Baseball Writers' Ivory Tower Eroding

from the going-going-not-gone dept

As newspapers like the Rocky Mountain News shutter operations, we hear more and more stories about the supposed looming end of journalism. The latest story, from the Wall Street Journal, fortells the doom of baseball writers, one of the oldest and most powerful sportswriting press corps in the country, in an article melodramatically titled Baseball Writers Brace for the End. The Baseball Writers Association of America seems to be buckling down and preparing for the “dark clouds” that they apparently see on the horizon. However, for an organization that only recently admitted web-only reporters into its membership, it makes sense that they see the changing journalistic environment brought on by the web as something bad rather than a new opportunity. Yes, it’s expensive to send reporters on the road with teams, and yes, in these tough times, some papers are cutting their sportswriting staffs. That said, just because newspapers are cutting sportswriters, that does not mean that sportswriting itself will die. Like investigative journalism, sportswriting can certainly adapt to an online environment.

After all, it’s not the paper that makes the content better, it’s the content itself. Case in point, Yankee beat reporter Pete Abraham’s blog is religiously read by hordes of Yankee fans. If, for some reason, The Journal News were to shut down, surely Pete would be able to find an audience to support him on his own. Granted, the Yankees would have to have the foresight to continue to give him press credentials. That said, large market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are not likely to be the first victims to lose their writers. However, even in small markets, the MLB franchises themselves benefit immensely from well-written articles about their organizations. Mark Cuban pointed out last year that it is in the best interest of sports teams to keep the local coverage of their teams alive, since without it, their fans lose a vital connection to their teams. Cuban goes so far as to suggest that the teams form a “beatwriter co-operative” to fund coverage of their teams. Journalism purists may scoff at such a notion, fearing that funded reporters become merely corporate shills. But, in this era of growing transparency, anyone with a computer can easily point out if an emperor wears no clothes, so any reporter, whether on the MLB payroll or not, would think twice before squandering their hard-earned reputation on a questionable story.

That said, the costs of covering a baseball team should be plummeting. Baseball bloggers do a fine job of covering games by watching them on TV. Want an inside perspective on the game? More and more players are getting on twitter. Heck, sabermetric analysis of baseball games, popularized by Moneyball, does not even require that you ever go to a game (although, you’re missing a lot if you don’t). So, yes, even you can be a baseball writer, and perhaps that is what the BBWAA is really scared of.

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Comments on “Baseball Writers' Ivory Tower Eroding”

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Weird Harold (user link) says:

In the end, sports reporting will go down the tubes, replaced by “news by press release” processed by one central agency that will spew it back out for the local / regional news websites to carry. Eliminate the writers, eliminate the costs, why bother? All that is information can be imparted by a press release and a box score.

Death to the buggy whip sports writers, and I personally hope they take baseball with them (the national naptime)

Evil Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ll be he’s a failed lawyer/writer or something.

It’s tough for the average person to become so incredibly obtuse AND vitriolic without some contributing factor… Being a failed lawyer and a failed author would cover both of those.

We should feel sorry for WH. Likely he needs a hug and a good editor.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

tee-hee. You guys really know how to pile it on.

Here I am agreeing with a very basic premise of Masnick’s world, and you guys can’t help but go off on me anyway.

Sports reporters are the buggy whip sellers of news, guys and girls who’s entire existence is based on the most non-productive of all activities, professional sports. They are working for buggy news organizations and buggy newspapers, an irrelevant appendage of a nearly extinct old, old media empire. Would we get much less information from a press release and a box score?

Maybe it would be better to have each of the players write a few tweets as the game goes on? a press release from each team, a box score, and you are all informed about baseball, with way more insight than a guy sitting in a press box munching peanuts and sucking at the home teams teat can ever do.

It’s all buggies and buggy whips, can’t you see it?

Common Sense says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The BBWAA is just like the RIAA. What you’re basically saying here, is to let the players report on the games, or a spokesman from the team, and do away with baseball writers. That’s like saying let the artists manage their own music however they want, and do away with the RIAA.

It’s all buggies and buggy whips, can’t you see it??

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Here I am agreeing with a very basic premise of Masnick’s world, and you guys can’t help but go off on me anyway.

Sometimes, yeah, but this time, no. You’re assuming that Cuban (a dicey guy as these things go) has the right idea.

It’s not like there aren’t guys sitting around, watching games, collecting stats, and sharing them with each other.

I actually like Cuban, but he gets some basic stuff very wrong.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I don’t agree with Cuban at all, I just think the teams should issue a press release with player quotes each at the end of the game, and the league could issue a box score with each one, and the MLB website could host it all. Local media could then choose to cover it or not, right from their offices / studios without having to bother sending someone out.

Heck, because video would be part of “selling” future tickets, the team owners should be the ones paying for video to be shot and made available to the media if they need it.

Why bother sending anyone to the game? No need to do it to cover the story, especially in baseball, because there is usually no story to cover (except that the 4,000 fans in attendance fell asleep in the 6th inning and had to be woken up for the 7th inning stretch). The rest is box scores and have a nice day.

Real fans watch the games live.

Idiot says:

Re: Re:

Hoping baseball fails — dear God, I honestly hope you get hit by a bus today.

That said, I tend to agree with the post for the most part. I actually think that a conglomerate of local “reporters”, ones that have a better understanding of individual teams, their environments, and their impact and reactions by the fanbase, particularly if/when embraced by etc., would produce far better reporting than the press that travels w/the team and has to kiss their ass to get an interview.

Willton says:

Re: Re:

Nonsense. Baseball fans, and sports fans in general, will always want information that is found typically by beat writers, many of whom impart their findings on their newspaper’s internet site (I know the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does). If newspaper companies can become profitable without needing to make the actual newspaper (i.e. report news on a website), then I see no reason why the desire for sports reporting would evaporate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Quite a few people here are quite a bit like the main character in Good Will Hunting. Sure, you can read about things over the Internet, you can watch the games, but you will never know the buzz in the ballpark, the smell of the grass, the tensions that are in the clubhouse or the subtle things that you miss by not being in the ballpark.

That is what a good writer can bring to everyone else. Of course, most of those writers were and are jerk offs, but that is besides the point.

fprintf says:

Re: Re:

C’mon, no baseball game that I’ve ever been to had “tension in the clubhouse” that I could feel. I suppose you believe the Flying Spaghetti Monster is real too?!? Did his noodly appendage touch you the last time you went to a game.

As a society we spend way too much time focused on sports, and then we expect everyone else to pay up. Yankee Stadium? Financed by the taxpayer. Coach Jim Calhoun? Takes home 10% of the team revenue each year. I love sports, but I think everyone who likes ’em should fund them like we have to fund public TV/radio – you participate, you pay.

YouKnowNothing says:

Here in the Northeast, the demise of baseball writers would be a wonderful thing. The local writers are either smug A-holes (Shaugnessy and Ryan– both who continually make themselves into the story, like McDonough before them), 4th-rate hacks writing for 3rd-rate newspapers (Buckley) or ultimate jock-sniffing wannabes (Massaroti, Tomase). There’s a reason the Sports department is known as the Sandbox. They are really no different than any other “entertainment” reporters like Mario Lopez and Maria Menounous, yet somehow they think because they write about SPORTS that they shit ice cream.

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