An Unsocial Contract: The Jets and the People Assigned to Cover Them

Jets fans and the media have come to a disagreement over the past few weeks.  While most of the talk within Jets nation had been Sanchez, Tebow, McElroy, or Bust for most of the time, one thing that has brought together both sides is their dissatisfaction with the people who present Jets news to them.

The major cog in this development has been New York Daily News writer, Manish Mehta.  His calling card over the past two seasons has been an anonymous source within the Jets organization that has leaked him major news of distrust and disorganization.

Anonymous sources are not just a way of getting news, but throughout history, a very important way of gathering information for major breaks.  Many times sensitive information cannot be reached by people who may be hurt by sharing it.  It is why so many are never willing to go forward with information when jobs, or sometimes lives, may be jeopardy for doing so.

But this is football.  It is a game.  A game where billions of dollars being bandied about, but still a game.  When sports media writers start spilling rhetoric about protecting sources and the like, they weakening an important structure actual news reporters need to be able to do their job.  For the most part, Deep Throats do not need to exist to report news on Santonio Holmes or Tim Tebow, so pulling into the bags of supposed media needs and rights to existence seem hollow, even if sports reporting is a legitimate and integral needed part of the sports machine.

The latest anonymous news came out that Rex Ryan had decided to force owner Woody Johnson’s hand into spending more money on the offense, or if not, the coach would welcome a firing.  This news was called “garbage” and categorically denied by Ryan in a press conference the following afternoon.

While the news may not have been correct, and even more, finally outed the leak for good*, it did start to expose how the meat was made to Jets fans.

*[Following Rex Ryan’s press conference, Mike Francesa announced on his WFAN radio show that it was common knowledge that Mehta is “close with the defensive coordinator”, one Mike Pettine, rumored to be leaving the Jets this off-season.]

In response, many have united to the Jets side.  Like a family member or friend being attacked from an outside stranger, many have come to question what exactly the purpose of the Jets media’s reporting has become.  A year of nonstop stories on the back-up quarterback, mockery of their two-time AFC Championship-playing head coach, and a never-ending cycle of non-essential football stories have led many of the media’s readers astray.

Tim Graham wrote on Twitter today, “Interesting dynamic with Jets fans taunting media: “Ha ha! You losers can’t give us the info we’d love to read!”

I think this line fully forms both the media’s perspective towards the Jets and exactly how Jets fans are starting to look at the media.

Yes, there is a need for Jets news.  Yes, there has to be people who gather and produce the news the fans read.

But just because of those needs, those doing the heavy work on those stories do not get to dictate their own rule over the news.  Jets fans are not mice scavenging for bits of cheese.  If the news that is thrown to them is crap, they will flush it down the toilet; they will read less and even more, may actually criticize the media.

Imagine that, the criticizers being criticized.

Newspapers are a dying business and the way Jets writers have been performing their job lately, it seems like they are playing just as much the blame game on the Jets fans as they do the Jets themselves.

It is not their fault they can’t report the news today, Rex Ryan didn’t give them anything.  It is not their fault they have written story #602 on Tim Tebow, the fans want it.

We have sat through question after question during press conferences focusing only on the quarterbacks (mostly the punt protector one), while rarely hearing anything about the #1 draft pick, Quinton Coples and him making his way from bench to lineup, as would normally be a storyline for most football seasons.  They asked questions about outside people taking shots at the Jets rather than questioning why the special teams had suddenly fallen off the face of the planet or what has changed with Muhammad Wilkerson to make him a growing threat on the defensive line.

You know, a lot of the actual questions the Jets fans need the media around to get answers for.

Ultimately, it is not a situation that is good for either side.  Just like how populations revolt against leaders they don’t have trust in, readers can do the same with the people who are delivering the news to them.  Hopefully something will change, but it doesn’t seem like it will.

Just this morning, I was thinking about the Jets media and their gripes and I thought about the history of Rex Ryan in NY.

I think it comes down to this: When things were good, the media needed Ryan to be a story they can write about and he sure helped make many deadlines easier on them.  Just ask Giants writers how hard it is to get a back page story unless the Jets have been eliminated from the playoffs.  When quiet teams are good (and well run) they are boring.

Now that the loudest team is bad, not only can the Jets media have full reign over the attack of Rex and everyone around him, they have the assortment of usual ways to write about a failing team.

That would all be fair game now, and much of it welcomed, by angered fans disgusted at the way the Jets have gone downhill over the past 18 months.

But at the certain points, Rex Ryan and the Jets no longer look like the PR mess bully that the media is there to save everyone from, but rather, the shoe starts to fit the other foot.  There are only so many prickly and snarky tweets you can read and so many negative stories shoved down throats that can digested before people get sick of it.

The Jets are responsible for putting a good team on the field, being successful, and avoiding the embarrassing moments that have become too frequent for a team in New York.  They will continue to be, and should be, attacked for where they have lacked.

But for now, it is important for those people who fans look to be responsible, unbiased, news reporters, realize that they have expectations of their own to live up to.  And while there are many great writers working on this sports area, a few can always spoil the bunch (keep Santonio Holmes in your minds folks).  Twitter has changed the landscape of sports and media, but a lot of the norms of reporting need to be held by all, instead of just the majority who do great reporting.  Balance is important.

Many, including both fans and media, have enjoyed Rex Ryan the loud, goofy, head coach when he was winning.  Like many unorthodox people who are successful, when they don’t remain successful, those quirks are looked at first as reasons they are failing.

When writers do unorthodox things like make jokes about the teams they are covering, act overly negative or positive about certain situations, or show motivations to make stories appear as they want to (off-the-record or not), it makes people attack them in a similar way.

Like how the Jets have an obligation to stand up to mistakes they made, the media has their own to live up to.  Neither are doing what they should now and has led to both sides doing the wrong thing, no matter who is responsible for what.  And like most things in sports that go wrong, the people who wind up suffering, but dollar or by heart on their sleeve, are the fans coming off another disappointing season.


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