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Mann, Oh Mann

In the early Sixties, Newsday’s sports section was arguably the best in New York. This was when Jack Mann was the editor and George Vecsey, Steve Jacobson, and Bob Waters were some of his star writers. Stan Isaacs was there too. The next wave of talent included Joe Gergen and Joe Donnelly. Tony Kornheiser started there, and the great Bill Nack joined the sports department from the city desk. Later still, Tom Verducci came out of the Newsday sports department.

There is a new tradition at Newsday, which is only available on-line via subscription, as James Dolan puts his stamp on how things are run.

Dig this piece of investigative reporting from The New York Observer:

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.

In interviews with several staffers at the newspaper, the policy was explained to Newsday’s sports reporters and columnists around the beginning of the year. Here are the early results: Stories have been killed because they didn’t adhere to the new policy. One columnist left the paper in response. Reporters, both within the sports department and in the Newsday newsroom, are suspicious of the motives behind it. Depending on whom you talk to, the edict has either created a more informed and balanced paper, or it has left the faint air of censorship hanging inside the paper’s Melville headquarters. “Anyone reading our sports coverage this year will see that it has been tough and fair, thorough and award-winning,” emailed Newsday editor Debby Krenek in a written statement sent by a spokeswoman.

“It’s rank censorship,” said a current Newsday sports reporter. “You can’t tell journalists that there are things to avoid and call it anything but censorship.”

Jack Mann is rolling over in his grave.

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1 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 22, 2010 10:11 am

The Dolan's need their own reality show

2 The Mick536   ~  Apr 22, 2010 10:14 am

Newspeak. We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness.

3 monkeypants   ~  Apr 22, 2010 10:25 am

It’s rank censorship,” said a current Newsday sports reporter. “You can’t tell journalists that there are things to avoid and call it anything but censorship.

And another word is emptied of its meaning. It's not "censorship" in any meaningful sense of the word for the editorial staff (as opposed to, say, the government) to decide that they want a softer tone to their stories or that writers should adhere to a less polemic style. It is the job of the editorial staff to set the tone for a publication, to determine the types of stories that a magazine runs (i.e., editorial policy), to set limits, etc. It is, in fact, arguably well within the purview editors precisely to tell journalists what they are to avoid.

Now, this may be a *bad* policy; it may mean that Newsday will be a lesser product. It may convince the best writers to seek employment elsewhere in a freer journalistic environment. Indeed, this strikes me as an awful institutional decision on the part of Newsday.

It doesn't really strike me as censorship. Or rather, it IS censorship in the strictest neutral meaning, but not necessarily in its pejorative sense.

4 rbj   ~  Apr 22, 2010 10:32 am

IIRC, the NYTimes under Howell Raines killed a couple of sports columns (I forget the name of the columnist) who took issue with Howell's crusade against the Augusta Golf Club's all male membership requirement.

Now private business can do what it wants, but if you are going to put limits on what your employees can write, we can be suspicious of what the end product is.

5 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 22, 2010 10:36 am


well-said ...

6 RIYank   ~  Apr 22, 2010 11:33 am

[3] I pretty much agree -- since you did focus on tone and style. Of course, there's going to be a blurry line between tone/style and content, but it's sharp enough that it's at least possible for Newsday's editors to say, go ahead and criticize, but do it with equanimity rather than bile.
I'd add that even if Newsday decides to censor content, it's most definitely not objectionable in the same way that it's objectionable for the government to do it.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 22, 2010 12:49 pm

[3] You took the words right out of my mouth. Newsday is a business that create whatever product it likes. The irony, of course, is Newsday's policy is probably very similar to how the papers treated sports team during the golden eras of sports/journalism about which so many wax poetically.

One of my biggest issues with today's journalists is their universal sense of entitlement. I am sorry, but having a byline doesn't give you the latitude to use "loaded" words, be "unnecessarily harsh" or resort to name calling. Conduct like that isn't accepted on a children's play ground, so why should it be permitted at a newspaper?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver