City Paper is not for tourists
“We’re 4-13. I can hardly even say it.” Jim Zorn during last night’s post-game press conference, erroneously reflecting on the Redskins record heading into the 16th and last game of the season. The coach’s misery won’t end until a trip to San Diego to face the Chargers and Norv Turner, perhaps the only guy who Dan Snyder treated as bad as he’s treated Zorn.
Bruce Allen continues to receive the greatest gifts any GM could want this holiday season: higher draft picks and lower expectations. After his new team’s blowout loss to the Giants, the shutout to the Cowboys, the disappearance of the offense and the Albert Haynesworth/Greg Blache-instigated implosion of the defense, fans are begging for the sort of rebuild even Michelle Rhee would find excessive.
Saturday night’s telecast of “Redskins Report,” produced by WRC-4, was taped earlier in the week, before the show’s founder, George Michael, died. And, probably because of the holiday, nobody bothered doing a retaping to fashion the program as a tribute to Michael, who started the weekly roundtable in 1980.
But even without any tweaking this episode was nevertheless a fine reminder of Michael’s impact on the local broadcasting scene. Three of the four members of Redskins Report’s latest panel — Dan Hellie, Doc Walker and David Aldridge — were on Dan Snyder‘s payroll. Aldridge was sitting in for Lindsay Czarniak. She’s on Dan Snyder’s payroll, too. (Mike Wise of the Washington Post and WJFK was the only guy on the show not on the take.)
Checkbook journalism is as big a part of Michael’s legacy at WRC as his reliance on highlights.
Michael was the first sellout. Now there are sellouts all over the DC market.
He used his status as the only sportscaster that mattered — which he earned through sweat and futuristic vision and a level of on-air enthusiasm that can’t be faked — to get more work. His popularity allowed him to do things that were unheard of in news departments until then.
Michael took a job with Dan Snyder’s Redskins Broadcast Network shortly after Snyder bought the team, creating a blatant conflict of interest, since it meant he was now taking money from the Redskins, the most important subject on his WRC sports beat. And nobody at WRC blinked.
So landing Michael taught the young owner that pretty much all local journalists could indeed be bought. And soon enough Snyder had not only George Michael, but Michael Wilbon, the lead sports columnist in the Washington Post, taking Redskins money and carrying microphones with “Redskins Broadcast Network” logos on air.
Snyder also put several members of news departments from Fox-5 and WUSA on the Redskins payroll to host infomercials produced by the team. In 2001, Snyder hired Andy Pollin, the program director at WTEM, then the only sportsradio station in the market, to do a Redskins infomercial called “Redskins Game Day” — years before Snyder bought the whole station. Snyder added Washington Times writers, some of the last holdouts, to the payroll after acquiring WTEM.
And soon enough Snyder had so many financial relationships with local media that you could never know what to trust.
Michael tried to camouflage his relationship with the team. On the coaches shows produced by Snyder, for example, Michael always gave out an NBC email address for viewer comments, giving an air of credibility to the programs that they didn’t deserve. I called Michael at work in the WRC studios years ago to ask him how he handled the conflict of interest caused by covering the Redskins for the news department of an NBC affiliate while also working for Snyder’s Redskins Broadcast Network, and if he was uncomfortable carrying a microphone with the Redskins logo on-air.
Michael, who was as energetic off the air as on and always very fun to talk to, said he saw no conflict, and that he wouldn’t use microphones with Redskins logos on camera. When a co-worker listening to our conversation in the WRC studio corrected him and told Michael, “Yeah, you carry Redskins microphones,” Michael laughed and laughed and said, “Really? Well, it doesn’t matter. I can say anything I want to say.”
But, just as everybody long suspected, Michael didn’t say everything.
Snyder confessed for Michael. Asked by WTEM host Tony Kornheiser for his recollections of Michael the day he died, Snyder said that Michael wouldn’t give his WRC audience the whole story when Snyder didn’t want it given.
“George knew a lot of things here that we were doing,” Snyder said, “but he was somebody the franchise trusted.”
Jason Reid and Dan Steinberg had a great story in Saturday’s Washington Post. The time bomb that is Albert Haynesworth finally exploded. He’s been sitting on the sidelines and taking a knee on crucial downs all season, while reports of his nightlife are all over the place. (Anybody out in Reston on Christmas Eve see Al pounding a Skinny Bitch on the Rag?)
Reid and Steinberg, the Woodward and Bernstein of SkinnyBitchontheRagGate, got Haynesworth to go all ground-and-pound on defensive coordinator Greg Blache, saying as a player he could not “survive another season in this system.” ReidStein also also coaxed Haynesworth to whine about coaches treating him with harder kid gloves than unnamed teammates because “they’re all against me or whatever.”
“In the preseason, I fell asleep and was like a couple of minutes late for a meeting,” Haynesworth said. “This is the second time I’ve ever been late for a meeting and I get sent home.”
Reading the story, I thought about George Michael and the ties that blind. If Michael or any other Redskins employee knew that the highest paid player on the team was falling asleep during meetings, would he or she have reported it?
(Full disclosure: I freelance music reviews for the Washington Post.)
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