This month, the Washington Times ran an enterprise story on the Washington Redskins. Following the ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the nickname “Redskins” disparaged Native Americans, the Times found through a public records request that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which oversees the board, “didn’t receive a single public complaint before stripping Redskins trademark.”
Though the story conceded that public comments aren’t part of the board’s decision-making process, right-leaning blogs loved the piece. “There were no public complaints because the vast majority of the public could care less about the Redskins name, or actually actively support it,” argued Conservative Read.
In other Washington Times coverage of the raging Redskins name controversy, the paper recently editorialized in favor of the status quo: “Erasing the names of great Indian tribes from sports teams and helicopters in the sky might eventually destroy their memory. The greater injustice would be done to the Indians themselves. When the P.C. police paint the world a dull shade of nameless beige, the appropriate response will be a melancholy battle cry: ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ ”
Hail to the Washington Times, too. The football team and the newspaper today announced a “content and marketing partnership” involving collaboration “on unique content offerings throughout the year designed to provide Redskins fans with compelling, timely and unique coverage.” There will be a “Redskins Weekend Game Guide” each Friday during the season in a front-page wrap, as well as an online product titled “The Redskins Report,” which will pass along “exclusive content about the Redskins.” The debut for both products is August.
So there’ll be a lot of Redskins stuff coming at readers of the Washington Times, though Editor and Vice President of Content and Business Development John Solomon promises that folks will be able to distinguish between the journalism and the promotionalism. “You’ll know what the Washington Times did, and you’ll know what comes from the Redskins,” said Solomon in an interview with this blog.
The press release for the deal addresses access: “The team will provide the Times with commentaries and access to players, coaches and front office personnel that will be incorporated into the Times’ weekly guides, digital magazine and special sections.” Solomon clarifies that the arrangement won’t give the newsroom an advantage against competitors. “We’re not going to get any more access to the locker room than any other reporters do,” says Solomon.
As the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi has reported, news outlets that do not have partnerships with the Redskins have complained of limited access to the team’s players and newsmakers. Back in 2010, the local ABC affiliate, WJLA, got sidelined from a story about a Marine making a surprise visit to his Redskins cheerleader wife. The story was silver-plattered to the Redskins broadcast partner, the NBC affiliate WRC.
Matt Vita, sports editor at The Washington Post, isn’t claiming any disadvantages, however: “The Redskins have partnership agreements with other local media organizations, such as Comcast, so on that level there’s nothing really new here. The Post has covered the Redskins for many, many decades and our reporters have always had full and professional working relationships with Redskins players, coaches and front office staff. We fully expect that tradition will continue,” writes Vita in an e-mail.
A key part of the partnership will plant Times reporters including Thom Loverro and Zac Boyer on Redskins-sanctioned shows on radio and television, not to mention a halftime show that surfaces on FedEx Field’s video boards. Just how free will these fellows be to hammer the home team? “At all times, our reporters are going to act the way they always do,” says Solomon. “They’re going to cover the Redskins with neutrality and based on facts. Just because we do it inside the stadium or on a TV show is not going to change our approach.”
There was a time when local media outlets craved the authority to use the name “Redskins” in their products. Dave McKenna, a former reporter for the Washington City Paper and the target of an infamous lawsuit by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, wrote in 2010:
By 2000, Snyder had divided local broadcast journalists into two groups: those who would play ball with him and those who wouldn’t. TV stations that didn’t become “media partners” with the Redskins, meaning those that didn’t agree to pay or barter with the team, could no longer use the name “Redskins” in program titles.
Time has tempered things. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon has drawn up a list of nearly 20 media outlets or journalists that refuse to use the team’s name. Given that newsrooms across the region — and the country — are debating whether to use the name in their own content, the list of potential media partners who’ll not only use the name in their stories but also promote it as part of a marketing arrangement would appear to be shrinking.
When asked whether the Redskins had approached The Post — which has given aggressive coverage to the name controversy — Executive Editor Martin Baron e-mailed the Erik Wemple Blog, “I’m not aware of any such proposal from them.”
There’s no cash in the partnership agreement, says Solomon, nor is there any requirement that the Washington Times continue supporting the name “Redskins.” “Never even came up,” says the editor.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie no-commented the Erik Wemple Blog’s questions about the arrangement.