Sports Team Owner: Newspaper Industry Like Relative With Drug Problems

Ted Leonsis, the owner of the NBA Washington Wizards as well as the NHL's Washington Capitals took a swipe at the newspaper industry in general and the Washington Post in particular today saying that the Post was "not that important anymore" and that newspapers were based on antiquated business strategies.

Leonsis made those comments in an interview at George Washington University in DC when asked about his thoughts on the newspaper selling out to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, as Politico reports:

"It’s almost like you have a family friend who has a drinking problem or a drug problem. The first thing you have to say to them is: they have to admit they have a drinking or drug problem," Leonsis said. "They have to say ‘we’re not that important anymore and what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working.' This core model based on print isn’t going to work." [...]

"If you said to the Post, like I did 10 years ago, 'You should be a platform, you should be embracing these bloggers and adding to your staff these virtual writers,' they said that these bloggers are not Washington Post-caliber people, they’re not journalists," Leonsis said. "And I said, 'They’re not, they’re better.'"

Amusingly, one Wapo staffer, the veteran liberal pundit Karen Tumulty fired back by taking Leonsis out of context:

Leonsis urged #wapo to go digital & embrace bloggers? Why didn't WE think of this? Oh wait, we did.

What Tumulty appears not to have realized is that Leonsis was referring to advice he gave 10 years ago and not saying what he would do with the paper now. She also seems to have missed the part about getting some humility.

Update 2013-10-10. Tumulty has responded to this piece, claiming that she did not distort Leonsis. Here's what she said via Twitter:

"Not out of context at all. #wapo went digital well over 10 years ago. And 'embraced' blogging almost that long ago."

In the first place, Tumulty was not working for the Post at that time so she really is not qualified to be discussing the paper's policies. As anyone can tell via teh Google machine, she only started working at WaPo in 2010.

Secondly, as one of the first political bloggers in the country, I can attest that the Post did not embrace blogging in 2003. I would know because I regularly was interacting with Post personnel about the company's policies and stories.

While it certainly did begin uploading stories to the web at that time, the paper did not have any blogs as properly understood. Nor had it hired on the independent bloggers that Leonsis referenced in his remarks.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013