The Redskins informed the news media that defensive coordinator Greg Williams, with a playoff game against Tampa Bay looming Saturday, did not want to do any interviews. Yet later that afternoon, Williams sat for a video chat with Redskins.com TV, which streamed it live on the team™s Web site. Immediately after, the NBC affiliate in Washington landed the only other Williams interview. The station™s sports director is George Michael, who also serves as host of the œThe Redskins Report and œThe Joe Gibbs Show and as the executive producer of œRedskins Game Plan.
Competing reporters complained about the seeming snub, a reaction that team executives said took them by surprise. They considered their efforts perfectly benign, even helpful. After all, Williams had said he did not want to talk to the news media, and everyone could use the footage from the Redskins.com TV interview. As for the interview with the NBC affiliate, team executives said they had no involvement in setting it up; Michael™s long-standing relationship with Williams and reporting hustle helped secure the conversation.
Tensions between news organizations and the sports teams they cover are nothing new. But journalists who deal with and observe the Redskins see Tuesday™s events as a piece of a media strategy that, more than other teams, seeks to control the message and harness technology to speak directly to fans, while freezing out or even publicly chastising news organizations they believe have strayed from fairly reporting the news.
The Redskins have run at least four strongly worded articles on their Web site attacking The Washington Post for faulty journalism and bad intentions. And last August it bought a fan Web site, one that had kept a running tally of alleged errors made by one of the Post™s beat reporters. The first Redskins executive to appear on the site after the acquisition was the team™s owner, Daniel M. Snyder (above), who used some of his time to bash the news media for possessing personal agendas and overusing anonymous sources.
œThe fact that the Web site and George Michael™s station were the only ones to have a shot at Williams is terribly telling, said Erik Wemple, editor of Washington City Paper, which has written regularly about the Redskins™ relations with the news media. œIf you™re sitting in Ashburn in one of the executive chairs, you can be perfectly comfortable that not a disparaging word about Redskins Inc. will be uttered.
The Redskins argue that what they put up on their site is œunfiltered and accurate, but Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, the sports editor of The Post, finds that view to be nonsense. œOf course their message is not unfiltered, he said. œIt™s from the point of view of the team. It™s going to be good news. They™re not going to put up negative stories. It™s simply an attempt to control the message.