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News Wars

May 7, 2005, 2:35 PM EDT

Comments Off on News Wars

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. 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 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 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, 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

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.

  1. Anonymous - May 8, 2005 at 6:37 PM

    What a joke. If the Redskins want some positive stories printed about them, maybe they should start winning games and stop making horrible moves in the front office. The Post has gone overboard in its negative coverage as of late, but I’m not sure that’s any worse than the decade of all blindly positive coverage that proceeded it.

    Our beloved Redskins have become the joke of the NFL and I’m sorry, Danny, it’s your fault, not the media’s.

  2. Anonymous - May 8, 2005 at 8:29 PM

    The blindly positive coverage was well earned and well deserved, as has been the blindly negative coverage.

  3. Doug - May 9, 2005 at 12:26 PM

    People have mighty short memories. The criticism that the Redskins received prior to the arrival of Joe Gibbs last year might be understandable if not always very accurate. But the recent nonsense about Joe Gibbs, e.g. he will leave after 1 year, he only came back for the money, the game has passed him by, etc., etc., etc., ad naseum, shows only that the media has taken all this to another level. And why? Joe Gibbs has always said he takes full responsibity for the decisions he has made, and is perfectly willing to take whatever criticism of these decisions comes his way. Joe Gibbs is a man. Unfortunately, too many people seem to believe that a personal attack on a man constitutes a “fair” criticism. I guess that is similar to the recent political climate, where it is certainly easier to level personal attacks against your opponent in the press than it is to carry on an honest debate of the issues. More effective, too, unfortunately.

    Joe Gibbs is above all this nonsense. You don’t ever hear Joe Gibbs say an unkind word about anyone. Meantime, he is putting together a terrific football team, and one that will do very well this year. Remember what Joe Gibbs accomplished in his second year the first time around? And Dan Snyder, for all his early mistakes, which were mostly mistakes borne of over-enthusiasm, has atoned for them a thousand times over by the hiring of Joe Gibbs. Does anybody here really think that the game has passed Joe Gibbs by? Does anybody here really think that Joe Gibbs does not know how to put together a quality organization? Does anybody think that he had to win the Super Bowl last season in order to verify his past success?

    It is always fun to second guess your team’s moves, including the moves of the head coach. I do it all the time. One thing I learned during the first term of Joe Gibbs, though: If you second guess Joe Gibbs, you are very likely to be wrong. That isn’t to say he’s perfect, or above criticism. He is, however, above all the personal attacks.

    And one more thing: The Washington Redskins are not a joke. They are a terrific organization which does an incredible amount of good for this community whether or not they win another football game. My bet, though, is that they will win lots of football games, and sooner than most people think.

  4. Anonymous - May 9, 2005 at 5:17 PM

    I’m sure the Browns and the 49ers do a lot of good things for the community as well.

  5. Anonymous - May 9, 2005 at 8:36 PM

    Your points are reasonable, and I actually think that the criticism that Gibbs has received is really just follow-over criticism that has built up over the prior 12 disastrous inept years. I think it would be way more reasonable for people to actually give Gibbs (who is, without question, one of the very greatest coaches ever) a fair chance before criticizing him. One year is not a fair chance. Unfortunately, these days, nothing is sacred and nobody seems to be worthy of the benefit of the doubt. But, I don’t spend large amounts of money and time on the Redskins because I want to support their effort to do good things in the community. There are plenty of other organizations who do only that and do it far better than the Redskins. I spend time and money on the Redskins to see them win. And its been a damn long time since that’s happened, so the criticism shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

  6. Anonymous - May 10, 2005 at 12:01 AM

    Maybe Jeff Gannon should cover the Skins. Archives

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