Because it’s the longest season,
all of the participants in a team’s baseball season inevitably become
a bit clubby with each other. That isn’t limited to simply members
of the team and the coaching staff. To the contrary it applies
to the extended family, including the media, at least as it’s practiced
Everyone, for example, is used
to WTAM’s talking troll Mike Trivisonno serving as the house shill
for the city’s professional sports teams. After all, WTAM pays
huge money to each team for the privilege of carrying the games and
all manner of pre and post-game shows. Consequently, it shouldn’t
surprise anyone when Trivisonno, while interviewing infielder Josh Barfield
the other day in Winter Haven, referred to Manager Eric Wedge as “Wedgie.”
It’s how the players refer to their manager and, hey, we’re all
friends here, right? But it did serve as a reminder that the relationship
between the media and the sporting figures they cover is often more
cozy than most of us would like.
But Trivisonno isn’t a journalist.
Heck, he’s barely a broadcaster. So it’s not exactly sporting
to pick on such an easy target. But how, then, to explain it when
similar symbiosis develops not only among members of the media and the
people they cover but among media members themselves?
There are enough stories arising
out of spring training on a daily basis that would normally render the
odds of any two reporters having exactly the same feature on the same
day infinitesimal, let alone three reporters. But among the media
elite covering Cleveland, convenience, cooperation and camaraderie are
the rule. There was a time when they would be the exception.
If you are one of the dwindling
few who happen to read more than one local newspaper each day, you’ve
likely noticed this phenomenon but either didn’t make the connection
or just didn’t care. When reading the various feature stories
punched out by each newspaper’s beat reporters, one is often left
with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu all over again. But it’s
not because the same reporter is writing the same story again and again.
It’s because different reporters for different newspapers are writing
the same stories, often at the same time, again and again.
Wednesday was the most recent
but hardly the first or only example. The headline in the Plain
Dealer for a story written by beat reporter Paul Hoynes
was “C.C. Makes Pitch For Young Blacks.” Sheldon Ocker of the Akron
Beacon Journal countered with “Baseball Losing Black Kids.”
Andy Call of the Canton Repository checked in with “C.C. Wants to Do More to Boost
Baseball in Inner Cities.” The gist of each story was exactly
the same: C.C. lamenting that young blacks are gravitating toward basketball
and football and not toward baseball.
Only a fool would think it merely
a coincidence that three reporters, supposedly competing (if only via
their papers’ internet sites) would happen upon the same story on
exactly the same day. More likely, much more likely, is that sloth
and laziness has replaced drive and initiative when covering what can
often be a boring and mundane spring training. Maybe it was Hoynes
this time that happened upon Sabathia and began chatting about the issue
when Ocker happened on by. Call, seeing Hoynes and Ocker with
Sabathia maybe thought something big was happening and listened in as
well. Any other combination is just as likely as well. That’s
the nature of how these things work and the fact that whoever had Sabathia’s
ear first and let the others stay is shocking.
This is not to suggest that the
underlying story is unimportant. Indeed, if you happen upon a
little league game in nearly any suburban city (good luck finding a
little league program in the inner city), the make-up of every team
is overwhelmingly white. That may be a reflection of the lack
of diversity within the suburbs, but it’s also a reflection of the
fact that baseball does not hold the same appeal for young blacks as
it does for young whites. But Sabathia’s observations were hardly
news. They were merely the kinds of statements, as a reporter,
you hope to elicit from your subject when putting together a feature
story. It’s the kind of thing that hopefully sets your reporting
apart from the competition.
It’s important to contrast this
with the job each reporter has to cover each day’s game and the press
conference thereafter and any other hard news story. When covering
the same story, a certain sameness is inevitable. But those rules
don’t apply to feature stories. These are the kinds of interesting
sidelines that are supposed to give readers a deeper and more thorough
understanding of what is going on and why. That’s what makes
this such an odd and appalling development. It’s pretty clear
that Hoynes and Ocker in particular don’t see themselves in competition
for a story. If they did, then whoever got to Sabathia first would
have made sure that no other reporter was around when Sabathia was talking.
It would be one thing if this
was the first time this has happened. But it happens on a consistent
basis and not just with feature stories. Hoynes and Ocker, for
example, run nearly identical columns each Sunday that feature them
giving snarky answers to the legitimate questions of readers.
Clever. Cute. Derivative. You also see the same thing each
week during Browns season, the same player seemingly being the subject
of the same feature by different reporters for different newspapers
on the same day.
There are probably a million or
more reasons why newspapers are suffering, an observation noted here
before. But one of the reasons on that list should not be reporter
laziness. In some ways it seems that the Plain Dealer and the
Beacon Journal go out of there way to alienate their readers and drive
them to other sources for more information. Thankfully there are