In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 18, 2011 at 7:28 am

Tony Kornheiser of WTEM ESPN Radio 980 in Washington, DC likes Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Former Washington Post colleague and well-known author, John Feinstein says so in his blog, Feinstein on the Brink.  Kornheiser also works for Snyder who owns WTEM.

And at this moment in time, all of this has become a problem and a news item unto itself in DC.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a problem if Kornheiser didn’t also happen to host a daily radio show that focuses on sports and the media. It wouldn’t be a problem if Tony, who also works for ESPN itself, didn’t have a national reputation for tackling tough topics on the popular TV show, Pardon the Interruption.  It wouldn’t be a problem if Kornheiser wasn’t a widely respected journalist and columnist from his long tenure at the Post. It wouldn’t be a problem if Dan Snyder was a saint who never so much as creates a ripple in the sports pond. It wouldn’t be a problem if Dan Snyder wasn’t suing Kornheiser’s fellow DC journalist, Dave McKenna, and the City Paper, into oblivion for an unfavorable article published last November. It wouldn’t be a problem if Tony Kornheiser was willing to discuss Snyder v. City Paper on his radio show.

But, it is a problem, and Tony Kornheiser knows it.  It’s probably killing him inside. It’s certainly doing a tap dance on his credibility.  I mean, I’m not saying he should have McKenna’s back on this. And, nobody is demanding that Kornheiser attack Snyder, or even simply take a position on the somewhat pretzel logic behind the lawsuit. Heck, a good ride on the fence would probably satisfy most folks.  We all understand that it’s tough to bite the hand that pays a good salary. But, to almost pretend this headline-grabbing issue with Snyder doesn’t exist.  To, according to Feinstein, ask his radio guests not to bring up the matter on the air.  Well… the silence is deafening.

Tony Kornheiser has crossed one of those lines that true journalists aren’t supposed to cross. Sure the line is more gray than black these days.  ESPN college football hosts have sneaker contracts and others do commercials. Several DC TV sports reporters have also had ties to the Redskins in the Snyder era; although money may never have changed hands. And, at one time or another, all of the DC TV stations have had lucrative programming ties to the Skins: The Donovan McNabb Show, The Norv Turner/Terry Robiskie/Marty Schottenheimer/Steve Spurrier/Joe Gibbs/Jim Zorn/Mike Shanahan Show, and so on.  All of this can call into question “journalistic independence and journalistic integrity.”

The problem of course, is that Snyder pays Kornheiser. Pure and simple. Honestly, I don’t buy Feinstein’s contention that it’s not about the money.  It’s always about the money.  Money blurs the line that separates journalists from the people they cover.  Money creates a relationship, a friendship, a “liking” of someone that begins to erase the line.  Money makes a man beholden to another.  Money lowers the volume on the microphone, fades the ink of the writer’s pen, changes the subject when the questions start to get too tough to answer.

Money puts saving your job ahead of saving your reputation.

Tony Kornheiser is better than this.  At least, he used to be. He knows it. And, it’s killing him inside.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: