MLB.com Writers Told They Can Only Tweet About Baseball

from the twitter-failure dept

It's no secret that MLB.com, the online wing of Major League Baseball, is a bit of a control freak at times. It fought a long battle claiming to own the "facts" of a baseball game -- which it eventually lost. It's falsely taken down videos that were clearly fair use. Worst of all, it issued rules on how independent reporters could report on games. We're still amazed that any self-respecting newspaper would agree to such rules -- though, to be fair, it appears that MLB has not chosen to enforce many of those rules.

Of course, in this day and age, with social media making it easier and easier for anyone to communicate with anyone else, trying to overly aggressively control messages has proven to be a bit more difficult -- and, for the most part, that's probably a good thing. Last year, we had a story about baseball beat reporters using social media to build up a strong community, and build a really strong relationship with fans. Part of the reason why this worked was because those reporters talked about more than just baseball. Some of my favorite baseball reporters also talk about things like music, movies and TV shows, which makes them a lot more interesting and human. It's part of building a connection with a community, which is a necessity these days.

So it's disappointing to see that Major League Baseball appears to have gone way overboard in its new Twitter guidelines for MLB.com reporters (sent in by many, but first by Scott Crawford). Now, we've already seen other sports leagues, like the NBA and the NFL issue Twitter guidelines for players and officials. While those sometimes seem to go way overboard (such as fining a player for Tweeting a happy message after winning), you can understand the basic premise behind the plan. Of course, some players obviously have decided not to pay much attention to the official policies.

In this case, Major League Baseball apparently also sent out some "guidelines," to both players and MLB.com reporters. Many are guessing that this is in response to a former major league player, Mike Bacsik, who got fired from his radio job after Tweeting a racist remark. It might also be in response to Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and his Twitter account, which has been known to make news as well. Apparently, the guidelines for players are more or less common sense. However, it's a bit trickier with MLB.com writers.

What makes it tricky is that MLB.com has a pretty large staff of reporters itself. And while there were concerns early on that they wouldn't be independent enough, their coverage has actually been quite good and in many cases the equivalent of newspaper beat reporters. And many have built up followings on their own. For example, I've followed MLB.com reporter Bryan Hoch on Twitter for a while. Part of the reason I follow him was due to some very amusing discussions last year about his movie-watching habits (or lack thereof -- he hasn't seen many "classics").

But, apparently, that sort of thing won't be allowed any more. Supposedly, the word from on high from Major League Baseball is that all MLB.com reporters may only use Twitter to talk about baseball. All other topics are strictly forbidden. This seems likely to do a lot more harm than good. It takes away many of the reasons why people like following certain reporters, and takes away the connections they build up with fans. It's a symptom of an old way of thinking: once someone (anyone) does something "bad" with a tool, ban all other uses, even if there are many good things. It's an idea that is doomed to fail.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 6:03am

    Only slightly on topic...

    "It might also be in response to Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and his Twitter account, which has been known to make news as well."

    For all of my friends outside of Chicago, I urge you as strongly as possible to follow Ozzie's Twitter account. Not because of any baseball insight. It's just that he's absolutely insane, without an internal filtering mechanism, and it's one of the most entertaining follows you could have on Twitter....

     

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  2.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 6:55am

    "MLB.com has a pretty large staff of reporters itself"

    When a corporation hires a reporter to report on corporate news, he or she is no longer a reporter. It does not matter how real the illusion of independence appear, the "reporter" is actually a press agent or a marketing person.

     

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  3.  
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    ReallyEvilCanine, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:01am

    During work hours, sure.

    And from the work account, fine. Outside of that even the current SCotUS would tell MLB to fuck off.

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    "When a corporation hires a reporter to report on corporate news, he or she is no longer a reporter. It does not matter how real the illusion of independence appear, the "reporter" is actually a press agent or a marketing person."

    That's my impression as well, although I seem to remember Mike disagreeing in the past.

    The more interesting question to me is what kind of rights of restriction MLB should/can have on reporting in this type of situation. Certainly the MLB is a private company, though I believe some of their teams are not. Also, several stadiums are either owned by local govts/park districts or else are afforded public funds due to things like landmark statuses. Finally, anti-trust exemption status can muddy the waters on how much people think they should do as well.

    I guess my point is that it's messy. I don't want to see responses like, "They're a private company, they can do what they want!", because it just isn't that simple....

     

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  5.  
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    dean collins, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:28am

    MLB

    lol the irony - let them know they can come to http://www.LiveBaseballChat.com and chat about anything they like during the games :P

     

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  6.  
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    Don't Kid Yourself, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:46am

    Re: During work hours, sure.

    As long as the SCotUS is only required to pass things 5-4, don't kid yourself that they would "tell MLB to fuck off". They're as bought out as the rest of Washington. The only difference is they can sit on their money, not put it in a campaign coffer.

     

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  7.  
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    Pixelation, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:47am

    Out of touch

    It's the type of reaction you get when management/ ownership is out of touch. Throw out the baby with the bath water. It will hurt them in the long run.

     

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  8.  
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    Danny (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    Three strikes and yur out!

    It seems to me that it is perfectly legitimate for MLB to offer to trade privileged access or benefits in exchange for consideration of their own set of rules. It is a straightforward contractual arrangement that is potentially beneficial for both sides.

    If MLB does this, then reporters can decide whether to accept the contractual offer, try to negotiate their own deal, or reject the offer and report independent of any such rules (and privileges.)

    MLB, had they a sense of humor, might install a three strike rule for those engaged in the contractual arrangement.

     

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  9.  
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    Jason Harper, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 8:24am

    Reporters Are Not Athletes

    You can argue that these reporters work for MLB.com and basically have to obey the company if they want a paycheck, but I don't think you can argue this is a good business move for MLB.com.

    Plus, just as TV and radio commentators know they can't just say anything during a live broadcast, professional reporters understand that what they write online goes to the entire world. If a reporter decides to do something that will jeopardize his career, there's nothing anyone, really, can do about it. Most journalists are smarter -- and saner -- than that.

     

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  10.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 28th, 2010 @ 8:59am

    Re: Reporters Are Not Athletes

    "Plus, just as TV and radio commentators know they can't just say anything during a live broadcast, professional reporters understand that what they write online goes to the entire world. If a reporter decides to do something that will jeopardize his career, there's nothing anyone, really, can do about it. Most journalists are smarter -- and saner -- than that."

    Ah, but interestingly, some of the BEST commentators do exactly that, and if they're good they end up working elsewhere anyway. Case in point was Steve Stone. He got fired from the Cubs broadcasting booth for essentially lambasting the team and its manager for being a bunch of pudwacks. A few years later and he is now the color commentator for the Chicago White Sox, a team with far more integrity (at least prior to the Cubs' sale to the Ricketts family)....

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    "Supposedly, the word from on high from Major League Baseball is that all MLB.com reporters may only use Twitter to talk about baseball."

    I think this definitely violates free speech.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:30am

    Re:

    As soon as MLB is recognized as part of the US government I totally agree. Until then it is just shortsighted company policy.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 10:43am

    Off topic a bit...

    A bit off topic, but questionable decisions at MLB.com is nothing new.

    Their website forces an autoplay of video commercials with sound when you first visit the site.

    They've botched MLB.TV (run by MLB.com) opening day this year and last. This year, a ton of folks couldn't access any games AT ALL. No apology no nothing.

    I actually cancelled my subscription to MLB.TV, told them nicely how disappointed I was and got NOTHING back except for a cancellation notice.

    Despite the cancellation notice, the credit was never issued. Called, talked to a nice guy and he basically said, I know - sorry man type of thing. Gave me an a way to send up some suggestions. I did - took about an hour to write up my suggestions and again very nicely just highlighted the non-end user focus of their service. I got back a canned letter than had NOTHING to do with my letter.

    In short, their attitude is one of absolute arrogance towards the end-user - both in the services they provide and the support for them. If they have this much arrogance towards a buying consumer, God help anyone else they deal with.

    My time is valuable (although spending it typing this might question that!), and everyday I wonder more and more why I bother to spend it following my home team. If MLB doesn't care about the end-user, the reporters, and so on ... why anybody would bother to continue supporting the game is beyond me. You can only live on it is a national pastime for so long.

     

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  14.  
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    Scott Crawford, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 11:31am

    An update from Aaron Gleeman...

    Posted this morning:

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/04/mlb-denies-twitter-crackdown-but-facts-say-oth erwise.html.php

    This is getting interesting. Paging Barbara Streisand...

    -S

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Re:

    " "Supposedly, the word from on high from Major League Baseball is that all MLB.com reporters may only use Twitter to talk about baseball."

    I think this definitely violates free speech."

    The 1st amendment only protects speech from the government (or government agents) limiting speech. It is NOT a violation of the Constitution for private actors (people or corporations) to limit speech.

     

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  16.  
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    Krusty, May 14th, 2010 @ 6:31am

    Baseball?

    This baseball you speak of... it does what?

     

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