XM MLB Chat

Saturday, June 11, 2011

'Now newspapers need the teams for their circulation.' WSJ

6/10/11, WSJ, "Let's be clear: This is not a Woe Is Us story. Access is hardly a reporter's entitlement, unless the assignment is the White House or City Hall. Even then, the willingness to wait out a story is a compulsory part of the job. Imagine, too, the view of an athlete, not yet showered and still absorbing a blown save or a missed shot, confronted by a swarm of notepads and microphones and pressed to answer the brain-numbing question: How do you feel?

"What do they expect you to say to that?" asks LaTroy Hawkins, a veteran relief pitcher. "And could they let you get your pants on?"

The relationship between athletes and the press, over generations, has been knotted by distrust. Michael Jordan tangled with reporters. So did Ted Williams. Steve Carlton boycotted them altogether. But beneath the antagonism there was an unwritten code that allowed for small accommodations. We didn't hear much about Mickey Mantle's boozing, but Leo Durocher played cards with reporters during train travel. I saw Billy Martin after road games joined by a cadre of drinking buddies among the press.

For many athletes, the terms of the code were breached in a single moment in 1998 when a reporter spied a bottle of androstenedione in Mark McGwire's locker. "Players remember this," says Hawkins, now with the Brewers. Today, athletes can't even finish a thought before someone camped by their locker posts it to Twitter.

Athletes are bound by league rules to be available to reporters, but not all comply. When they do talk, they slide easily into the abridged remark—or save their breath for Twitter. By the time he announced his retirement, Shaquille O'Neal had nearly four million followers.

There is no serious talk of booting reporters from locker rooms, but leagues are finding ways to reach the fans directly. Major League Baseball's 30 teams, for instance, have a combined 18 million followers on their Facebook pages. The Washington Redskins, like many teams, employs reporters who work for the team's website. "There's been a tremendous transformation," says Sam Smith, who has covered the Chicago Bulls for 25 years, first for the Chicago Tribune and now for Bulls.com. Whereas teams once needed traditional media, he says, "now

  • newspapers need the teams for their circulation."...

Reporters don't fly on team planes anymore. Many don't stay at team hotels. Baseball writers are no longer allowed next to the batting cage during batting practice. It's not hard to imagine the day when U.S. teams mimic European soccer and cut locker-room access entirely.

Not long ago, I found myself at Yankee Stadium standing in the middle of the Yankees logo woven into the dark blue carpeting of the clubhouse. With the exception of the stray player, 30 or so reporters had no one to talk to besides themselves. The Yankee players are able to dress in an area that is off limits to the media. Turns out I was waiting in what amounts to a mannequin clubhouse....

In the end, no matter what becomes of this American tradition, it's probably time to start asking if all this standing around amounts to loitering and is worth the strain it puts on the relationship between press and players. It's not clear that either side derives much from the transaction.

"There's something we ought to remember," says Robertson of the Herald. "These guys are not notable for their oratory. They're notable for how beautifully they perform as athletes.""

  • 6/10/11, "It's Time for the Sportswriters to Go," WSJ, Craig Wolff, "U.S. Media Sees Locker-Room Access as a Birthright, but It's Getting Harder to See the Point"
  • ---------------------------

Baseball reporters work best as stenographers for MLB team owners or management. In the case of the Yankees, they use reporters to publicize negative material about the team's own players. Other teams may do this, but the Yankees really like doing it. Or teams may use the guys to put out info to correct rumors or create new ones. ed.

""They wanted it to look, in the more heated parts of this, as though Jeter was the greedy one. They were twitchy to get out there what they said Jeter wanted,
that Jeter wanted $23 million or $24 million a year, whatever the Yankees said he was asking for.
  • Not just delighted. Thrilled.
They thought it made them look good. But you know who has always made them look good? Jeter has.

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