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?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Washington Post Sports Watch: Ray Emery Wasn't Suspended, and The Post Virtually Ignored It

You probably saw or heard about the Friday night "fight"--better characterized as an assault--by Philadelphia Flyer goalie Ray Emery on Washington Capitals' goalie Braden Holtby. And you might have read the very good Washington Post coverage that evening or the next day in the paper's print edition or on its website. You also may have heard that Emery was not suspended by the NHL for his actions, that the NHL said no further discipline was permitted because there was no "rule" in the rule book that allowed it, and that the incident has led to a fierce debate in the hockey media (and among fans) about the place of fighting in the NHL over the weekend and into Monday. If you did hear about any of that, though, you probably weren't reading the Washington Post--other than one sentence reporting Emery wouldn 't be suspended (attributed to in a Caps Insider blog post about the lineups for the next day's game in Florida, the newspaper and its website has virtually ignored the incident

Yes, really--the Post hasn't even mentioned the news in its print edition or anywhere else on its Caps Insider blog that Emery wasn't suspended and the (pretty lame) explanation by the NHL for it. It hasn't carried any follow-up from reporters or columnists questioning or discussing (or asking NHL officials) whether the referee should have jumped in and tried to stop the fight instead of standing by watching and preventing Caps players from protecting their goalie from a pummeling. It hasn't mentioned that other sources have reported the NHL will review the rules on goalie fights and possibly make changes at the GM meetings next week. It hasn't asked whether this incident leaves a black mark on the NHL, particularly when the NHL hands out no discipline for it. Let me repeat, the Post--aside from an brief mention in a post about the next day's game (and the 24th paragraph of a wire service story on Saturday's night's Flyers-Devils game that I only found because I typed "Ray Emery" into the Post's search engine)--hasn't done any reporting, hasn't even done a stand-alone blog post, on the lack of supplemental discipline for Emery.

When the Post fails to write enough about the trade of Matty Pereault or the signing of Mikhail Grabovski, I'm disappointed, but not really surprised--since the Post for years has not paid enough attention to matters like Caps' personnel moves. But this complete whiff on reporting anything in the aftermath of the Emery-Holtby incident--this really is surprising, in addition to being disappointing. The lack of discipline for Emery was important enough in the hockey world to rate an article in the Los Angeles Times and was something that Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about when he visited Columbus over the weekend. There are articles debating whether fighting should be banned from the game, and how this incident affects that debate, on hockey websites too numerous to link to. How can this debate--directly involving the Caps and one of their most crucial and popular players--not be important enough for more than a sentence about it in the Post?

Why isn't anyone at the Post calling Gary Bettman or other league officials to get some kind of on-the-record explanation for the decision on Emery? Or ask why the commissioner didn't use the discretion he has in the rulebook to impose discipline no matter what the rule book specifically says? Furthermore, why has no one at the Post asked George McPhee or Ted Leonsis what they think of the way their team was treated by the Flyers and, now, the NHL? McPhee was very vocal in complaining about the officiating last year after the Caps were eliminated from the playoffs--which was silly both because it came off as sour grapes and because if he was going to complain about the officiating, the time would have been during the series, because at least then one might derive some benefit from "working the refs." But after their goalie was assaulted and his teammates were not allowed to come to his aid, the Caps management and owner have been missing (other than the strange, defensive Facebook bickering Leonsis has done with Thom Loverro on this subject the last couple days in which Leonsis didn't really address the issue.) Is it too much to ask for the most important sports media outlet in town in D.C. to take the team and the sport seriously enough to want answers to these questions?

Perhaps the Post's coverage of this matter was affected by the fact that regular beat writer Katie Carrera is taking some days off, and has been temporarily replaced by Barry Svrluga (one of the best writers and reporters in the Sports department) and Chelsea Janes (who is new but wrote a great blog post on Monday about Adam Oates' lines.) That may explain it, but it shouldn't be an excuse. The fact that the aftermath of a huge hockey story involving the Caps was basically ignored by the Post just makes me sad--it's bad for hockey fans in D.C. and a black mark on the paper.