Imagine, if you will, if a writer covering the New York Mets took to Twitter to describe Fred Wilpon as “a pathetic figure”. Or if someone on the Knicks beat called James Dolan, “the most irrelevant cable TV heir/guitarist in the world” The reaction would be shrugs all around, right? Not so in Cleveland, OH, where the Plain Dealer has removed Tony Grossi from Browns coverage after the veteran scribe’s unflattering Tweet about team owner Randy Lerner (above), “went unintentionally viral,” as the paper’s “reader representative”, Ted Diadun explains.
Grossi had typed a message, which he termed “a smart-(aleck) remark to a colleague,” that called Browns owner Randy Lerner “a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world.”
But instead of sending a text message only to its intended recipient, he hit the wrong button and sent it out to his 15,000-plus Twitter followers.
Grossi said he discovered to his horror what had happened within about 60 seconds, and immediately retracted the Tweet, but the damage had been done. When he realized the following morning that the Tweet had been copied and re-Tweeted around the football world, he called Fladung to give him the bad news.
An apology — to Lerner, the Browns and Grossi’s Twitter followers — was quick in coming. Editors also posted an apology on cleveland.com and Publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger sent Lerner and the Browns a letter of apology.
But Managing Editor Thom Fladung was still left with a problem: His Browns reporter had revealed to the world his utter disdain for the owner of the team he was covering. How would the paper’s readers be able to have faith in the objectivity in his reports following that?
“In another area, it would be an obvious call,” said Fladung. “What if the reporter covering City Hall called the mayor pathetic and irrelevant? What if a reporter in the Columbus bureau said that about the governor? They would be removed from the beat immediately. It’s the same with this situation.”