SF Chronicle cut and pasted Warriors arena press release, ran it as news story

I know I’ve often criticized the sports media for doing little more than reprinting teams’ press releases when it comes to stadium and arena coverage, but even I didn’t expect this: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Golden State Warriors reporter has been suspended for literally reprinting a team press release about the Warriors’ arena plans:

The headline for the original Chronicle story and the Warriors’ press release on NBA.com were the same: “Warriors formally purchase Mission Bay site.” The initial story was identical to the release, except that the team referred to itself as the “NBA Champion Golden State Warriors” in its lede, and the Chronicle story left out the “champion” superlative. The only other change was a semicolon in the press release that became two sentences in the Chronicle story.

That’s pretty terrible, but the story gets even worse, as Deadspin has uncovered six more examples of times Warriors beat reporter Rusty Simmons, or his editor Al Saracevic, flat-out copied-and-pasted Warriors press releases. (Most of these were on far more boring topics than arena dealings.) They also asked Simmons for comment, and got this reply:

“I would really like to tell you how that happens, but I’m not allowed. I’m so sorry. …My suspension should be lifted in a couple of days, and we’ll talk.”

I think I speak for everyone when I say: We can’t wait to hear this one.

6 comments on “SF Chronicle cut and pasted Warriors arena press release, ran it as news story

  1. Our local papers really are little more than PR arms of the biggest businesses in town (which obviously includes pro sports).

  2. In fairness to the newspaper, the industry is decimated, and many newsrooms run on a skeleton staff at the best of times. Still, there should have been some attempt at even a minor rewrite and perhaps a phone call to add to the story.

  3. I can sum this up very quickly for you: SFGate just ain’t what it used to be. Just follow them on Facebook for a few weeks. You’ll get it.

  4. Ok, so somebody has to ask….

    Neil, is it the fact that they did this that you find amazing? Or is it that the paper actually suspended someone for operating as a press agent for a private interest while being paid by a (notionally) journalistic enterprise?

    I’m not defending the practice, of course. But I do think it’s far more common in the mainstream media than we like to think… Woodward and Bernstein couldn’t even get a job at one of our allegedly “great” papers in this day and age, much less get to run the kinds of stories they did 40 years ago.

  5. It’s the cut-and-paste that I find amusing. Usually newspapers at least go through the charade of rewriting the press releases.