The Carolina Panthers—the players, not the franchise—have shut the media out of their practices, even guarding the door with a uniformed police officer. Yahoo’s Mike Silver led the reporter indignity charge by calling the players both “morons” and “wimps.”
For that reason, I don’t mind that much of the Interweb-o-dome exploded with ad hominem attacks back at him. @cjnorris was a bit more eloquent in his dissent by tweeting, “Pretty sure I've not seen "reporting" as petulant and useless as what @MikeSilver penned today on Yahoo.” Even Rich Eisen jumped in with “Wow. Just…wow.”
After four paragraphs of calling names, Silver makes his case:
“[You players are] missing an opportunity to cast yourselves in a positive light during a time of tumultuous discord that threatens to get worse as the scheduled start of the 2011 season nears. ... Letting reporters film a little video and take a few notes during these player-run practices would seem to be a no-brainer. ... [Ridiculous 13 paragraph rant] ... If I sound angry, I am … I think they’re fools for not enthusiastically welcoming anyone in my business who wants to watch.” [emphasis mine]
Before closing out he asks the reader, the fan: “Would you be cool with subsisting on team-issued press releases and players’ Twitter feeds?”
Yet, the question is rhetorical; he doesn’t explore the answer or the implications.
And that’s when Mike Silver missed the point: The Panthers players don’t need press there—at all.
They know the public largely considers the owners the bad guys. More importantly, Jon Beason, Jimmy Clausen and Jonathan Stewart each have over 22,000 Twitter followers, plus their own websites. Just search “Carolina Panthers” on Twitter and you’ll find a dozen other players with thousands more followers. Plenty of them have their own blogs. Hell, any sports site would be happy to have/help them write a guest column. The team can talk to the public when it wants; it doesn’t need reporters as intermediaries, distorting—in their eyes—their words.
I’m not arguing that the technological shift in communication outlets has The Truth’s best interest at heart, but getting information straight from the source is the way of the e-world—breathless rants by seasoned journalists or not.
Silver promises that reporters—he’s speaking for all of them apparently—aren’t in search of a “sneak peak into new coach Ron Rivera’s playbook” or a “blow-by-blow account of the impending quarterback battle” between Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen.
Um. Yes you are.
Is the logic that because of the lockout, players and reporters are now magically on the same team, that reporters now don’t do what they do the other 364 days a year? Really? No reporter would document whether Newton or Clausen seemed to have “the better rapport” with the rest of the team? Instead, I’m assuming they would just do stories on how the owner's lockout has affected the Gatorade selection, right?
Give me a break. With nothing but boring lockout proceedings, every NFL reporter needs that story: “Is the No. 1 overall pick going to start?”
Sure, it’s an intriguing question. I want to know the answer; everyone from Auburn to Charlotte does too.
But the Panthers players don’t care what we, fans or journalists, think about the answer; it doesn't matter. They know that answer is battled out in practice, not argued in some writer’s column. They don’t need the thinly veiled questions. (“So Jonathan, how is Cam…adjusting?”) They know how the answer will bite them in the ass. The National Football League and all their advertisers don’t mind if a “QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY” erupts—the more coverage the better. But why would players bring that noise into the locker room, among their friends? They scheduled their own practices to be a team, not a headline piñata.
“Trust me,” Silver says (one of two "Trust mes" in his column). “The reporters … were looking to give their readers and viewers a glimpse into how the Panthers’ players are handling the lockout and coping with the challenges of this unusual offseason – and a chance to enunciate their views on a very contentious issue.”
How noble. @Jonathanstewar1 tweeted to his 27,500 followers over 25 times yesterday. I'm pretty sure he can enunciate his opinions just fine—without worrying about page views.