The Grossi Debate

Tony Grossi has been the beat writer at The Plain Dealer for the Browns for 25 years and is kind of  a polarizing figure for some reason.

It seems older readers like him, while younger people find him to be a tad on the negative side. 

That maybe because Grossi remembers when the Cleveland Browns were a hallmark franchise in the NFL, and now they have been largely irrelevant for the past 20 years.

In fact, outside of a five-year span in the late 1980’s, the brown and orange have been mediocre for the most part since 1970.

Last week, Grossi was removed by the paper after he tweeted about Browns’ owner Randy Lerner, called him a “pathetic figure” and an irrelevant billionaire. 

Whether or not Grossi is correct in his assessment is besides the point, the paper is its infinite wisdom decided that the beat reporter for the paper having this opinion was detrimental to his objectivity and re-assigned him.

Many people have the belief that the Browns organization orchestrated the move with a phone call to someone in the PD’s hierarchy.  There is no proof of this, but the city’s football franchise has always sought to control the media.

For years, Art Modell had the local television sports anchors as his radio play-by-play team.  In the 60’s, it was Channel 3’s Jim Graner and Channel 5’s Gib Shanley.  When Graner passed away, he was replaced by Channel 8’s Jim Mueller.

Shanley’s spot was taken over by his successor at WEWS, Nev Chandler, who was replaced by Casey Coleman, and now the current voice of the Browns is WKYC’s Jim Donovan.

Is that merely a coincidence?  That’s doubtful. 

Several years ago, WOIO was the “your home for the Browns” until they aired a sensitive story about the Lerner family. 

Whether or not the story should have been aired is up for debate, but what is true is that WOIO soon lost their partnership with the Browns.

At the very least, Modell wanted to make sure when you tuned in to local sportscast, the odds were pretty good you were hearing “the voice of the Browns”.

As for Grossi, his opinion of how Lerner runs his franchise colors his writing whether he states that opinion publicly or not. 

The guess here is that the people who like the veteran reporter do so because he is critical of the front office, and the those that don’t care for his writing are fans who think he is too harsh.

So no credibility is lost for the newspaper.  Tony Grossi just stated what has been hinted in his stories for years.

This situation also brings to light how teams now want to control the media content.  They do not like tough questions at press conferences, and many coaches/managers bristle at reporters asking for responses to things anyone watching games would inquire about.

Isn’t a coincidence that Lerner had a radio interview with WTAM’s Mike Trivisonno the day before it was reported that Browns wanted the city of Cleveland to give them several year’s worth of the money the team receives annually for stadium upkeep?

Browns’ coaches and front office people have gone the way of politicians in talking around what is being asked instead of providing an answer. 

They think fans are stupid and they can’t be trusted to digest what they’ve seen on the field.

Gone are the days when a coach like Blanton Collier would meet with newspaper men privately and review game films and tell them why he made the decisions he made.

The media is now the enemy for not just the Browns, but other professional sports franchises, and if that “enemy” says something you don’t like, let’s get him out of his job.

What’s worse is The Plain Dealer allowed it to happen.  Fair journalism goes out the window.



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