Cleveland Plain Dealer managing editor Thom Fladung confirms that Browns beat writer Tony Grossi has been reassigned for tweeting this about Browns owner Randy Lerner: “He is a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world.” (Grossi thought he was sending a DM — a private tweet — and later apologized.) Fladung said on a Cleveland radio show this morning:
Tony is still with the Plain Dealer. He has not been fired, he has not been disciplined other than that he will not be covering the Browns. … That tweet from a Browns beat reporter we felt — and I felt very strongly — was inappropriate and unprofessional, and it’s not what a journalist covering a beat — it’s not the kind of opinion a journalist covering a beat can express.
Fladung continued: I think Tony was a very good beat writer, he was very successful. But there are lines. There have to be lines and there have to be standards, and he crossed one.”
Let’s say that Tony had written that Randy Lerner’s lack of involvement with the Browns and their resulting disappointing records over the years has made him irrelevant as an owner, that’s defensible — absolutely defensible. ….That’s not what Tony tweeted; he tweeted that a man was pathetic and irrelevant. That’s not an opinion, it’s an insult.
Fladung told me that Grossi’s next assignment hasn’t been decided.
UPDATE: I just received this email from Plain Dealer editor Debra Simmons:
The Browns had no involvement in this decision, which was made by Plain Dealer editors. The Plain Dealer is committed to fair, balanced and objective reporting about all the subjects we cover and across all platforms. The same journalistic standards and rules apply no matter the medium. This is very unfortunate.