Mark Cuban Pulls Credentials Of Two Human Reporters For Mavs Games To Stave Off Robot Journalist Apocalypse
from the wut? dept
I have to admit at the start of this post that I rather like Mark Cuban. Not his reality show shtick, but rather what I've seen from him in interviews and his positions. On matters of innovation and intellectual property, I've found him rather refreshing, even as we at this site have poked him on the topic of net neutrality. That admiration makes it all the more jarring when Cuban goes somewhat off the rails on unrelated matters.
For instance, Cuban, who owns the NBA's Mavericks organization, recently pulled the press credentials of two sports journalists. Due to the vacuum of explanation for the move, those that covered it were left to speculation to explain why Cuban would do something like this. That speculation amounted mostly to Cuban either punishing ESPN, the employer of both journalists, for moving Mavs beat journalists into a national coverage role and thereby decreasing the exposure of the team, or pulling an ego trip on the journalists over the type of coverage the team was receiving. The latter was a rather unfair and an all too easy potshot at Cuban, while the former didn't make a great deal of sense as one of the journalists hadn't been on the Mavs beat for at least a decade.
But when Cuban finally commented publicly on his motives, they were revealed to make even less sense, which I wouldn't have thought possible.
Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks pulled the credentials of experienced ESPN reporters Marc Stein and Tim MacMahon this weekend under mysterious circumstances. There was no obvious motive for the Mavericks to do so, and Cuban hasn’t said much to clear it up—but he broke his silence this evening. Cuban told the Associated Press he banned MacMahon and Stein to stave off the advances of the encroaching robot sportswriter horde.
Lest you think this is an unfair representation of Cuban's position, here are his comments directly from an email he wrote to the Associated Press.
“Maybe I will be wrong but I see a direct path from the trends in coverage of games we are seeing over the last couple years to the automation of reporting on games and the curation of related content,” Cuban wrote in an email to the AP. “This isn’t a knock on wire services or their reporters. They are valued and valuable in sports coverage.”
“While it may seem counterintuitive to ban someone from covering us as a way of stopping automation, it really was my only option,” Cuban said. “As is evident by the AP partnership with Automated Insights, it’s not if but when.”
To be clear, the AP does have some automated coverage being done for some sporting events, chiefly minor league baseball games for which paid press attendance doesn't really make sense. But there is not automated recaps being done of NBA games at this time and it is difficult to imagine a rabid sports fan base being satisfied with auto-recaps of the professional teams in major leagues that they so love. Whatever Cuban is really worried about, I'm struggling to understand how it can really be about robotic coverage of Mavs games.
And even if his motivations really are that simple, in what world does it make sense to remove the credentials for two human reporters to stave off SkyNET's NBA coverage?
It’s not a legitimate concern right now, and even if Cuban has decided to take a stand against automated recappers, banning two human reporters is an obtuse solution. ESPN said that they will rely on wire services for recaps of games that they don’t send reporters to, so if anything, all Cuban is really doing is ensure that Mavericks game recaps are written by a wire service, such as the AP, and not ESPN. If his bone to pick is truly with robot sportswriters, ESPN is not the institution to take it out on.
It's a sort of off-brand version of the Streisand Effect, in which you take action to stop something and, by doing so, directly encourage that something to occur. For someone generally smart, this move doesn't resonate. Regardless, I for one welcome our new robotic sports journalist overlords.