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No Cheering In the Press Box, and No Lying In the Press Room (if only)


It’s been many years since this recovering sportswriter’s last post-game presser, but recent events are bringing back memories of the old days.

Try to take the observations in this mini-column (and first CKOW post in some time) as non-partisan and non-ideological, for whatever it’s worth.

The gist: How a coach (or other public authority figure, for that matter) in a big, high-pressure market (like Chicago, or Washington, D.C.) deals with the news media is both instructive and predictive.

If you’ve followed Chicago sports history over recent decades, you probably know what I’m talking about.

The best coaches, managers and GMs succeed on the field while maintaining a healthy and professional – though not necessarily friendly – relationship with the press. They recognize that when they address the media, they’re by extension talking to their fans and paying customers.

Some even skillfully charm reporters to the point that their mistakes quickly move out of the public discourse (think Joe Maddon).

The worst do none of this (anyone remember Terry Bevington?).

Occasionally, the Chicago sports media and coaches or managers collide, and the result is a spectacular, public meltdown for the ages (after you put the kids to bed tonight, search “Lee Elia tirade” on YouTube, then turn it up really, really loud).

That’s an extreme example, but the point is, these episodes usually end badly for one side in particular.

Also, the nuances can speak louder than words.

Watch Chicago Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville in typical post-game media session: Sleeves rolled up, hands firmly gripping on either side of the podium and succinctly answering every, single question like a pro, without condescension or peevishness. Is there any question who’s in charge?

The people that choose to constantly battle the media – rather than practice effective leadership, surrounding themselves with bright, capable people and delivering positive results – usually don’t last very long.

Obfuscation, deflection, stonewalling, outright lying, whatever… eventually, it all comes home to roost.

Rex is our quarterback. Rex is our quarterback? The fans are smarter than that. They’ll figure it out, will “vote” by not showing up to games and finding something else to do.

You may disagree with what’s being reported or what you’re reading, and that’s all fair.

Mistakes and misjudgments happen on the part of journalists individually and with news organizations more broadly – and when it does happen, believe me, the repercussions are both public and humiliating.

But also remember journalists have a job to do, and they don’t work for your favorite team or your favorite candidate. They really work for you, the people.

Quarterbacks come and go, coaches come and go, politicians come and go.

But the press has been and always will be there. The press is undefeated.

And we’re a stronger country for it.

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center