Lessons learned from Bryan Price tirade

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana:


Adam Silver gets it. Bryan Price does not.

There was much written last week about the Cincinnati manager’s profanity-laced rant at Reds beat reporter C. Trent Rosencrans. Price’s liberal use of F-bombs assured him a place in the Tirade Hall of Fame. However, the bad words wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve ever spent any time in a baseball locker room. Literally every other word heard wouldn’t be suitable for the Disney Channel.

Still, managers usually clean it up when there are microphones in their faces. Otherwise, you wind up going viral when the language gets overly colorful, a lesson manager Price learned last week.

Price was thoroughly ripped for contending that beat writers should withhold information if it hurts the team they are covering. Let’s all agree it was a ludicrous statement. Even Price’s fellow managers wouldn’t back him.

It is 2015, the age of social media with a seemingly unlimited demand for constant content. As ESPN’s Buster Olney said in a tweet: “For Bryan Price’s peace of mind, he should look at it this way: Everything gets out. And when it doesn’t, he can view that as a bonus.”

Yet it was a quote from Silver that stood out last week. The NBA commissioner didn’t address the Price situation. Rather, during a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors association, he was asked for his thoughts on in-house media:

“My philosophy had been that we’re better off not being in the news business because we’re not going to be the most reliable source. We recognize that. The fans are sophisticated, the market is sophisticated. The fan knows that the content they will find on NBA.com is not the same content they will find on a third-party media site.”

Well, give Mr. Silver a silver star. Clearly, the commissioner has a solid understanding of the media.

The NBA, like the other sports entities, is in the content business. It is a smart move considering the insatiable appetite for information on the game. Why shouldn’t the league also cash in with its own website? Sports teams are pouring millions of dollars into their online entities. They have become yet another revenue stream.

If you want information and updates on your favorite team, by all means goes to Steelers.com. Fans can find much worthy content on these home-team sites.

Silver, though, knows there is a difference between a website controlled by a league or a team and a site that is independent. If anything controversial arises, the coverage will be much different on ChicagoTribune.com than Bulls.com. Or let’s say,  ESPN.com compared to NFL.com in the case of the Ray Rice situation. NFL.com didn’t write that Roger Goodell should be fired.

Again, it goes without saying that independent sites will cover these stories with much more of an edge, and if they are doing their jobs right, will be willing to hold the subjects more accountable for their actions. Silver understands fans are “sophisticated” enough to know where to go to get the unvarnished coverage.

The difference also could be as simple as this: If Price asked the reporters who work for Reds.com to withhold information about a player not being available, they wouldn’t write it. Rosencrans doesn’t work for Reds.com; he works for the Cincinnati Enquirer. He wrote it.

One more thing: Rosencrans is to be commended for not exploiting Price’s tirade. He wrote about the immediate aftermath on his blog:

“It was supposed to be a typical day — and Monday was anything but. As a reporter, you want to report the news and stay out of it. Trust me when I say that, because I woke up Tuesday morning to a call from CNN wanting me to go on TV and I told them no. I’ve told ESPN no. I’ve told some radio station in Toledo no. I’ve told everyone who has contacted me no. (And let me make it clear, nobody from WLW has contacted me — nobody, no matter what they say.) That would be me making myself the story. I am not.”

Exactly. Rosencrans was just doing his job. Fortunately for the Enquirer readers, he does it well.


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