In what is being derided by critics as the antithesis of objective journalism, the Washington Redskins and the Washington Times announced last month that the football team will now have extraordinary control of the newspaper’s flow of sports content – ipso facto, the pair are now marketing partners.
“Under the partnership, the Redskins and the Times will collaborate on unique content offerings throughout the year designed to provide Redskins fans with compelling, timely and unique coverage,” the press release read. “The offerings will include a weekly ‘Redskins Weekend Game Guide,’ which will wrap the front page of the Times’ print edition each Friday during the NFL season and a new free digital magazine called ‘The Redskins Report,’ which will showcase exclusive content about the Redskins.”
This latest move by Snyder is yet more fodder for his critics. “There was a time, kiddos, when such a pact would’ve been viewed as wholly unbecoming of a newspaper,” Dave McKenna of Deadspin.com wrote. “And yet the marriage between Dan Snyder and the Times has drawn mostly whimpers from the journalism watchdogs. Maybe that’s the most newsworthy thing about the whole shebang. Snyder’s cooked up so many similar media-crippling conflicts of interest by now that yet another one barely rates as newsworthy.”
McKenna excoriated Snyder for his “media creep” and for buying “media partners” left and right. “[I]n late 2000, Snyder hired Andy Pollin, program director at WTEM, then the only sports-radio station in the market, to host ‘Redskins Game Day,’ one of the team-produced weekly infomercials. (In 2008, he bought WTEM altogether.),” McKenna wrote.
Dr. Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and writer and critic of Native American cultural appropriation, told ICTMN that this wedding between what should be an objective daily newspaper and a corporation is becoming more ubiquitous and therefore more troubling for the citizenry at large. “It’s incredibly problematic on a lot of levels,” she said. “We are in struggle as native people to get in the mainstream, and now to know that this newspaper is going to be stifling the conversation before it even starts, to me, feels like a big step backwards.”
Keene added that, to her, this new partnership is counter to the progress other publications have made by refusing to publish the team’s name and calling for it to be changed. “To have a newspaper go the other way is going against a lot of movement,” she said.
Even if the subject matter at hand was not about a slur and a football team that employs it, Keene said the merger is indicative of the growing influence corporations have in all facets of life. “It’s a huge problem – the power of corporation in our lives,” she said, "especially the lines between what is sponsored content … [it’s] becoming more and more blurred. We need to have spaces to know that the content is objective and bringing us information that we need to know, and it’s hard to know when [those] boundaries are being blurred. It’s fucked up,” she said.
Not all see it as Keene does. “The fan bases of both organizations have a lot in common and will benefit from the partnership,” Larry Beasley, president and chief executive officer of the Times, said in the press release. “Both have rich histories of serving football fans as well as active-duty and retired military members. The partnership also allows both organizations to expand the quality, breadth and interactive nature of their publications.”
In addition to the Washington team’s influence on what’s printed in the Times’ sports section, according to the press release, Times’ sports reporters Thom Loverro and Zac Boyer will be commentators on Redskins‘ radio and TV shows during the upcoming season. The pair will also appear on the team’s online pregame and halftime shows; the halftime show will be broadcasted on FedEx Field’s monitors during halftime.
“If there were any doubts left, let this be proof: Snyder may not understand the media, but he understands how to get the media to do his bidding. He buys outright what he can buy; he co-opts what he can’t buy; he attacks what he can’t co-opt,” McKenna wrote in response to the partnership.
The Times will start publishing the Washington team’s weekly insert this month.
‘The Redskins Weekend Game Guide’ and the ‘The Redskins Report’ are said to launch this month.