On Tuesday, I published an editorial titled "Paranoia Before the Fall". In that commentary, I made the case that the loyalty of Browns fans is slowly eroding and that decisions made on both the football and business sides of the Browns organization is contributing to this decay.
When I originally sat down to write the editorial, I had a slew of examples I was going to provide, such as pricing, stadium policies, journalistic pablum offered up by their own media entities and partners, etc. All of this was within the context of making the case that a team that has served up seven years of dull and losing on-field product should not be making the same decisions as a franchise in the middle of a championship dynasty.
To try to keep the article brief, I focused on media policy. Specifically, I focused on the team's three-year-long practice of closing practices to the media as an example of what I considered to be "arrogant, paranoid, and idiotic" decisions by the club.
It was probably the harshest editorial I've written since the 2000 season, and reflects a frustration about the team's philosophy towards fans and media that has been building up for some time.
The response to the editorial was tremendous, and filled up my email box as well as generating a lengthy thread on our forums.
This is the first of two articles containing feedback I received. This article consists entirely of presenting the arguments of fans who disagreed with the editorial, as well as my thoughts on their points.
I apologize in advance for having to edit down your emails and message board posts for the sake of brevity. I've also tweaked names a little bit. Let me know if you feel I somehow changed the context of your remarks.
Gz: I'll let the media fight their own fight. Not really worried about that. To be honest, if the Browns win games it would cure 100% of my bad feelings. Whether a reporter gets his scoop or not is secondary. Just win baby...the rest will sort itself out.
Barry: There were a number of forum posts which made this point. We all know fans will flock to a team when it wins.
That's not the point I was trying to make. Instead, I'm hoping that the team doesn't fumble the loyalty of die-hard fans. Browns fans have prided themselves on not being front-runners, and I would hate to see that change.
But I'll stand by my belief that what matters isn't whether folks come back when the team wins, but whether or not they stay when it loses. And the team will lose, sooner or later (or both in the case of our team, unfortunately).
Providing more information to the media - really, bending over backwards to help both fans and media - should be the order of the day after seven years of losing. Anything else is taking both the media and fans for granted.
TPD: After six years and a third try at getting pieces together to build a good program, I refuse to be negative concerning the Cleveland Browns. ONLY long term commitment will being back a Champion. Will these guys make mistakes sure but in the long run it will payoff. My glasses will always be seal brown and burnt orange. In Phil I trust. The only thing that I miss from the fArt era are the sound bites. Media Guys you have to work now, it will not be handed to you by fArt man.
Barry: After this year's draft, I'm feeling more confident about the Browns prospects for long-term success on the field. On the subject of how well the Browns tolerate the media and appreciate the fans, though, I think the team needs to take a hard look at itself.
To be honest, I don't think the lack of access creates more work for the media. The limited opportunities makes it less work, if anything.
The internet ensures that we no longer have to rely on a single local paper to get coverage of the Browns. We should be able to get a more variety of stories and more information. Instead, we're getting less variety than ever.
We wind up getting pretty much the same story from every single outlet with that has a presence in Berea. How many times do you need to read the same story about Romeo Crennel's twenty minutes of coachspeak?
The team even has its own people reporting on the club, and they generally offer the same daily story that comes out from everyone else.
The conspiratorial-minded might think that it's part of a clever strategy to decrease the value offered by independent and objective journalism. I'm not sure anyone is that clever, but it minimizes the importance of the fourth estate, that's for sure.
After what we went through in 1995 and afterwards, I can't think of anything more important to fans than a vibrant and aggressive media to keep a sharp eye on the team and the NFL.
eJ: I'm going to have to disagree. If you're an investor, the company you invest in doesn't tell you how they run a successful company.
Okay still not sold, how about this - how would you feel Barry if Mo Carthon, who probably doesn't know anything about web pages, came in and sat while you are working on this site, and told YOU what he felt you were doing wrong with the web page?
Your expertise is making this page for US fans, and writing. The browns coaching staff and talent evaluators have spent their lives in football. Let's let them do the evaluating and game planning. Their choices are much more dangerous, they lose their jobs for unsatisfactorily production.
Barry: I don't think that there's any intent to suggest that the media or the fans should be making the decisions for the franchise. If anything, I'm trying to help the club understand what's happening within the media and the fanbase, because I don't think they really understand it yet. I see fans and friends turning away from this club.
When you have a big, powerful, and financially successful company, there's often a belief that outsiders don't need to be listened to, and occasionally a somewhat callous disregard for the concerns of customers (see: Company, Your Local Cable).
InIn choking off the flow of information to fans and replacing it with carefully allotted dollops of information, I believe that the Browns and other franchises are showing that same sort of disregard, as well as a lack of respect for both the media and fans.
p112: Can we get off the train of sucking up to Barry?I like his articles in general but I did not care for this one at all. Am I supposed to subscribe to the idea that Barry and other Berea journalists have some incredible amount of morality simply because he will not publish some plays he has witnessed. Taking shots at ESPN insider (5th grade level of writing) does not amount to brilliant journalism like previous posters have lauded.
This attack on Romeo because of his close to the vest style he got from Belichick is ridiculous. We are 1-4 this season with losses to 5-1 N.O., 3-2 Cincinnati, 4-2 Baltimore, and 4-2 Carolina. All four of those teams are realistic playoff teams where we would like to admit it or not (see Baltimore). If we had won one or even two of those games this crying game regarding the lack of media availability would not be a story.
Finally, the lack of media availability is not causing long-time Browns fans to give up their loyalties. That is simply ridiculous.
Barry: That's exactly the point, I think. If the team is winning, you'll have all kinds of folks climbing on the bandwagon. No worries. But the team is 1-4, and will be 1-4 in some future season as well. We're down, we'll go up, but then will come back down. It's inevitable.
What I'm saying, though, is after seven years of mostly horrible football, though, you probably shouldn't be acting all high and mighty with how you treat the fans and media. You should probably try to figure out a way to stay on the minds of people with many different entertainment options.
At this point, folks who casually follow pro football are dropping from the Browns parade in droves. What really worries me is that apathy extends to some of the hard-core fans who have stuck around for the duration of 3-13 and 4-12 seasons.
While, I doubt that anyone would abandon the Browns because media coverage is forced into a degree of lameness, it's a contributing factor making the team less interesting and less worth following. It's like a bad baseball team telling reporters that they can't report on the minor leagues or poor college programs saying you can't write about recruiting.p>
My little shot at ESPN the Magazine wasn't my best decision within the context of the article. That was a last-minute addition as a way of apologizing that I couldn't clean up the editorial and pull it all together more. I had already spent a couple of hours on it, and had to finish and get on to other things. It was already longer than I wanted it to be.
So, I was trying to tell folks that they'll have to pull all the points together themselves was my intent, I guess. I was trying to think of an example of journalism where everything is super-simplified. I probably should have used "Highlights for Children" or "Steelers Digest" instead.
joeB: Barry for you to say that you wouldn't reveal a new play or two and no one else would is pure conjecture. You can't tell me if another reporter won't ever print 'classified' data about a football team/game is ridiculous. Reporters print 'classified' data about the security of our damn country for crying out loud. Do anything to sell papers, right?
We have to put trust into the FO and coaching staff. That is what keeps hope alive.....not a damn article in the newspaper or on the internet. I'm sure it would do the team a lot of good for reporters to be at practice and getting the fan base all geeked about a 2nd or 3rd string guard.
Why don't you guys ask better questions and demand answers. Not questions like "was that a good play" but questions like: "does it make sense to run play action on a 3rd and long when not even my daughter expects a run?"
Barry: All I have to do is point to fifty years or more of Browns history where practices were open, including four in the new era. The beat guys know what to write about and what not to write about. They know what will happen if they report on something that gives Browns opponents an advantage. They'll be shredded by fans and perhaps fired.
This ain't a matter of constitutional rights and national security. It's a matter of the team feeling that the less you know about it, the better. That hardly sounds like an entity that I should give thousands of hard-earned dollars to each year.
Asking the media to be more aggressive at press conferences is a good way to get less of those as well. It think guys like Tony Grossi ,Pat McManamon, Fred Greetham, and Jeff Schudel know how to get information while not pushing so hard that they get shut down.
The Cleveland Browns don't think you have a right to know what's happening at practice or anything else outside of the game. By the way, press reporters aren't allowed on the field anymore, so some of that is now off-limits.
They have that right, I guess. And fans have the right to turn away, which is exactly what a lot of them are doing. I'd like to see the team take some steps to stem that tide, even if the 2006 season isn't what we hoped it would be.
Iwh: It was a nice piece of editorial journalism. I respect this site and the work it does but Barry is mostly complaining about not having access. that could be part of the overall spectrum the media has become. Journalist's no longer report the news. ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN have all proved that. They would rather (pardon the pun) make news. The fact you can't get access, is partially your profession's fault.
Barry: If Romeo and crew are shutting down practices because of the Pentagon Papers or stories on Gitmo, then I'm really worried.
Again, I don't think there are problems with feeling the need to fully disclose like there are in the political arena. We love football and take it seriously, but reporting on Mo Carthon's game plan isn't something that I think anyone is going to make a first amendment case over.
What I think most media folks are looking for is to get a sense of how the team is really feeling and acting, help in determining injury status, as well as to get a read on players who don't play on Sunday. Some of us feel that fans deserve to know that. They're not looking to do an expose on a third-down fullback pass play (although I sort of wish someone had).
Unlike the political arena, we're reporting on an entertainment. Within that context, the people you find every day out at Berea mostly realize that they're there to cover the show, and not be the show. There's no better way to get Browns fans hating you than doing something which helps the Ravens or Steelers.
In my opinion, if you feel confident about your organization and the people in it, you open the doors wide, because you know that fans will respond to a quality organization.
If you don't want fans to see what's really happening, you choke off access.
That, my friends, is what the Browns are doing. If it doesn't worry you, it should.