Ted Leonsis wants more pixels, and more standards

January 21, 2014

(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

This is super old, but i’m just seeing it now. Apologies.

Anyhow, last month, The Post wrote one of those every-few-years stories on how the Redskins have sometimes granted preferential treatment to media organizations that they have financial arrangements with.

A few days later, Ted Leonsis made a long-scheduled appearance at the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism and the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism. After talking about the creation of team-owned media outlets like Monumental Network — and more on that later — Leonsis was asked about the possibility of his teams giving similar preferential treatment to the team-owned outlets.

“I read that article, and I’ve been very very conscious of that since Day One,” Leonsis said. “I hope that we are an exemplar, that the tent can be really really big. First, I embraced the blogosphere and the bloggers first and most. And I believe having many many voices covering the team is really important. We used to have two or three people covering the team; there was a monopoly the other way. It’s funny how business and life works, that when you’re the monopoly your complaint is the other way. When you lose your monopoly position, you complain oppositively.

“And so when there was a [mainstream] monopoly, I would beg the big media companies to cover us, beg them,” Leonsis said. “And for a million reasons, they would say no. So I said well, then I have to go and do it myself, right? I’m forced to create really great Web sites, I’m forced to do my own blog and I’m forced to get young people to enter the business and be bloggers. And then I’m gonna help them, I’m gonna point to them, I’m gonna let them come into the press box. You’re forcing me to do this. And that’s what we did. And so what we have preached is that the traditional media, especially the ones that pay us like Comcast, we must meet and exceed our contractual obligations to them. We want to be great partners, and I hope we are, and if ever we’re not I get involved personally.”

So he was then asked to confirm that he would never lock out non-partner organizations.

“No, and I don’t think it actually works, either,” Leonsis said. “I think it has the opposite business effect. The more pixels that are generated, the better for your organization and brand. And the more you try and control the pixels, the backlash on that — especially in this really transparent world — it doesn’t help you. It hurts you.

“That doesn’t mean that you as budding journalists get a free pass, okay?” he told the audience of mostly students. “I mean, that’s my concern, that in the old days, for the most part, The Post got a break, because they had a business model and they had a philosophy and they really would do investigative journalism. And they would try and get two or three people to say something was real, and as a reader, for the most part, you trusted them. You trusted CBS and Walter Cronkite. You believed in what was being said, and you didn’t really think there was an agenda. It was very Jeffersonian, you know?…

“There are really good bloggers and professional bloggers, and then there’s part-time bloggers that are doing things, there’s people that just tweet and put things on Facebook,” he went on. “There’s no sanction against [errors]. If a stockbroker tells you to buy a stock and you buy the stock and the stock goes down to a tenth of its value, the punishment is give me my money back, I’m not going to invest my money with you anymore. If someone is elected and says one thing and then does just the other thing, there’s a consequence: I’m not going to vote for you next time. If The Post wrote junk all the time, I could cancel my subscription.

“But for bloggers and tweeters, there’s no penalty,” Leonsis said. “We believe in the innate goodness of people, but there’s no free pass. And I’ll personally call some things out if you’re wrong, or what you wrote is stupid, or it’s a rumor and there’s no basis in fact. And what I’m constantly amazed at is whenever I do that, I get accused of being thin-skinned. And I go, really? Sounds like YOU’RE being thin-skinned. It sounds like you want to be able to say whatever you want to say and not have anybody say ‘not true,’ or ‘misconceived.’

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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