Thursday, November 21, 2013

Washington Post Sports Watch: Ted Leonsis Came to the Washington Post And All Readers Got Was A Story About A Guy Singing "American Pie"

Three weeks ago, back on Oct. 31, Ted Leonsis spent two hours meeting with reporters and editors of the Washington Post. He talked about the Caps and Wizards' profitability, about his Monumental Sports Network and the reason why he hasn't changed general managers since he's owned the teams. How do I know this? Because the Post told its readers this meeting happened -- and yet they never printed one article or blog post recounting what Leonsis said about those topics.

They did print a weird story Leonsis told that day about how he paid a guy 100 bucks to stop singing "American Pie" under his office window, as well as his feelings on the Redskins name (smartly didn't want to get involved) and whether he might change the name of the Wizards back to the Bullets (unlikely). All of that information--including the list of the other, more important topics covered in the meeting -- was mentioned in a D.C. Sports Bog post by editor Lindsay Applebaum that afternoon. When asked in the comments (by me) whether we'd hear more about those other topics, Applebaum responded that she hoped so, and that she figured others at the meeting would be reporting on them. It seemed like a reasonable assumption--I don't know who was in the meeting, but I would presume, at the very least, Sports Editor Matt Vita was there, as was business writer Thomas Heath, Caps beat writer Katie Carrera, Wizards beat writer Michael Lee and columnist Mike Wise (because Applebaum mentioned he was there in her post.) It's not unreasonable to think that probably at least a couple other sports columnists were there, perhaps an additional editor or two from the Sports section -- perhaps even a managing editor or two from the paper. And still, all we heard from this meeting, in which important, interesting issues that every Caps and Wizards fan would be interested in were discussed, was a story about a guy singing "American Pie" outside of Ted Leonsis' window.

I really don't understand what happened here. None of the explanations really make sense. Was the Post holding all the information gleaned from this two-hour lunch for some large profile or investigative piece in the future? I suppose it's possible, but it seems unlikely. Did everyone at the meeting get their signals crossed--they all thought someone else was going to write about it and no one did? Come on, this is the Washington Post--I would think an editor would have organized who was going to write about it beforehand. Or did the Post writers and editors at the meeting just not think anything Leonsis said over the course of those two hours was newsworthy? This seems almost impossible to believe--in addition to the topics Lindsay mentioned above, there are a number of other questions that are relevant to D.C. sports fans and Leonsis has never really answered adequately (I wrote about some of them here this summer). And any doubts about that was removed last week, when the Associated Press had a similar meeting of reporters and editors with Leonsis and printed multiple stories where Ted said interesting stuff or made news, including this one where he said the Capitals get a "failing grade" in terms of performance on the ice, this one where he said he wants better police presence at Verizon Center (although I wish someone had asked him why the place needs to wand every ticketholder with a metal detector before they can get in) and this one wrapping up a number of other topics he discussed during their 90-minute meeting. A number of the things Leonsis was quoted on in these articles (particularly his analysis of the Caps) was interesting to local sports fans--did the Post editors and reporters just not ask any good questions to elicit such answers, or did they just not think these things were relevant to their readers?

Whatever the case, the Post could still recitfy the situation for its readers pretty easily. The Web site has plenty of space to just print excerpts, or even an entire transcript, from the Leonsis meeting on the Caps or Wizards insider blog, or the D.C. Sports Bog. (I presume someone recorded the session.) I'd love to hear Leonsis talk about the profitability, or lack thereof, of his teams, for instance. I'm very interested in his Monumental Sports Network, and whether he's trying to control the message or just get more coverage for his teams (or both). I'm pretty sure many Caps and Wizards fans agree with me. So, come on, Washington Post? Can you do us a favor and print some excerpts from that Oct. 31 meeting? Or at least explain why you dropped the ball and never wrote anything about it at all?


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