The New York newspaper Newsday recently implemented a new policy in its sports pages. An article by John Koblin in the New York Observer reports on the policy and has reaction from many Newsday staffers, who are unhappy with the decision.
The article opens this way:
Newsday has a new policy for its sports page. The paper’s editors have told their writers there has to be a new, softer tone. They don’t want loaded words. They don’t want name-calling. They don’t want stories to be unnecessarily harsh.
Naturally, this has staffers crying “Censorship!” Media critics such as @richarddeitsch of Sports Illustrated (a favorite of mine) state that they are “angry and sad” with the decision.
The paper is not asking the writers to refrain from criticizing underperforming teams and athletes, they are simply to keep it professional. I’ve always wondered by there was a separate set of standards for news reporters and sports reporters. You don’t generally see news reporters using the brand of sarcasm, name-calling and harshness that sports reporters use on a regular basis.
Columnist Wallace Matthews is quoted extensively in the piece, as a harsh critic of the new policy. He ended up quitting Newsday and going to work for ESPNNewYork. Matthews complains:
“They don’t want sarcasm in the paper,” he said. “What they want is straightforward analysis of why they’re having problems. You can’t have fun with it.
That’s awful. Straightforward analysis. How dare they insist on such an unreasonableness. You can’t have “fun” taking cheap shots at athletes anymore. Just terrible.
It’s playing big in New York, but can you imagine if the Boston Globe or Herald came down with a similar edict? Dan Shaughnessy would never get another column published.