For hardcore NFL fans who are waiting between Sundays, any nugget of data they can get during the week is a gift. For some, the most interesting information comes from something very few people ever get a chance to see: practice. The most important thing that comes out of those midweek events are reports from beat journalists assigned to the team. Sure, nothing the casual fan may care about, but for those stat crunchers and junkies who need to know who’s probable, who’s limping and who’s having a good week, a Team Brief can’t be beat.
Before the era of web-based phones and instant communication, reporters would file through the queue, get their information at a presser or from a sports information officer, and then move along. Nowadays, bring in Twitter or other platforms for instant reaction, and all of a sudden that journalist can do pretty fine on his own – before the team’s front office has a chance to course correct. That’s not sitting well with the Redskins.
The proof is the proposed guidelines for media at practices that TBD shared earlier today:
In a series of meetings with team beat reporters, the Redskins are now working on a brand-new set of guidelines that would ban tweeting and blogging straight from the practice field. “Media are prohibited from blogging or tweeting during practice,” says rule No. 4 of the guidelines. (Emphasis in original document; no editorial bolding here.)
My favorite metaphor in the technological development of communication is that this isn’t some sort of highway: you don’t just get a flat tire and pull out of the way until things are less shaky. It’s more like a river, and we aren’t driving boats, but kayaks upstream. If you stop paddling and pretend the river isn’t moving, you’ll find yourself even further away from where you want to go.
Philosophy aside, this is a bit of a pain point for many sports teams. Coach Shanahan and his staff are trying to make sure reporters may not be giving anything away in their coverage – on Twitter or anywhere – that may provide some sort of intelligence advantage. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for fans, if the reporters they follow are there, why shouldn’t they be able to share the information they perceive and not simply just repost what the team gives them?
Maybe the Redskins are just trying to pretend this whole Twitter thing and related real-time media is going away (it’s not), but until the final guidelines are set (as Erik Wemple noted in his TBD piece), we have to at least hold a little judgement on control of information.