Washington Redskins: Down on Twitter

UPDATE 6:08: Redskins reporters met this afternoon with Coach Shanahan to hash out differences regarding what they can and cannot do as team beat reporters. According to several sources, Shanahan placed the conversation off the record, a stipulation that reporters appear to be respecting---details on the proceedings are scarce.

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"We agreed that it was going to be a private thing," says John Keim, a sportswriter for the Washington Examiner and chair of the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.

It's not clear whether the compliance with Shanahan's conditions signals that the reporters feel the discussions are headed in the right direction or whether an entire media platoon is selling its soul to a football coach.

Whatever the ins and outs of today's meeting, some additional detail is emerging on yesterday's events. Based on discussions with multiple sources, Shanahan is really freaked out that any information from practice sessions could leak out to opposing teams. Stuff that might look boring to the average reader---like "such-and-such player hung out on the sidelines during drills"---gets a top-secret classification from Shanahan, the club's FOIA officer.

One obvious step toward clamping down on the info flow is stopping reporters from tweeting and blogging from practice---a measure that's now in place, as explained below.

Yet the club yesterday was reportedly making noises about an even deeper level of censorship, one that would effectively prevent correspondents from reaching out to Redskins players after practice to find out what'd gone down. Under NFL protocol, teams must open at least a portion of their practice sessions to reporters, and then they're allowed to banish the media for the rest of the time. 

To fill in readers on what happened during the closed sessions, reporters work the players for their accounts and often attribute the resulting stories to anonymous sources. Shanahan & Co. object to this convention and wanted to minimize reports on practice-session rumors and the use of anonymous sources. The team's media pool, in turn, objected to any limits on their use of sources to reconstruct practices.

So have the two sides reached a stalemate? Is Shanahan beating up on the poor media? If only I could get some anonymous sources to start singing!

"Like everything else around the Redskins, this issue is going to blow over," says a beat reporter.

Original Story

The following is a tweet from Washington Post reporter Rick Maese. It hit Twitter at 1:27 pm on Aug. 18, right in the middle of the Washington Redskins' training camp:

"In addition to Haynesworth, Maake Kemoateu also appears to be without pads at practice today" 

OK, not the most explosive bit of sports reporting that's ever been filed. But still good stuff, especially for diehard fans of the Redskins. If you live for the burgundy and gold, there's nothing quite like live tweets from practice. You get a feel for who's up, who's down at the same time as the team's coaches.

And that's apparently the problem. In a series of meetings with team beat reporters, the Redskins are now working on a brand-new set of guidelines that would ban tweeting and blogging straight from the practice field. "Media are prohibited from blogging or tweeting during practice," says rule No. 4 of the guidelines. (Emphasis in original document; no editorial bolding here.)

The price for noncompliance? Scofflaws could have their "access to Redskins practices restricted or revoked for a specific period of time or indefinitely."

There are other restrictions in the new guidelines, but they don't have quite the impact on Redskins faithful as the tweeting-blogging-from-practice prohibition. For instance, media members are required to stay inside a reporter's pen during practice. It's also a no-no to talk with players or coaches during practice.

The funniest line in the guidelines is this one: "Media does have the right to report what they are told by coaches or players." (Emphasis in original; no editorial bolding here.) Thanks, Redskins!

Competitiveness is driving the new restrictions. Coach Mike Shanahan doesn't want the team's opponents to get valuable intelligence on the Redskins by surveying the press corps' tweets and blog posts.

Tony Wyllie, a spokesperson for the team, asked TBD to hold off reporting on the guidelines because they're in flux right now. "Things are still evolving," he says. It should be noted that other NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins, have similar prohibitions on in-practice tweeting.

Have a look at the first page of the guidelines.

 

redskins media policy

 

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