May 7, 2005, 2:35 PM EST
There is an old adage that says that you should never pick a fight with one who buys ink by the barrel. Maybe that’s changed; you might be able to get away with it if you buy bandwidth by the terabyte.
A few months ago the Redskins picked a fight with the Washington Post over what the team perceived to be overly negative and inaccurate coverage. What was a skirmish involving the pulling of season tickets on the Redskins part and some highly critical columns by Post writers has escalated. From an article in the Washingtonian:
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson says the team is ramping up its Web site and putting up news because fans couldn?t see through the ?filter? of DC?s news outlets. Both Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and coach Joe Gibbs are behind the effort to portray the Redskins ?unfiltered.?
?”We want people to see things for themselves, as opposed to information filtered through editors or producers,?” Swanson says. ?”Our focus is to be a news source.?”
(It’s difficult to read this and not recall Daffy Duck spitting out, “This means war!” after having been outsmarted for the umpteenth time by Bugs Bunny.)
Can the Redskins be a legitimate news source? Sure, in some ways. Redskins.com can be a good source for finding out some raw information such as this player was released and that one was signed and for hearing and watching interviews and press conferences that the media might not carry, at least not in their entirety.
For example, when Joe Gibbs holds a press conference, that’s news and Redskins.com carries those live and archives them. You can hear every one of Gibbs’ official press conferences since the day he was introduced as the returning head coach. The other media will carry selected quotes and clips and that’s the “filter” that Swanson is referring to.
They’ve taken it one step further now with videos of interviews that involve same-day happenings. For example, they webcast an interview with Santana Moss’ agent the day that Moss agreed to his new deal. Nothing earth-shattering was said and this is evidence that the Skins are moving into manufacturing news as well as making it.
The notion that this “news” is “unfiltered” is, obviously, utter nonsense. The interviews are by Larry Michael, the former Clear Channel executive who began moonlighting as the play by play announcer for the Redskins last year. The team enticed him to quit his day job and become some sort of a communications director for them. Hard-hitting these interviews are not. The information is indeed filtered, it’s just a different filter, a burgundy and gold colored one.
Relying on Redskins.com for your Redskins news is no different relying on the Republican National Committee for your news on the administration in the White House. Of course, given the adverserial relationship that has developed between the Post and the Skins, relying on the Post exclusively for Skins news may be like sticking to, well, the Washington Post for your political coverage. I trust that most of us have become educated consumers of news and will take in information from a number of sources.
What’s ironic here is that the Redskins are attempting to establish the idea of a website as a source for legitimate news. What’s odd about that is that the team refuses to grant media credentials to any news organization that has a presence only on the Internet (most other teams in the league follow the same policy). So, in my position as the editor of WarpathInsiders.com, I can’t get media credentials based solely on the fact that it’s a web-based news and information source. The message that the press pass policy sends is that no Internet-based news sources are really legitimate–except, apparently, for the one that resides at Redskins.com.
The Redskins’ efforts to manage the news actually started a few months ago when Joe Gibbs stopped his regular interviews with WTEM because the hosts were being too adversarial. Instead, Gibbs started doing radio interviews with Mr. Tenacious himself, Michael. Fortunately, the news takeover attempt is quite transparent and, again, most consumers of news will see right through it.
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