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.