Jim Harbaugh

Cohn: 49ers ‘need to teach Harbaugh how to interact with the media’

As I was finishing up the post that effectively took the metaphorical bridge that never really existed between myself and the Cohn family and detonated it with a ton of C-4, Lowell Cohn wrote a piece titled “Advice to the 49ers.” It isn’t that long (unlike my last post), so I’ll reprint it in full:

The 49ers need to help Jim Harbaugh. They need to teach Harbaugh how to interact with the media and how to act in public.

No matter what you think, Harbaugh is a flop with the media. You may think it doesn’t matter, but it does. He is the face of the franchise. He is sarcastic and juvenile and that helps no one.

The Niners need to hire a consultant who can teach Harbaugh how to conduct himself, how to answer tough questions, how to smooth some of his many rough edges. Harbaugh and the consultant could role play or do whatever media consultants do.

FYI, this could pay dividends for Harbaugh. The media tends to give a longer rope to coaches and players they like. Someone should tell this to Harbaugh. He won’t always win 14 games. He needs to build up some goodwill for the team and for him.

What are the chances of the Niners taking Cohn’s advice? Probably about the same as me buying the same Tiki Barber jersey the woman in front of me was wearing during the NFC Championship Game.

“Hey Jim, if you have a minute could you take a break from working on the passing game and do a trial run with this media consultant? You’ll be you, and he’ll be Lowell. It’ll be a hoot!”

Let’s take a look at the last paragraph, specifically the part about “a longer rope.” Now, we all know this to be true. Those who work in the media are technically people too, and it’s impossible to keep an objective perspective on everything.

Pot, meet kettle

I’m no different, even though I write for MBN (Mom’s Basement Nation). I covered two Stanford games this past season and neither time was I given a seat in the press box.

The first time was during the Oregon game, when the press box was so full I had no choice but to drive back to my San Francisco apartment to watch the game on DVR delay because I couldn’t see the field. Since I have no ties to Stanford, my first reaction as I trudged the two miles from the stadium back to my car was to silently root against the Cardinal for the rest of time. That is, until I realized I was acting like a spoiled brat (or an 11-year-old!).

Not exactly something I’m proud of, but I could see how people who work in the industry for years/decades can form opinions and hold grudges about things that fans never consider. After some time to cool off I understood that there’s no logical reason for any school or team to lay out the red carpet for a freelancer/blogger like myself, and I actually found myself rooting for the Cardinal in the Fiesta Bowl.

(Side note: I’m clearly not a journalist, since I lost my voice at both Niners playoff games and spent all that time thinking about whether or not to root for Stanford. On that note, my mom just came down and put in a fresh load of laundry. I HATE it when she does that when I’m BLOGGING!)

My challenge, if I actually break into this business full-time (and good luck with that if I keep writing posts that denigrate local media icons), is to remain professional at all times — even if teams and people I’m trying to cover make my job more difficult.

Cohn sees the backlash he’s facing as a sign that fans side with authority (teams, players and coaches). I think it has more to do with fans tiring of media personalities making themselves the story. However, for many in the profession that’s how one makes a name and subsequently increases his or her earning power. Cohn’s page views are surely through the roof this week — if you’re an editor for the Press Democrat you’re probably very pleased with his recent coverage of the 49ers’ head coach.

What now?

The best part about all this? Now I can’t wait until the next Harbaugh press conference. Will Cohn ask more questions designed to get a reaction from Harbaugh? Will this lead to a kindler, gentler Harbaugh, simply so he can make life easier for himself and the Niners’ PR staff?

Probably not. Harbaugh seems pretty set in his ways, and pressure from a Santa Rosa columnist probably isn’t going to shake his resolve. He’s been pretty successful so far as a coach without playing the media game the same way Bill Walsh or even Mike Nolan did. Even if columnists offered him extra rope, knowing Harbaugh he’d probably decline.

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