It all started in a Dallas bar with a cell phone video camera and a
brief encounter with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. In the video, an
unsuspecting Jones is caught slurring his words and badmouthing former
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells and quarterback Tim Tebow. He says Parcells
is not "worth a sh--" and Tebow, if drafted, would "never get on the
field." To be sure, worse things have been said by NFL dignitaries at
bars. Nevertheless, the owner of the grainy cell phone video submitted it to the sports blog
Deadspin and—bam—it went viral with over 220,000 page views.
Dallas TV stations were all over it and ESPN had a field day. In a three-panel segment, Mark Schlereth, an ESPN analyst, called for the NFL to slap a fine on Jones because that's "not the image you want to portray if you're the owner of the Dallas Cowboys."
But at the peak of the media circus, a curious thing happened at WFAA TV, a news station serving Dallas and Fort Worth. Dale Hansen, a sportscaster at the station, refused to cover the story despite pressure from his news director. When the station got someone else to cover it, Hansen went out on a tirade decrying his colleagues and the state of journalism live on TV. Excerpts from his rant after the video:
That story we had earlier tonight about Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, if that's what it is (and our news director thinks it is), is yet another example of the decline of journalism as we once knew it.[...]
Our business now, too many times, is a fat kid in a T-shirt in his mother's basement, eating Cheetos and writing his blogs — and we make it news.
Jerry Jones in a bar, being Jerry Jones, is not news to me. And the fact that some creep slides up to Jones, records the conversation without Jones knowing, then tries to sell that recording — and that becomes news — is an embarrassment to us all.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail."
The news management here had that opportunity. And while better than most on most days, on this day... this decision was the wrong decision.