Shortly after Reds manager Bryan Price’s expletive-filled rant (which showed a grave misunderstanding of the media), a Pittsburgh newspaper columnist is taking heat for relaying the profane criticisms he received from Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford Monday night.

Rob Rossi of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote Monday that Rutherford addressed him in “an obscenity-laced diatribe” and went on to relay the content of that diatribe. Dejan Kovacevic (a former Tribune-Review columnist who’s now covering Pittsburgh sports for his own subscription-based site) overheard the Rutherford/Rossi conversation Monday and blasted Rossi Tuesday, saying that Rossi misrepresented Rutherford’s criticisms and that the Tribune-Review had an axe to grind with the Penguins:

Those are some pretty strong criticisms. For comparison, here’s exactly what Rossi wrote about his exchange with Rutherford:

After exiting a media elevator and while walking with other reporters to the Penguins’ dressing room, Rutherford addressed this columnist, a frequent critic since his hiring last June, in an obscenity-laced diatribe.

“Thanks for your support,” Rutherford said repeatedly.

“You’re a (expletive) jerk,” Rutherford said repeatedly.

Rutherford followed the jerk comment with a suggestion to “go sell ice cream now,” then a challenge to look him in the eye, which I did while explaining my role as Trib Total Media’s lead sports columnist.

My role is to provide opinion.

“Well, your opinion is (expletive),” Rutherford said.

It’s important to note that even by Rossi’s recounting of it, this isn’t close to the level of Price’s rant. For one thing, Price was ranting against the media in general (and complaining about them reporting newsworthy events, which is their job); Rutherford is criticizing a specific columnist and his opinions. That doesn’t mean Rutherford’s right (and even the sarcastic “Thanks for your support” appears to be somewhat suggesting that columnists should be supporting the team, which as discussed with Price, is anything but the truth), or that confronting Rossi this way and swearing at him in a situation with at least one other reporter around (Kovacevic said he was the only one within earshot) was the best response. It does mean we’re talking on a very different scale. Consider what the Tribune-Review had done recently, too:

With that said, Rossi isn’t necessarily wrong to write about this either. There’s no indication Rutherford asked for an off-the-record conversation, and even Kovacevic admitted conversations with other reporters around are typically fair game (although he said he wouldn’t have reported this one if the shoe was on the other foot). The way he portrays this isn’t necessarily inaccurate, either; everything in Rossi’s account appears to be factually true even according to Kovacevic’s account. (Rossi’s portrayal of the situation can be questioned, as the context Kovacevic provides of Rutherford’s criticisms makes them seem less dramatic than the way Rossi writes it, but the facts don’t appear to be in dispute.)

Should Rutherford have profanely criticized a columnist in the presence of another one, in a conversation that wasn’t specifically off the record? Probably not. The smarter move would likely have been to sit down with Rossi and address specific issues with his coverage, on or off the record. Rutherford’s frustration after a close loss likely played into this too, though, and it’s hard to blame him for venting a bit at someone whose coverage he didn’t like. Rossi may also not be wrong to use this as column fodder; it wasn’t specifically out of bounds, and it provides an angle for his larger criticisms of Rutherford. Still, it’s interesting to see a situation where a media member takes the team executive’s side over another member of the media. It’s further confirmation that not all anti-media rants are equal.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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