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Why didn’t we carry a story about the Browns stadium? We’re not pawns in this chess game: Letter from the Editor

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The greater Cleveland sports reporting universe burst Thursday with news about Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam potentially buying a suburban tract of land, potentially as a home for a new stadium.

We did not carry a story on it, on cleveland.com or in The Plain Dealer. The decision was a tough one, but it came down to a dearth of facts.

A blog with a dubious history first reported the news, based on unnamed sources. The Browns soon issued a statement of 142 words that seemed designed to appear as news while saying almost nothing. Late in the day, the city of Cleveland issued what appeared to be a response to the Browns, but it also said nothing of substance.

We need substance to write news stories. We didn’t have a single piece of concrete information showing what the Browns are up to.

What we do know is that the Haslams have been negotiating with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb for nearly a year on renovating the Browns lakefront stadium and how much the public should pay for that.

Negotiations between cities and sports teams are a chess match. Cities seek to spend the least amount of money needed to keep the teams from moving away while the teams try to soak the taxpayers for as much as they can get. It has happened repeatedly in Cleveland and cities across the nation.

Was the news that the Haslams might buy a suburban site a chess move? Would getting that possibility — real or not – on news platforms cause such a stir that the Browns might negotiate a better deal with the city? With nearly every news outlet reporting the Browns might head to the suburbs, would Bibb be more likely to offer more cash?

Our newsroom can’t be a pawn in the chess game. We have standards, and so far, this story does not meet them. All we have is the city’s vague release about continuing to negotiate with the Browns and the equally vague Browns statement offering just enough to stir the media stew. You can read both below.

You could argue that we should have reported the statements, but journalism is not transcription. It is truth. The statements are not truth. They are spin. We don’t have enough facts yet to get at the truth.

We have a lot of facts that fly in the face of this story.



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