A reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tony Grossi, has been removed from the Cleveland Browns beat because he posted an insulting comment about Browns owner Randy Lerner on his Twitter page.
There’s discussion on various forums, including ProFootballTalk, that Grossi should be allowed to keep his beat since he apologized, and since there’s apparent evidence that the public posting was intended as a private message to a friend. Since Lerner is a billionaire, he is a public figure and so he should be immune to criticism.
Supposedly, the Plain Dealer is afraid of Lerner’s financial power and is acceding to an alleged request from Lerner to remove Grossi.
I don’t agree. I think the Plain Dealer made the right move. We’ve forgotten in this day of celebrity journalism that the fundamental purpose of a newspaper is to inform. When Grossi tweeted (and that is apparently a verb now) his personal opinion of Lerner, the perception that Grossi was an impartial observer was violated. Now that the public knows that Grossi considers Lerner an “irrelevant billionaire,” it’s difficult to believe that Grossi can write a story about Browns management without bias.
The Plain Dealer, if it continued to employ Grossi in this fashion, would be reduced to blog status (like this one) credibility in stories about the ownership and management of the local professional football franchise.
I’m glad Plain Dealer management made this decision. I don’t think it’s a decision many newspapers would make these days, and that’s a major part of the reason why newspapers are dying throughout the country. When I was in journalism school, the Plain Dealer had the reputation of being one of the three or four great papers in the Midwest, and integrity was a big part of that reputation.
That no one in the blogosphere has even looked at the Grossi story from this angle (at least, in my limited search) is a sign of just how far our expectations of journalistic ethics have fallen.