BobbyRyanBrianBurke

Media outrage over Burke/Ryan comments perplexing


I believe that by now the comments made by Brian Burke during the Team USA selection process, as highlighted in Scott Burnside's piece, have been widely disseminated. They were blunt Burkian hyperbole at their best, but in this case it was hyperbole directed at a player that was read by everyone and their mother. 

I can understand Bobby Ryan being upset. What Burke said, though is more than likely no worse than a general manager would say during an arbitration hearing or at a draft table regarding a prospect. The difference between what Burke said and what any other GM would say is next to nothing; the medium in which they were broadcast is the difference. Private criticism can be hard to take; public criticism is scathing and embarrassing. 

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The reason Burke's comments were broadcast was because the Team USA selection committee agreed to have Scott Burnside and Kevin Allen of USA Today sit in on the process. Presumably terms of this deal were discussed between the parties, and presumably some wires got crossed somewhere. David Poile apologized to Ryan, and then went on to explain the relationship between the selection committee and the media members. From the LA Times' Helene Elliott

Poile said USA Hockey welcomed Burnside and Allen’s presence in an effort to popularize the game and was “happy to have them part of our team, if you will.” Poile also said Team USA executives believed they had the right to prevent publication of objectionable comments — as with their control over material in HBO’s "24/7" series — and that Burke had included Ryan’s name on Burke’s suggested final roster.
 
“Unfortunately the comments were a little harsh,” Poile said. “The problem that we had with a communication breakdown that happened there was we thought this was similar to a '24/7' situation where we had editorial review on what was going to be said. It caught all of us off-guard. And again, that’s on us.”
 
The problem here cannot be more clear. Team USA expected one thing, the members of the press expected another, and that was that. To not clarify the standards for the articles and to not directly stipulate that Team USA had final say over what was published was a large mistake. However, not being direct also was more than likely the way that they got Burnside and Allen to do the "interest building piece" that they wanted.
 
If you were a reporter, and you were hired to cover something, would you leave out key information that interests your readers and gets people talking about your piece? Of course not. How clear was the selection committee with expectations regarding this? If they were to say "we read your final copy and make edits," neither gentleman would very likely agree. Members of the media don't want people editing their work; it turns them from a (presumably) impartial reporter into a shill. There's probably nothing a reporter resents more than being called a shill for an organization.
 
This is why recent media bloviation regarding the statements is so interesting. Instead of focusing his criticism of the comments and the situation on Burke or the accuracy thereof, Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet focused his criticism on Burnside and Allen. On today's Hockey Central at Noon broadcast, Kypreos sounded off on the issue. Maple Leafs blogger @Hope_Smoke was brave enough to listen and transcribe some comments in his Twitter feed. Here're some highlights:

Oh, ok. I didn't know it was Burnside's job as a journalist to protect "feelings."

Well, you can start by getting these things in writing.

In doing what, reporting factual information? Is he supposed to whitewash things? Wouldn't THAT show a lack of journalistic integrity?

Is this an insinuation that "they'll never work in this town again!!" *shakes fist*

Holy God, does Kypreos not understand figurative language?

You mean to tell me that GMs and scouts and coaching staffs never ever talk like this in any other situation?

I'm pretty sure that general managers and scouts can make decisions based on their own evaluative processes.

I'll end this by saying that no, his character hasn't been defamed; his play was being evaluated in an appropriate setting. The fact that Kypreos is siding with Ryan and "the players" isn't shocking, since that's the camp he used to be a member of. He needs to remember though that he's firmly ensconced in the media now, or as long as SportsNet continues to pay him to do his job. What he's railing about are common practices in both the media and management. This isn't "us versus them" in any direction. The real issue here is, and should continue to be if Team USA made the right decision, not how they came to the conclusion that they did. 

Of course, we might not have to deal with this in the future anyway:

Nice while it lasted.

About Laura Astorian

Laura Astorian is the head editor for the SB Nation blog St. Louis Game Time and has been a Blues fan from childhood. She promises that any anti-Blackhawks bias will be left at the door. Maybe.

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