Newsday’s Policy Would Mean The End of Shaughnessy, Borges

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.

Now, Newsday deserves a lot of criticism for a lot of things, but I’m not sure this is as awful as it is being made out to be by those in the media.

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.

  • Michael Gee

    Dear Bruce: Something I feel I must add about this situation. Newsday is owned (for now) by Dolan family who own the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision, elements of the New York sports scene which are harshly criticized by almost everyone. It is hard not to believe that this policy is directly related to the rather large conflict of interest we see here.

    • Bruce

      Yes. Worth pointing out.

      I just think that taking name-calling and cheap shots out of sports coverage is a good thing, no matter the ulterior motives. I’m sick of it.

      • Timbuk3

        Here here, hooray for humanity.

        “Angry and Sad”? Weren’t there more vitriolic and inflammatory words he could have chosen? See, it’s already working.

      • nina liu

        Bruce
        You are the cheap shot king so you should look in the mirror before you critize anyone else. That is especially true in he way you handle shaugnessey and borges, although you do it to anyone who criticizes the teams you love. In addition, you are a supposed media critic but not one knowledgable enough to point out the obvious conflict of interest and change of tone at Newsday since the Dolan family/Cablevision bought the place. You’ve been killing the Globe for years over it but completely ignore it in the Newsday case. You are a biggr fraud than the people you so often criticize in the media.

        • Bruce

          Please show where I am the “cheap shot king.”

          Plus when you have the very people impacted by this policy (implemented by the Dolan’s or not) complaining publicily that their employer is insisting on straightforward analysis, (not glowing coverage of a horrible Knicks team) the claims of mistreatment sort of ring hollow.

        • nina

          Naturally, this has staffers crying “Censorship!”
          Dan Shaughnessy would never get another column published.
          There are two right there but far from the worse.
          No. 1 they’re not “crying” anything. It is censorship of the worse kind, moticatd by the owner of a NY sports team heavily deserving of criticism and then some. You, of course, forget to point that out.
          No. 2 Shaugnessey, regardless of what you may think of him, seems to have no problems having books published, columns published and magazine articles published for pay while you continue to write a “media criticism” blog that needs to solicite contributions from readers (and accepts them from media members you write about I’ve heard, which is so much of a conflict it’s insane that you ever raise that issue about anyone else).
          You take the writings of those you don’t like and twist their words, put in hal truths or act like you don’t know the difference between tngue in cheek and reportage. Sadly, you probably don’t.

        • Nopointe

          Your grasp of the meaning of “censorship” is as tenuous as your grasp of “cheap shot”.

          ———–
          “No. 2 Shaugnessey, regardless of what you may think of him, seems to have no problems having books published, columns published and magazine articles published”

          You are correct on that point
          Shaughnessy is a #2. It’s spelled Shaughnessy by the way

        • Bruce

          1) That’s your opinion.

          2) This isn’t my job. I have a full-time job, at which I am paid pretty well. I also get paid fairly by the Boston Metro and Patriots Football Weekly for the articles that I have published there, and at other outlets I have freelanced for. I’ve been consulted on for several books, which is all pretty good considering I only write a lowly “media criticism blog.” Given all of that, I fail to see what it has to do with anything.

          So which paper/media outlet do you work for? At least my name is on everything here. There’s even a phone number on the site. Hiding as an anonymous commenter is brave, indeed.

        • Angry Old Bastard

          Easy Bruce…easy big fella…..after that, “Hiding as an anonymous commenter is brave, indeed” comment, I can see you are getting close to calling Nina a, “living in Ma’s basement dweller”……lol…..just messin’

        • Paul Fitch

          What a little cheese with that whine there Allen? Way to flex those keyboard muscles. You are the epiotme of the pot calling the kettle black. It’s not ok for Shaughnessy and Borges to ceap on people they cover, but it is ok for you to take daily shots on those you cover (Shaughnessy, Borges Ordway) etc? You are a holier than thou blowharded hack as much as anyone else in this town.

        • Bruce

          Once again, I ask that you show where I take cheap shots on the level of those guys, or at all.

          If I did do, I can also see that you’re unfamiliar with the concept that turnabout is fair play. So it’s ok for your sacred cows to do it, but no one can dare take any shot at them?

        • Scott

          Bruce, leave the sycophants to fetch the coffee of their superiors. Asking them to deal with anything honestly is beyond their star effing capacity.

        • jeff

          Hey Bruce,
          Just noticed on your chest-pounding resume you say you are paid by Patriots Football Weekly. Isn’t that owned by the Patriots? So you are paid by one of the team’s you criticize writers for criticizing while praising the work of anyone who praises them. You have ripped both Borges, the Globe, CHB and others for their “conflicts of interest” but now it comes out you have one yourself. You’re a journalistic Eliot Spitzer – Lock up the johns! Oops, I am one.

        • Bruce

          So Perillo, Hart, Scalavino, all those guys have conflicts of interest? Gotcha.

          Funny how your IP address traces directly back to one of the two main Boston newspapers. Did I criticize you directly at some point, or one of your buddies?

          Oops, yourself. Next time don’t post from work.

        • Nopointe

          funny, every year at least one Boston sportswriter writes a book with one of the players they’re paid to cover

          I guess that isn’t a conflict of interest

        • mandb97

          What’s funny about the people who are ripping you Bruce is that they have the grammar of a five year old.

        • seth

          Seriously, Mandb97. I think there are things for which one could fairly criticize Bruce, but gosh, if you’re going to do it in a public forum, you might find yourself a spelling and grammar tool before doing so.

        • TheDukeOfDuckSauce

          No player on any team in the history of Boston sports was ever as “thin-skinned” as the people who cover them. NOT ONE.

        • Howzie, HI

          Nina is obviously much to stupid to know what censorship is. Censorship, Nina (or may I call you “Dan” or “CHB”) is when the government tells you what to write, or what not to write. when the employer does it, it’s called “company policy”, leaving employees with two choices, follow policy, or hit the bricks.

          As far as your columns, they are full of snark, and wouldn’t see the light of day if the Globe had such an enlightened policy (or at least they wouldn’t…I haven’t read one line of your drivel since your “the curse is over when I say so”bullshit.

  • Denise

    Hey Bruce,

    Had this been an editorial policy created independent of the paper’s owners by almost any other paper in the US I would almost certainly feel the same way you do, but I have to agree with others that the Dolan association makes this stink.

    There’s a big difference (in my mind) between Dan Shaughnessy raking the AL East or Wild Card or World Series winning Red Sox over the coals in the Globe for whatever ridiculous slight he’s dreamed up this week, and Newsday’s negative coverage of the (at one time alleged criminally!) inept Knicks.

    Many sports media figures are lazy- many of them want to be coddled and treated like they’re special- while they grind their axes over whatever figure refuses to treat them like Christ walking on water. We’ve seen it over and over again.

    But I also don’t trust it when the team uses non-obvious ownership of media outlets to determine the coverage of the team, however benignly it may first appear.

    Like I said; any other paper and I would probably support it, but it’s difficult to read the Observer article you quoted above, where Dolan is having reporters FOLLOWED around the Garden and their words recorded and emailed to him, and not see this particular policy as the same kind of beserk control he’s infamous for.

  • JC

    Hard to really make a judgment on a policy like that without seeing some specific examples … what gets something spiked vs. what’s OK.

    The Dolan factor here was an excellent, excellent point.

  • Captain Spaulding

    There is plenty of sarcasm and harshness in news reporting/commentary. That is a major province of Dana Milbank and he has a prominent space in the Washington Post. The news equivalent of Tony Kornheiser’s columns back when he wrote.

  • mandb97

    If this decision was made for business purposes, I can buy it. But I believe that this decision was made by Jimmy Dolan because he does not want ANY criticism of his franchises. My guess is that he wants a “nothing but blue sky” view of the Knicks and Rangers, which in a sense is censorship and is dangerous. Is this policy in effect for the business, editorial or political sections as well? If not and I do not see where it is, then you know Dolan has an agenda. I agree with you Bruce that snide and cheap shot comments are lousy. I am also a big fan of the free market. I do not read Borges and Shaughnessy because they are not even half of what they used to be. They feel that they can make a living on being snide. The consumer should decide if Shaughnessy and Borges continue to have jobs. If readership continues to go down at the Herald and the Globe and marketing figures out that the tone of some columnists are off-putting then changes will be made.

    • Howzie, HI

      It ain’t censorship. The state isn’t enforcing it. It’s corporate policy. The writers have two choices..adapt or change. The readers have two choices..read or don’t read.

      Just like I don’t read CHB or Ronnie Borges, especially after it came out that he was a paid flack for King whilst writing about him.

      Dolan may have made the decision for nefarious reasons,. but the point is that the thin-skinned knights of the keyboard can dish it out and not take it. How many here have received a “top of your profession” email from Shank referencing your mom’s basement?

      • mandb97

        Howie here is the definition I found for censorship:

        Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.

        Is Newsday a media organization, you bet they are. I normally agree with Bruce 99% of the time but this time I do not. If this was a business decision by Dolan, then fine. But you can’t honestly believe he is doing this for any other reason than to suppress any negative commentary on his franchises.

        I agree with Bruce that a lot of the vitriol spewed by some of the columnists like Shaughnessy and Borges are not needed. It is why I do not read them. Let the consumer decide. If enough people stop reading the Herald, the Globe or any other regional newspaper because they dislike the content, then changes will be made. Either the columnist will be let go or policies will be put in that please the reader.

      • mandb97

        Howie, you are kind of right in saying it is a business decision. He has basically told his subscribers if you want criticism with regards to the Rangers and Knicks read something else. My guess is that they will.

  • dbvader

    I have never worked for a newspaper, but it seems to me that under a good editor this shouldn’t need to be policy. I believe that the main focus should be on analysis, but good writers can use sarcasm effectively and sometimes it is warranted to be harsh. The distinction shouldn’t be harsh v. softer tone it should be good writing v. bad writing. For too many Boston writers, adopting a harsh tone has become a crutch to avoid the effort of honest, insightful analysis and good writing.

    • mandb97

      good point.

  • Michael Gee

    I would add that in my experience, ripping or mocking athletes for failure or losing is exquisitely pointless. To those hypercompetitive and proud to the point of dementia human beings, failure is its own worst punishment. The opinion of outsiders is nothing. This is true even if you try to cheer them up or defend them in print after they lose.

    • Ironhead

      Well, this dulls some the fun of ripping/mocking Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez.

  • Eddie

    I haven’t seen it so much in his column, but on WEEI, Callahan seems to have an unnatural hatred and obsession with J.D. Drew. He must mention Drew 20 times a day, even when the subject is not baseball he finds a way to compare something negative to Drew. I can see where a news organization would start to be concerned about obsessive behavior like that.

    • Angry Old Bastard

      While obviously there are differences between sports radio and print media…..Callahan is KING of the “name callers” without that his part of the show would consist of…of..er…COMPLETE SILENCE…..name calling is his entire act

  • Nopointe

    C’mon Bruce Shaughnessy and Borges are great!!

    thankfully Bruce hasn’t insisted front page commentors stop using sarcasm

  • Classless

    Hmmm this is a slippery slope. I think we can all agree we don’t enjoy the acerbic tone of Shank, plagiarist Borges, or other of their ilk. That being said, everyone loves a villain or a non-conformist. Good writers like Sean McAdam (for example) may be bypassed for screamers like Gerry Callahan because people “love to hate” Callahan. On the other hand, guys like Mike Reiss are engaging and offer different perspectives and information without stirring the pot.

    To an extent, this website would not exist if not for the villains we all complain about. There are some writers who simply don’t deserve the privilege to spew their rhetoric in this region (Shank, Mazz, Borges all come to mind) and deserve every shot they receive.

  • Paul

    I didn’t realize Borges and Shank had so many fans/defenders…perhaps they’re friends and/or relatives of the two writers in question (you know like Shank’s relatives giving his book glowing reviews on Amazon). Maybe they’re even the writers themselves…I guess we’ll never know.

  • Chris

    Shaughnessy is a hypocrite. His MO is to pan all the fans as sycophantic ‘homers.’ So it is with much humor and hypocrisy that ‘Danny’ penned a column this week at SI.com touting Boston as ‘America’s best sports city.’ Pot, meet kettle.

  • Jason Coyote

    Not to drift too far off subject here, but on the subject of Borges, why does it seem like his situation with the Globe has gotten swept under the rug? Was there actual proof he cut and pasted some of his columns or is this too difficult to actually prove? If it can be said he actually did plagarize, did the Herald hire him merely to sell papers? Should this have received more attention than it did at the time?

    • Bruce

      The whole situation was strange. Borges claimed that there was some sort of secret network where writers dumped information with the understanding that it could be used however they wished. However, there were enough questions about this – we couldn’t see where he had used it before – and the fact that it was a significant chunk of his column that week, the opener I believe, that it was too much to be ignored. But overall, there was enough gray-area stuff that it isn’t perceived like a Mike Barnicle/Jason Blair/Ken Powers type of thing.

      He was out of work locally for a while. He tried the ill-fated ronborges.com, then got picked up by WEEI.com, then jumped to the Herald.

  • Fred West Lynn

    “There might be better things in sports than Stanley Cup overtime hockey, but I can’t think of any right now.”

    The chill of the Newsday dementors has already reached Shank. Instead of acerbic and agenda-driven, he’s adroitly switched to a lead that no high school paper would publish.

    Take that!

  • Scott

    I gotta wonder what kind of sick f**k you have to be to get your back up because someone criticized Shaughnessy and Borges. That’s just crazy weird.

  • Mike Sando

    “Jeff” stole the words right off my keyboard.

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