Jason La Canfora is a Bad Ass

Warning – This isn’t at all soccer-related. 

This exchange in today’s online chat by WaPo Redskins beat writer Jason La Canfora got me thinking:

OG Barno: I doubt you’ll take a tough question like this, but here goes:

What do you think of Dan Snyder publicly calling out the Washington Post by name in his interview with Comcast Sportsnet last weekend? He, as well as thousands of WaPo readers, believe the Post is biased in its coverage.

I can’t remember a beat reporter ever having so many questions asked about their objectivity before.

What do you say to all those critics who believe your coverage of the Redskins is intentionally negative?

Jason La Canfora: Unlike a lot of the people you are praise, I never duck the public or criticism. 

I cover what has been a losing franchise for the most part for what, 15 years now? And it is my job to bring to light why. Two individuals have been constants amid all the failure, while everyone else has come and gone. 

And thus I hold them to a standard I would imagine any right-minded fan would. I think it’s beyond presumptuous of you to believe you can speak for thousands of readers, and if I’m doing my job diligently then I’m not going to be please everyone. I’m interested in journalism; I’m not a politician. 

You call me a beat writer, and I surely break news and do beat work but I have a blog that was established to provide analysis and commentary and I also write onfootball columns for the paper. On Comcast I provide analysis. Times have changes and we all wear many hats. 

I don’t cover the Redskins any differently than I did the Orioles, the Red Wings or the Caps. Go ask Peter Angelos, Mike Ilitch or Ted Leonsis. This is the big leagues. 

Snyder can say whatever he wants. He also says he has nothing to do with the radio station. And he’ll tell you he doesn’t run Six Flags.

Snip

The record speaks for itself. 
The lack of divition titles speaks for itself. 
The last of playoff wins speaks for itself. 
Leading the league in spending since 2000 speaks for itself. 
And the price of anything possibly related to the Redskins – anything a fan might want to purchase from a ticket to a beer to a jersey – is just about tops in the league. 
I view my job as using my access to be the eyes, ears of the fans, and I believe my blog, through guests blogs and comments, allows for as free of a discourse as you will find. If that means some people don’t like me – the owner and the executive vice president – well, that’s part of the job and how it goes sometimes. I’m perfectly cool with that

Jason La Canfora has by far the biggest cojones of anyone in the DC press corps with the possible exception of Dana Priest – and she covers national security. That’s kind of company he deserves to keep for the flak he takes from the Redskins organization and many thousands of its mouth-breathing naive supporters. 

First, let me give you a bit of background to what La Canfora deals with on his day-to-day job of covering the second most important institution in this city behind the White House. 

  • La Canfora’s predecessors, Howard Bryant and Nunyo Demasio left under immense pressure from constant criticsm from the Redskins organization and from fans for simply doing his job and reporting about such matters as unhappy star players, and repeated plans to milk fans out of even more cash. For this, the Redskins pulled all of the Post’s season tickets and the organization, including owner Daniel Snyder began publically haranguing the Post any any opportunity. 
  • Redskins management, including Snyder and GM Vinny Cerrato refuse to be quoted in any of La Canfora’s stories, no matter the content or context.
  • He faces unending criticism, much of it personal and obscene, from a team-owned bulletin board site called ExtremeSkins 

All of this for someone who covers a football team. It’s pretty insane, isn’t it? 

His quotes above should be read as gospel by any sportswriter in America. He’s not going to let an extremely loud noise machine directed out of Ashburn stop him from covering the team the same exact way any other institution of that size and important should be covered – skeptically. 

I hear over and over again that La Canfora’s coverage is “negative.” It quite simply is not. It’s skeptical, something that way too few people in sports (and especially in football) journalism are willing to be. Is his tone different than your average beat writer? Sure, because in many cases a sports franchise operates in a cooperative manner with its reporters, understanding that it typically is advantageous for all parties concerned.

The Redskins don’t operate like that. They operate in secret. They put out deliberate misinformation. They malign reporters in the media. In otherwords, the operate like the Government. They operate like it’s a zero-sum game they’re playing and that every single article written about the team is a potential grenade needing to be defused or thrown back at the adversary. The Redskins demand skeptical coverage through their objective record on the field (one of mediocrity) and off the field, leaving a trail of bad decisions and bitter disputes in their wake.

The Redskins aren’t the only team who operate this way. The Knicks certainly do. Ohio State defintely used to. When you are faced with an adversarial relationship with the subject you cover, a good journalist must cover everything that happens and that is uttered by that subject skepically. They think you’re out to screw them and you know they’re out trying to screw you. Yet, La Canfora soldiers on, providing information and comment on the realities of the Redskins, not the glossy exterior they want you to see. That’s what journalism is about – shining a light on the realities of our world. That is precisely what La Canfora does so well.

I for one commend him for it. Keep it up. We need you now more than ever.

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