (most?) of the folks in this business are simply awful people, it is a reflection of your own character.

  6. Why do people go out of their way to ruin others lives? Not necessarily referring to this situation but it sometimes rubs me the wrong way. Reporter’s are some of the grimmiest people in the world. Anything to get their big break.

  7. People are angry that Shefter checked facts before running a story? Am I missing something here? What is there to be mad about? This is how journalism is done.

  8. I’m sure he was objective on matters involving the WFT like when Scott McCloughan and Bruce Allen had their issues. I’m sure he just looked at the situation and shot it to us straight, lol.

  9. Too bad shefter wasn’t that diligent when footballs were contracting due to Newton’s law.

  10. He said he shouldn’t have done it. Does anybody believe that was the first and only time?

  11. Kind of like how the press secretary always knows what page/which notes to turn to, as each reporter asks her a question. Everything is scripted.

  12. I’ve been a reporter for 14+ years. It is not uncommon to email a paragraph from your story to a trusted source to ensure accuracy. Especially with things like labor talks or legalese, those things can get complex quickly, and as a reporter you want to make sure you’re both accurate and not too high level. Now emailing an ENTIRE story is a different matter. To me, that means Bruce Allen requested to see the entire story in order to be quoted in it, and AS complied to gain his trust and participation. It’s a practice a lot of reporters stay away from because it blurs the lines of impartiality. That is my guess what happened here.

  13. So Schefter and Wojnarowski aren’t really great reporters. They’re being given favors. Something to remember in the future.

  14. These people are more concerned about their own ego and being first than getting it right.

    What on earth were these people taught in college as Journalism majors?

  15. There’s a reason Schefter is the number one insider. It’s because he has the most relationships with league people. How else is he going to break so many news ahead of everyone else? That’s how the sausage is made, people. What’s the big deal?!

  16. It’s really sad how far Schefter has fallen. He was a local reporter where I live before he got his big break and he was a great guy at that time. Likeable, had good reliable information, and seemed totally trustworthy. He’s not outright shady to the degree you wouldn’t accept him telling you the time of day without having to verify it.

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