April 21, 2014

PD Representative Addresses Grossi Reassignment

As we covered here on Thursday, Tony Grossi has been reassigned off the Browns beat after his accidental Twitter jab at Browns’ owner Randy Lerner. There has been a large outcry on both sides, from fans who felt Grossi had lost his objectivity long ago to staunch support from fellow national writers and local radio personalities who feel Grossi was unfairly punished. This morning, we finally hear The Plain Dealer’s reader representative, Ted Diadiun, weigh in on why the Grossi reassignment was unfortunate but necessary. This excerpt drives home the two main reasons why the PD felt this move had to be made.

 

“‘If in your most private moments you feel like the leader of the institution you cover is pathetic, that raises questions about how fair you can be,’ she [PD Editor Debra Adams Simmons] said. ‘And once those opinions become public, it becomes a bigger problem. There’s the potential for readers to question the objectivity of everything you write.’

An important point to make is that there is a difference between columnists and reporters at a newspaper.

‘If it had been a columnist who wrote that, we might cringe, but that role is different,’ said Adams Simmons. ‘They’re paid to offer up opinions, however prickly. But we’re not asking them to go out and cover a team in a fair and balanced and objective way, like we are with a reporter.’”

 

Once again, full disclosure, WFNY has a partnership with Cleveland.com, The Plain Dealer’s internet home. Read the rest of the response from Diadiun here.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    If anything in that column jumps out at me, it’s Grossi’s quote saying that they’re told to be provocative. Perhaps he’s just assuming that and grouping it in with their direction to use Twitter, but by no means should anyone — especially a reporter — have direction to be provocative. Having any established brand on social media does not necessitate salaciousness, attitude and an anti-establishment vibe. I’d be interested to see if the beat reporters are told to be that way, but I’m assuming — based on the fact that Windy nor MKC or Hoynes’ lack of “provocativeness” — that this is merely, once again, a complete misunderstanding of electronic mediums. Its sad that it resulted in someone losing their responsibilities, but given the perpetual abrasiveness of the writer in question, I can’t say I disagree with the decision of the Plain Dealer.

  • Clevefan07

    Abrasive is a good adjective. Grossi’s disdain was evident in nearly all of his columns and while some people seemed to like his tone I always found it to be a turn off.

  • Humboldt

    I just don’t buy this false distinction of reporter/columnist.  Grossi was given his weekly Hey Tony column as well as all the cleveland.com programs to share his perceptions and opinions (i.e. not merely reporting facts about the Browns), and clearly Twitter is also a tool intended to allow individuals to editorialize and interpret. 

    The PD empowered Grossi as a columnist (and profited off of his editorializing), but are now insisting that he be held to the standard of an objective reporter. They can’t have it both ways.  There is a logical gap in their reasoning, and I find it troubling. 

    Scott, all of these beat reporters now straddle the line between reporter/columnist these days. For instance, you guys reported earlier in the week about Brian Windhorst preferring the opinion that Lebron could return to Cleveland.  Windy et al aren’t stringers for AP or Reuters – they are reporters/columnists/personalities in our current media age.  To fall back on some archaic definition of journalists as objective reporters feels disingenuous. 

  • matthew

    Don’t care one way or the other about Grossi, but the PD’s attitude is disturbing.

    If in your most private moments you feel like the leader of the institution you cover is pathetic, that raises questions about how fair you can be

    Mightn’t it also raise questions about whether the leader of the institution you cover is pathetic?  Why would a pre-requisite for covering the Browns be believing that the owner is not pathetic?  What kind of objectivity is that?

    ‘And once those opinions become public, it becomes a bigger problem. There’s the potential for readers to question the objectivity of everything you write.’

    This is exactly backwards.  Once the reporter’s opinions become public, it becomes a lesser problem, because there is the potential for readers to question the objectivity of everything the reporter writes. 

  • Humboldt

    Great points Matthew. I find the PD’s actions troubling and wonder if Grossi will pursue legal action.

  • http://twitter.com/LivinThaDream24 Andrew Schlabach

    i agree with you humboldt but i feel they were just looking for an excuse to get rid of the guy.  

  • JM

    Can you honestly say Grossi could be objective ever again after that tweet? He writes for the biggest newspaper in town, he has to at least act professional. 

  • Wheel

    Grossi is being pressured to be provocative, and yes, because of twitter, etc., there is a gray are between objective beat reporting and having an opinion.  That said, Grossi just ade a dumb mistake.  Have you ever mistakenly sent an sensitive email to the wrong person?  It’s a sick feeling. Personally, I thought Grossi did a fantastic job as Browns reporter, balancing journalism and opinion in a medium where the rules are dramatically changing.  I think it’s a loss for the PD and Browns fans.

  • Ike

    Well said. 

  • Wheel

    Also, I don’t think the PD had a choice. Unlike people who write for the internet (including this site) there is journalistic responsibility that comes with the job of being a reporter.  I’m sure Tony will admit that responsibility was breached with his mistaken tweet.  The PD has responsibility to its readers and a relationship with the Browns, who help them sell newspapers.  Because his bosses recognized Tony made a mistake, he was not fired. It’s clear PD managers struggled with a difficult decision to make about an employee they value.

  • Ike

    The guy has spent the last 13 years covering the Browns beat, how can he not have an opinion?  He doesn’t think Lerner is pathetic becuase he has a personal vendetta against the guy, he thinks he’s pathetic because of the observations his job affords him.  I don’t see how that can keep him from covering the Browns objectively. Not even trying to be faceitious, but if you covered the Browns objectively for all that time, would you think any different of Lerner than Grossi?  I’m not blaming the Browns for Grossi’s missteps, but his opinons come from what he’s seen and his opinions are pretty realistic, in my opinion.

    I think discipline is in order for the fact that the tweet was made public (whether it was by accident or not is irrelevant), but to re-assign him simply doesn’t fit the “crime”.  It’s obvious there are people who are out to get Grossi and have been waiting for the opportunity to bury him..

  • Humboldt

    Again, why is there an expectation for a sports reporter/columnist to be objective? To have a bias is not necessarily to be wrong. 

    Further, Grossi has clearly been biased about Lerner in private for some time now but it didn’t affect his professional reporting of the team.  You seem to be arguing that our knowledge of his bias would somehow change his reporting, which simply does not follow.

  • Humboldt

    Well said Ike. You make a key distinction: Grossi does not harbor an irrational grudge on Lerner, but rather has developed strong, empirically-grounded opinions on the owner based on his in situ observations of the franchise over the past decade. 

    The problem is that the accidental tweet was neither tactful nor journalistically rigorous (both were obviously a result of personal error and a function of the medium).  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an accurate or important insight.

  • JM

    I’ve noticed a lot of bitterness on radio shows and the paper lately. Maybe they were all upset Lerner wouldn’t interview with them. I’m just saying when you cover the biggest team for the biggest paper in town you have to be careful. If it was a report or column that is one thing. But calling someone out like he did was a little unnecessary. 

  • bryan

    Excellent point, matthew – objectivity is revealed in the willingness to reevaluate your position on an issue when confronted with evidence that contradicts that position.  Objectivity is not the lack of a (perhaps deeply felt) set of preconceptions regarding an issue or question.  After all, how would people be able to analyze anything without some preconception of what it is they are analyzing?

  • Seth

    I find it amazing that Cleveland is blowing up about Grossi being removed from the beat. This whole notion of “we’re moving to communist editing” is hilarious. Grossi must’ve written a couple of articles about athletes and the dangers of tweeting, and now he’s hung himself. He should’ve known better. It doesn’t matter if his tweet was insulting yes/no. He is the beat writer for the browns, so his opinion about the Browns ownership is held to a higher standard. 
    On a side note: I think Kylie and Booms should be a bit more careful with their opinions. Most of the time, their opinions are way out there which is ok as long as you realize that. Yet, last thursday, after they got off the phone with the PD’s editor who removed Grossi from the beat, I got the feeling that Kylie and Booms were just trying to paint this situation in the worst possible way. It would not have surprised me if, later that day, breaking news came out about some idiot, enraged about the Grossi removal, shooting the editor. I liked 92.3 the Fan, but man, they just go way over board and I feel like they are really getting the uneducated mass going….in the wrong direction. It’s sports people, keep it in perspective

  • Big Z

    Can someone tell me exactly what he Tweeted? I can’t manage to dig it up. Also, HOW exactly did it happen? Since he said he didn’t mean for it to happen or whatever. ‘Preciate ya.

  • Harv 21

    excellent points all around here, especially regarding new job requirements butting against old jounalistic standards.

    What no one has mentioned is Diadiun’s reference to Grossi’s problems with Modell, his “journalistic breach” and reassignment 20 years ago, presumably long before he was encouraged to be provocative. Whatever random line it intends to draw for beat writers, sounds like the PD no longer trust the “passionate” Grossi to walk it. If Grossi wins a union grievance this whole thing could get strange. One result might be his return to the beat with everyone hating him: his editors, the Browns and, as always, the readers. 

  • DonFelder

    Legal action for what? 

    There are no free speech rights for private employees (the First Amendment says “CONGRESS shall… [not abridge freedom of speech/the press]), and as far as I can tell, Grossi wasn’t discriminated against because of his race, sex, color national origin, disability, or age.

    The only possible legal action he might have depends on what’s in his union contract. But I doubt he has anything viable there, either.  

  • Wow

    Maybe it’s because the guy has been mailing it in for years. He wasn’t even in Berea the day after games. His “Hey Tony” stuff was condescending at best. 

  • Humboldt

    We shall see…

  • BrownsFanBrad

    Kudos to Tony for telling the Plain Dealer essentially,
    “Hey, you guys asked me to do this. You asked me to do more than write (which
    is my skill set).” If the PD wants him “out there” with social media (specifically
    Twitter), then they should allow him to have an opinion and realize that things
    like “accidental tweets” simply go with the territory. Just my 2 cents.