Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Souring Your Sources?

Last Friday in his much-discussed (around here, anyway) blog post on the Caps' payroll, WaPo beat writer Tarik El-Bashir asserted that the Caps have "fewer NHL-caliber players than any other team in the league."

Fast-forward a few days to his story in today's paper on the team's efforts to re-sign Richard Zednik. El-Bashir quotes Zednik's agent... and that's it. No quote from the player himself, no quote from the general manager. Or the head coach. Or the owner. (On the plus side, at least he didn't quote the WashingtonCaps.com message boards again). But his lack of a recognizable (to fans, at least) source must be because the team is tight-lipped about contract talks, right? After all, El-Bashir does note that "Capitals General Manager George McPhee declined to comment on the contract talks." Odd, as GMGM was happy to be quoted on the topic in last week's paper, saying, "We would like Richard to be part of the future here," among other things. Zednik was also quoted in the same article.

Now, the Caps cancelled practice yesterday, so player and team availability was understandably limited and likely the reason for the above - I'm sure GMGM would still happily tell Tarik how much he would like Zed to be a part of the team's future. But the dynamic between the writer and the team bears watching going forward. Do you think that a hard-working guy like Boyd Gordon is looking to spill his guts to a guy who may or may not think he's "NHL-caliber"? For that matter, does anyone in such a tight-knit group take kindly to an outsider taking such an unsupported cheap shot at the team? I should think that El-Bashir has made his job a little harder, don't you?

17 comments:

Fauxrumors said...

1) Not saying we agree with El-Bashir's assertion about the caps, but its good to see a writer not be afraid to have a contrary opinion.
2) Many writers become too close to the team they're covering making it almost impossible to have a truly objective opinion
3) Shame on the team and players if they give a reporter who is writing about them the cold shoulder because he may have hurt their feelings a tad.

Capital Fanatic said...

Looks as though you and Tarik have a little bit of an online battle going on. And you've got Ted on your side. Check out his blog to see his reaction to your article about the Bruins yesterday.

JP said...

As usual, I disagree. You can't throw "fewer NHL-caliber players than any other team in the league" out there without backing it up and expect not to tick some people off.

Tyler said...

I wonder how many of Faux's personalities support Tarik and how many oppose him?

Fauxrumors said...

1) Looks as though your obsession with us continues Tyler. LOL
2) Seriously though we neither support nor agree with El-Bashir's position. We only said that its good that a writer doesn't simply regurgitate the team's party line/become a buddy to the players
3) If they/the team as a whole decides to shut out the press when negative things are written its not a good approach when you're trying to get fans back into the arena

Hockey Amor said...

Let's face it guys, the reason we're pissed off at Tarik is that he's right. At least six of our regulars would clear waivers without any problem (Muir, Heward, Clymer, Beech, Laich, Nycholat) We're in a rebuild, right?.

JP said...

Who's pissed? And while I disagree with your assessment, you've missed my point completely. It's not about whether or not this team would be better off with a couple of upgrades in key spots, it's about a style of journalism and whether or not there is any resulting fall-out.

Anonymous said...

"journalism"

exwhaler said...

I used to be a reporter. What Tarik wrote was unprofessional and exactly the kind of thing you want to avoid as a reporter if you don't want to poison your source pool. If he had made an article of it (i.e., an analysis of how NHL-ready the Caps' roster really is, which actually would be a good read, considering they're rebuilding), that would have been fine. Instead, he threw out an off-hand insult as if were fact instead of his personal opinion. It's an amateur's move.

Rage said...

Whoa whoa whoa. Journalism dictates that a beat reporter (who is supposed to report facts) has no place discussing the NHL-readiness of players currently on the team. He did this all on his blog, what's the big deal? Blogs are for expressing opinion. You may disagree about his opinion, that's your right. That said, maybe he'd be better sharing negative thoughts about the team/organization in a private forum.

JP said...

I think Rage is getting at one of the main points. In defense of Tarik (gasp!), he's essentially being asked to be a columnist on his blog and a beat writer in the paper - undoubtedly a difficult line to walk. But without making a clear distinction, it's hard to justify the mix of hard facts and opinion you saw in that article.

At the end of the day, he has to take off his columnist hat and put on his beat reporter hat to deliver the facts. Do you think the players will recognize the difference?

CapsChick said...

I have to agree - as far as I know the Caps are under no obligation to give Tarik special insider access beyond what any other reporter would have. That's a privilege and should be taken as such. Printing unfavorable news is one thing, basically calling the whole team unfit to play in the NHL is another.

Guess we'll have to depend on Steinberg's bog from now on if we want the juicy tidbits from inside the locker room. You know, hard-hitting news like what color jacket Ovie is wearing today...

exwhaler said...

RE: Rage's Comment.

That's why I'm not a fan of a reporter having a blog hosted on his newspaper's website. It's not a personal blog; it's a professional blog published by the Washington Post. It has the exact same weight and influence as a printed column, its just cheaper to produce (no paper costs). Columnists and reporters are different beasts, and when a reporter does a columnist's job, they compromise their own journalistic integrity. Which is why you don't see Mike Lupica covering a beat...

JP said...

But it probably speaks to a cost-cutting trend in print journalism. Whereas the WaPo used to have well over 800k subscribers, now they're around 500k. They could either hire one reporter to do two jobs (columnist and beat writer) or stop sending their beat guy on road trips (as the WTimes had done earlier in the year). I'd rather the former, personally. I'd just like to see the lines drawn more clearly.

DCSportsChick said...

Point well made, as usual. In comparison, it's interesting to see how Jason La Canfora does it with the Redskins; it is a very fine line, but he seems to handle it better, IMHO.

Alex Ovetjkin said...

Tarik is brutally honest in his comments. I don't know if it's going to last, but because of it, it is fun to read. That's why all mainstream media is so dull, they afraid to say a word in fear of insulting someone.

The Peerless said...

JP...I think you've hit on a problem I have with this medium (blogging). It is not for journalists. Journalists -- uncoverers and chroniclers of truth -- walk a dangerous line when they cross the line into blogging. It is, by its nature (at least in my experience of it) an opinionated medium. Trying to serve both masters -- the journalist's obligation to report facts and the blogger's offering of opinion in often a raw and unvarnished way -- does a disservice to both.

Even in the op-ed column environment, you don't really find that many regular columnists who double as working journalists, and vice versa (one at the Post comes to mind -- political reporter David Broder, but he's a special case). And, even op-ed columnists (if they're worth reading) don't often engage in the "drive-by" opinionating that El-Bashir engaged in.

You just can't tar a whole team with that brush. It isn't fair to the club as a whole, and I think it is utterly dismissive of guys who are trying to make a living in a very hard and very public manner. Are there "non-NHL-caliber" players on the Caps' roster? Yeah. But step back for a moment and remember than even if there are, these 23 roster players are among the 700 or so best hockey players on the planet.

A little respect is in order from a journalist representing one of the signature dailies in the country.