armchairquarterblog

Posts Tagged ‘City Paper’

MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on August 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm

On Brett Haber…

A few random thoughts on the departure of Channel 9 sportscaster Brett Haber, who announced a few weeks ago he was leaving the station to pursue other opportunities, particularly in the field of sports play-by-play.

For one, Haber was never one of my favorites. I thought there were times he came across on the air as smug and slightly condescending toward his audience, perhaps one reason he was never able to gain widespread popularity in the market.

Don’t get me wrong. He was prepared, he usually asked good questions and he tried to do the best he could despite his constantly shrinking minutes on the air, especially at 11 pm. Maybe it was just me, but I never felt he added very much to the discussion, maybe because he hardly ever had the time.

Haber cited the diminishing importance of sports coverage in local newscasts as one of the reasons for his decision to look at greener pastures. It’s been a national trend for most of the last 10 years, given the rise of local and regional sports networks that can give viewers 30 minutes of sports news and highlights every night, compared to Haber’s two or three minutes.

But other people in the industry I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks also had another theory as to why he’s leaving Channel 9. One highly connected source speculated that Haber’s contract was probably up, and the powers that be at the station were not prepared to match or exceed the financial terms of his expiring deal, if only because sports coverage will not be a major priority at the station in the years to come.

Rather than take a substantial pay cut, the source said, Haber may well have decided he could do better elsewhere, while also pursuing his passion for play-by-play announcing on a larger stage, like the Tennis Channel.

That being said, Haber should also be saluted for taking on petulant Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder a few months ago, strongly criticizing Snyder’s frivolous lawsuit against an unflattering City Paper story over the air. Maybe Haber knew he would be leaving the station anyway, but going head-to-head with the owner of a team that could make it very difficult for Haber to do future business was a gutty decision on the sportscaster’s part.

On Rupert Murdoch…

Here’s another reason to take a heavy shot at media mogul Rupert Murdoch, in addition to the mostly unfair and unbalanced Fox News Network and current English phone-hacking scandal that involved one of his trashy tabloid newspapers.

Last week Fox Sports, another Murdoch property, announced it has reached an agreement on a seven-year deal to air mixed martial arts on the Fox network and FX cable. They’ll have four shows on Fox and 32 on FX, including an Ultimate Fighter reality television show.

MMA followers would like to think the so-called sport has come a long way from its brawling, bloodbath days of old. But whenever I happen to surf in to a match, why does it always seem as if one guy has the other guy in a headlock and keeps pounding away at his face? It’s still a street fight, and really unfit for national television, especially when you recall the words of Fox Sports chairman David Hill to USA Today in 2008.

In explaining why his network would not air MMA at the time, Hill told the paper “what’s totally abhorrent about it—and I’ve said this to people running it—is that one guy will be down and the other one can keep hitting him.”

Now however, Fox will pay the Ultimate Fighting Champion ship organization $100 million annually to air the carnage, and Hill has clearly changed his tune.

The importance of this deal is the 18 to 34 year old make demographic that wavers and moves on” to other televised choices, Hill told USA Today. “There’s no yesterday in TV. (It’s) all about the next big thing.”

This is the next revolting thing. Shame on Fox, which apparently has none.

 

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on April 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

There’s an unwritten rule regarding public disputes and use of the news media. It’s very simple. The first one to run to the media to defend his position is losing the battle.

Redskins owner, Dan Snyder might not want to admit this, but he IS losing his battle with the City Paper; at least in the court of public opinion, and maybe in court, too.

Snyder took to the Opinion page of the Washington Post and Post.com to re-state his intentions in his ongoing legal tussle with the City Paper, which he claims defamed him in a November 2010 article written by Dave McKenna. (I won’t even get into the question of why the Post climbed into the middle of this mess. I guess they really need to sell papers these days.) The piece entitled, “Why I am suing Washington City Paper,” is a plea for understanding from Redskins fans. The point that Dan completely misses, however, is that Redskins fans don’t care about his personal conflict with a tiny media outlet that most had probably never heard of until he decided to sue. They only care about winning and whether there will be a 2011 NFL season.

The only thing really new in the Snyder essay is the decision to re-file the suit in Washington instead of New York for “legal reasons.” As expected, it’s a little short on facts, and long on… well… long on Dan’s hurt feelings.

But, what’s really interesting here is what’s NOT mentioned anymore. There’s no more blather about the unwarranted mocking of Dan’s wife, Tanya, for saying in a TV interview that Dan had “grown and evolved.” And, there’s no more uproar over the so-called “anti-Semitic” photo illustration (Snyder with scribbled devil’s horns) that accompanied the original City Paper story. Why? Probably, because those complaints failed to garner the public sympathy that Dan was seeking when he opted to take on the City Paper in the first place. Those arguments quite simply lacked substance.

In fact, out of the roughly 60 “failings” of Dan Snyder listed in the McKenna article only one remains at the heart of this dispute.

And that is… Drum roll please… Snyder’s continuing focus on his portrayal in decade-old allegations that his communications marketing company “forged” names in a telephone “slamming” scheme in Florida. “Slamming” means that people’s long distance providers were changed without their authorization. According to the Attorney General of Florida, Snyder Communications’ employees carried out this activity on behalf of GTE/Verizon. A substantial fine was paid to end this matter “without admitting any wrongdoing.”

Of course, proof of malice by Dave McKenna will be the burden of Snyder in his case against the City Paper; an extremely heavy legal burden for a public figure. In the Post Op-Ed piece, Snyder targets the following line from the McKenna article for the bulk of his ire, “That’s the [same] Dan Snyder who got caught forging names as a telemarketer with Snyder Communications.” Snyder calls that accusation “false.” But, the Florida Attorney General’s April 2001 news release on the “slamming” case specifically refers to “thousands of instances” where Snyder Communications’ representatives “forged” customer signatures. Snyder obviously contends he was not one of the “representatives” in question. But, Snyder Communications was Dan Snyder’s company at the time. And, the buck stops where?

Snyder also continues to insist this is not about the money. Anything he might win is earmarked for charity. And, he doesn’t want McKenna fired. In fact, he says the whole matter would be dropped if the City Paper would just apologize and retract the “false charges.”

Dan, don’t hold your breath waiting for that apology. In an interview with WTOP, the publisher of the City Paper called the suit “frivolous.” The City Paper still stands by its story.

And to borrow from your own opinion piece, Dan, your University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate father would have understood the City Paper’s position, and that your foray onto the Op-Ed page of the Post is a clear signal that your battle is not being won.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at: www.aberdeentradingco.com

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

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: www.aberdeentradingco.com

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on February 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm

With the possibility of an NFL lock-out looming, it appears that Dan Snyder’s back-up plan is to spend the 2011 season trying to sue the pants off a tiny Washington media outlet, the City Paper.  What a great way to pick up cash to offset lost ticket revenue!  Although, I’ve read that Snyder’s lawyers have suggested that any proceeds will be donated to charity.  If so, can I suggest starting a legal defense fund for the City Paper?  We’re not talking about the Washington Post.

According to the Associated Press and other major news organizations, the Redskins owner is suing the City Paper and its parent company for $2 million plus punitive damages and court costs claiming defamation in a November 19th article called “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder.”  And, depending on which on-line report you read, Snyder either is or isn’t seeking the dismissal of the story’s author, Dave McKenna.  Snyder is also reportedly upset with other articles that have appeared in the City Paper since 2009, and he seems notably unhappy with the photo art that went along with the “Fan Guide” that depicts Snyder with a beard and devil’s horns.   Reportedly, Snyder’s lawyers have gone so far as to get a west coast rabbi to label the crudely drawn horns as “anti-semitic.”   For the record, Snyder is Jewish.

Now, to be completely honest, I had not read the McKenna article until the lawsuit story broke.  And, I couldn’t pick Dave McKenna out of a lineup even if he was alone.  I would classify the writing as “tongue-in-cheek” humor with an EDGE.   A SHARP EDGE, at that.  At first glance, the article’s “A-Z” approach pretty much hits all the low points of the Snyder-era as Redskins owner; on and off the field.   (I think we can all agree that the “high points” wouldn’t make for much of an article).  To call it libel or defamation is a stretch, at best.   To call the photo embellishment of Snyder anti-semitic is a longer stretch.   To call it unflattering would pretty much hit the nail on the head.

So, I can see why Danny is displeased with his portrayal.  But, why on earth would he draw attention to a not-so-positive article from a media outlet with a very limited readership (sorry City Paper) and turn it into a NATIONAL HEADLINE and splash it across the worldwide web, ESPN, the Washington Post, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum?  Is it because to claim libel somebody actually has to have read the allegedly libelous article in the first place?   If it were only that simple for Snyder’s lawyers.  You see, there’s the issue of proving malice, and there’s the sticky little issue of Snyder being a public figure (unflattering stuff comes with the territory).   Oh, and I seem to recall this little note from my Business Law class in college, “You can’t libel someone with the truth.”   And, while Snyder is claiming the article in question contains “lies, half-truths, and innuendo” designed to smear him, the City Paper says the facts of the story are facts.  And, let’s not forget the First Amendment here.  Danny’s lawyers could clearly use a little re-fresher on this one.

So, what is the truth?  Well, the truth is, as they say, out there.  Snyder may lose, but he can afford to lose.   The City Paper probably can’t afford to win, lose, or draw.  Money is power, and Danny is flexing the money muscle, for sure.   But, bizarrely, this might actually be the best thing that’s ever happened to McKenna and the City Paper.   Money just can’t buy the exposure they’re getting right now.

As for the outcome,  Snyder might wind up proving the original point of McKenna’s article. (If you get my drift).  And, if you didn’t, let me just say that Danny might just have clinched another “Sports Jerk of the Year” award from Tank McNamara.   More critically, however, Snyder may have committed the biggest PR blunder in NFL history.   Never bite the hand that feeds your ego.  The City Paper is an easy target for a bully and his legal team, but it’s not alone out there. The media can and will bite back.

And, the fans?   Dan Snyder lost them years ago.

Ross is the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0 www.aberdeentradingco.com