It looks like a couple of local sports columnists have had their tender feelings hurt. Which isn’t surprising. After all, everyone knows how sensitive sports columnists are, and how loath they are to ever, ever utter harsh criticisms. So it is only natural that they would start to whine and run to their daddy for help when the kids down the street start calling them nasty names.
In this case “daddy” is The Detroit Newspaper Agency, which oversees business operations for the Detroit News and Free Press. The agency wants Jeff Moss to stop ridiculing sportswriters Rob Parker and E.J. Mitchell.
Moss, a Farmington Hills insurance appraiser, is creator of DetroitSportsRag.com, an online site launched last year that posts commentaries on the area sports scene. Last week, according to Moss, he received the following e-mail:
“Mr. Jeff Moss, I am Senior Legal Counsel for Detroit Newspapers. I have been shown several recent email columns that you have published in which you have made clearly defamatory remarks about The Detroit News employees, Rob Parker and E.J. Mitchell. By this email, I am insisting that you cease and desist from making any such defamatory statements in the future, or The Detroit News has authorized me to take legal action against you.”
And that was that. In the experience of News Hits, which has been around this block a few times, serious threats from attorneys usually arrive via registered mail. The one zipped to Moss didn’t even bother to provide the sender’s name. Which is why Moss initially thought the electronic missive a joke. Just to be safe, though, he had his attorney look into it. Using the sender’s e-mail address, he determined that a fella named John Taylor, who is indeed legal counsel for the newspaper agency, sent the message.
Moss’s attorney, Bill Yochim, then called Taylor to find out some more specifics.
“First,” wrote Moss in his online report of the dispute, “they want the DSR to stop calling Rob Parker ‘E.J. Mitchell’s bitch.’”
“Second,” writes Moss, “they are concerned with DSR’s allegations that Detroit Pistons president Joe Dumars helped finance Rob Parker’s book 50 Columns from America’s Angry Black Sports Columnist.”
As to the first issue, Moss insists he is on solid legal footing, citing as precedent a case involving none other than the Detroit News, which nearly a decade ago successfully argued in court that satire and humor are protected speech.
It should be noted that Parker and Mitchell aren’t the only jock sniffers sliced and diced in Moss’s online rag. The Freep’s Mitch Albom, for example, is referred to by the moniker Condescending Baggins, a reference to both his towering ego and his Hobbit-like stature.
The assertion that Parker’s literary efforts received a boost from Dumars, if not true, could cost Moss. We don’t know if the report is accurate or not. Moss points out that, although the piece in question was first published last August and remains available online in his site’s archives, he has never received the requisite demand that the allegation be retracted, and that he would welcome a legal challenge to its veracity.
We called Taylor to discuss Moss’s claims. The attorney offered only a curt, “I have no comment,” before hanging up on us.
We love it when people working for newspapers refuse to comment when questioned by a reporter. The hypocrisy is just too rich.
Moss, whose journalistic experience amounts to some classes taken while in college, had no such reticence, either in a phone interview with us or on his site, where he threw this rhetorical gauntlet at the feet the newspaper agency:
“SUE US! We wouldn’t mind all the free publicity. And I would love to see the judge’s face when your grounds are that we called a public figure someone else’s bitch.”
Well, there you go. The ball, to use a bit of sport’s terminology, is now in your court, Mr. Taylor.
What’s your next move?Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com