Let's be perfectly honest about one thing: No official website for any team in any sport is going to be truly objective. The primary goals of team sites are to get the fans pumped up and to sell merchandise, sometimes with the benefit of access that other media outlets are not given. That's the nature of the beast these days, and everyone understands it. Still, there's a level of professionalism required, and for the most part exhibited, by those official mouthpieces.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com and Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com regularly provide outstanding examples of how you can work for a team and still impart more than the usual "OUR GUYS ARE GREAT" fluff all the time. There are many more writers who adroitly walk that line.
On the other side, there's what the San Diego Chargers' official site recently endorsed. Director of public relations Bill Johnston recently put up an article at Chargers.com blasting local writers, fans, and talk radio folks for daring to question the resolve of a team that blew a 24-point lead and allowed 35 unanswered points in last Monday's dumpster fire of a loss to the Denver Broncos. While everyone locally and nationally was wondering just how the Chargers would respond to that embarrassment, Johnston made himself a team spokesperson and embarrassed the organization on an entirely different level.
Here's the meat of the "article":
Listening to some of you out there, you'd think Monday night was "win or go home" and the Chargers are now packing their bags.
"The Chargers are finished. Done," said one scribe.
Another wrote, "Bye, bye Chargers. Put a fork in them."
Sometimes I think Twitter was invented to give people a chance to puff out their chests and talk big, saying things they never would say to someone's face.
And talk radio … don't get me started. The old adage your mom used to preach — "If you don't have anything good say, don't say anything" — seems to have evolved to "if you don't have anything good to say, call sports talk radio."
Time to take a chill pill. No one knows what will happen this season, yet alone the next game. That's the beauty of the National Football League. I don't know, you don't know, no one knows what's going to happen. [...]
[...] If you want these players and coaches to succeed, then support them. Don't tear them down. What you want and what we all want, including your team, is to know people believe in them.
Look at it this way. We want our loved ones to succeed, and we'll do whatever it takes to help them. But when they make mistakes, like we all do, we would never criticize or belittle them publicly.
Your team is 3-3, tied at the top of the division, and has 10 games to play. If the Chargers are your team, get behind them and stay behind them. We're all at our best when we know others believe in us.
Well, Bill ... it's not the job of the media, local or national, to show the Chargers that we believe in them. It's our job to report what happened as objectively as we possibly can, hopefully with enough color to keep readers from falling asleep halfway through the articles.
The fans have the right to say whatever the heck they want about the teams they support with their time, money, and passion, as long as they're not going after players with death threats on Twitter and other moronic things like that. And it's the job of talk radio to talk about the team in ways that will involve listeners so that they become potential callers and willing buyers of the products advertised on the stations.
And as long as we're talking about jobs and responsibilities, it's the (often thankless) job of PR directors to disseminate information to the media and be a liaison to the players, while trying to deflect the angry missives coming from this coach or that general manager when someone in the front office doesn't like what was written or said. That's understood and respected. But this article crosses the line.
Was Johnston's piece forced and endorsed by the team, or was he going rogue here? Whatever the case, Johnston is far out of line. It's an enormous failure of the public relations concept when a team sends out a "Love it or leave it!" blast at the best of times -- never mind doing it just a few days after perhaps the worst collapse in team history.
Someone in that building needs a timeout. Or a chill pill. Or, a simple dose of reality as to how football business is done.
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