Cowboys’ tweet underscores the hazards of team-owned media
Roughly 20 years ago, sports teams and leagues decided to create their own media outlets, charging employees of the teams and leagues with the task of covering the entities that pay them. Usually, problems arise from team- and league-owned media being relentlessly positive and/or oblivious to the negative.
Recently, the in-house media outlet covering one of the league’s most popular teams made waves for doing the exact opposite.
This tweet has made a major stir since it was posted by the Cowboys’ official account on Sunday night: “Dak Prescott gave away the ball twice in the narrow loss to the 49ers, in a matchup the Cowboys had a chance to win if they didn’t again generate self-inflicted wounds.”
It’s one thing for someone who doesn’t work for the Cowboys to criticize their players, coaches, etc. It’s quite another for a colleague, a coworker, a writer whose paycheck is signed by Jerry Jones to turn the flamethrower against Dak Prescott or anyone else involved in the on-field sausage-making process.
While it demonstrates that captive media can be objective, it raises the question of whether captive media should be. By now, consumers know (or should kn0w) that, when they dial up NFL Network or NFL.com, they’re getting their news and analysis through Shield-colored glasses. Ditto for team-owned media. If you go to any team’s website, you’re getting stuff that is ultimately aimed at advancing the interests of that team.
For the Cowboys, making money apparently trumps keeping players and coaches from getting blasted by voices that are supposed to be friendly. If/when the team-owned media calls a guy out, it’s basically the same thing as the team calling him out.
Although the Cowboys could claim that the team gives its writers autonomy, even that has guardrails. (For example, you won’t find any stories on DallasCowboys.com about last year’s quickly squelched voyeurism scandal, or regarding the pending paternity lawsuit against Jones himself.) Even if the team says it doesn’t tell writers what to write and/or not write, the reality is that they’re implicitly allowing key players like Prescott to be blamed by platforms the team owns.
Again, the Cowboys can take the position that it’s not personal. That they want good and bad coverage in order to maximize the audience. And that’s fine. But they’d better be sure that Prescott, other players, and the team’s coaches are OK with the possibility that the employees of the team’s media properties will ignore camaraderie and collegiality and crap all over them.