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When is it OK to report what goes on in the clubhouse?

Mar 2, 2011, 8:15 AM EDT

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Getty Images

That’s the question a staff writer for the Dayton Daily News asks in the wake of that Jonny Gomes/Adam Wainwright thing:

When do the media go too far? Is every nanosecond of every day fair game for anyone who we christen as a public figure? As a reader, do you even want to know that kind of fodder?

Or are we somehow smarter for daring to report how few others do? As a reader, does that take you to the moment in a more intimate and revealing way that you appreciate more?

Just what are the media rules to play by?

I suppose these are interesting questions — and walking around clubhouses for the last week has me thinking about what’s cool and what isn’t cool to pass along — but they seem a bit presumptuous coming from the Dayton Daily News in the wake of the Gomes thing.

Because the way this seems to be shaking out is that this wasn’t a controversy borne of a reporter reporting what he heard in the clubhouse and people subsequently wondering if it was OK for him to have done so.  It was a case of a reporter misreporting what went on in the clubhouse. Really: there were other reporters around when that Gomes thing went down, and they have different stories than McCoy.

There’s a saying that hard cases make bad law. Given the lack of clarity on the fact itself, the Gomes thing seems like a bad example to use to answer the question poised in the headline. It’s just too messy.  It would be better if the stuff passed along from the clubhouse unequivocally and undeniably happened as it was reported. Then we could have a discussion about whether it was kosher to have so reported it.

Accuracy aside, here’s my only thought on it at the moment: the clubhouse is generally open to reporters for an hour or so, several hours before game time.  If the clubhouse is such a sanctuary — and maybe it should be — why open it to reporters at all?  By making it off limits most of the time, aren’t clubs strongly implying that there is a private time and a semi-public time and that, if they wanted to, they could make it all-private all the time?

But they didn’t. They have chosen to open it to people whose job it is to report what they see that they deem to be newsworthy to their readership.  In light of this it strikes me odd that we would be forced to rely on some amorphous and unwritten rule of clubhouse reporting to take care of this stuff.  Either a space is open to the media for all the good and ill that may lead to, or it’s not.  For now it is open, at least for a little while, each day.

If I waltz into the Athletics’ clubhouse later this morning and hear or see something I think is newsworthy, I’m going to be hard pressed not to pass it along. I’ll make sure I’m positive that what I’m seeing or hearing is what I think I’m seeing or hearing, but really: if you let me in your room — and teams still have total control over who they let in their room — why shouldn’t I be allowed to talk about what I see?

  1. yankeesfanlen - Mar 2, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    C’mon, nobody’s doing a Woodward/Bernstein “looking for trouble to save the country” thing here. If a reporter sees, or thinks he sees, something that might interest his readership, let him do it, it’ll be a small part of a long season.
    Craig Calcaterra, is you see any booger fights in the A’s clubhouse, I expect you to report them thoroughly and graphically for our delectation. A regular Jim Bouton thing that shakes the establishment to it’s core.

  2. thebrettman - Mar 2, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Can you enlighten me — is it a clubhouse rule or an MLB rule allowing reporters in?

    Regardless of whose rule it is, if it’s open, you should be able to report on it. The players know the rules, and should be careful about what they do/say when the reporters are in.

    • fatcatt - Mar 2, 2011 at 10:27 PM

      I agree. If its out in the open. fair game. Unfortunately there are alot of unscropulous reporters out there looking for all the glory and dont care if they cause problems.. But when it comes to the personal stuff,spouse, kids, family, ones self even, the reporting goes to far. Because thats when they should be treated like a human being, And anybodys personal life is nobody else’s business no matter who you are or whos paying you.

  3. bigtrav425 - Mar 2, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Its never ok to report whats going on inside the clubhouse unless someone is murdering someone or something of that nature.I DO NOT care what goes on inside there,thats the players time to relax,have fun etc etc.Thats the teams/players time and space.I hate TMZ and Paparazzi and if you start reporting on that stuff then you will be no better then them.i could care less what they do outside of the stadium as well.Let them be and have lives i only care about what they do on the field as long as they are not murdering,raping or molesting anyone…

    • IdahoMariner - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:19 PM

      paparazzi follows celebrities around all of the time — including time they aren’t at work, just doing regular things the rest of us do. if the teams let the reporters in for a set time, the players should be smart enough to understand that it might be reported. that is what the time is for — the teams WANT the publicity and stories…they are just hoping their players are smart enough to be cool for that time. the “players time and space” is when the clubhouse ISN’T open to the reporters.

      • cshearing - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        Just because paparazzi follow people all the time does not make it right. We need to get over this obsession with what other people are doing, and actually have lives of our own.

        Unless what is seen pertains to baseball, I would hope a baseball reporter would skip it. I realize that I might be in the minority here, but I really despise all this TMZ era of “journalism”.

  4. Detroit Michael - Mar 2, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    If a player knows a media representative is present and does not expressly agree with the reporter that something is off the record, then it is fair to report it.

    Granting a player more privacy about what goes on in the clubhouse than that may be of interest to players, but not to your readers, Craig.

  5. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Mar 2, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    I NEED to know which players like cake more than pie. So if you have to tear Frenchie’s sandwich from his hands while he’s quietly eating in the corner of the clubhouse to get an answer, well then that’s what you gotta do. Although, in this case, we all know Frenchie likes cake, french ones with extra frills.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 2, 2011 at 11:16 AM

      Okay…that’s just damn weird. This makes about 4 or 5 times recently that I’ve read a comment from you about cake—and then a Cake song comes on the radio.

      And the Cakesters of America fully accept one Jeff “Frenchie” Francoeur into the roles—or is it rolls?—of our membership, regardless of professional ability. We are an equal opportunity fake organization. Besides, way back in French(ie) history, some chick named Marie was attributed with (in best History of the World, Part I, accent) “Let zem et cake.”

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Mar 2, 2011 at 5:47 PM

        I write all cake-related comments to rile you and specifically you………………………homeslice.

  6. sportsdrenched - Mar 2, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I don’t really care about the TMZ stuff. But part of being a player is the increased public scrutiny. I don’t care whose rule it is. The Club House being open to reporters is part of the deal in playing MLB.

    Save stuff you don’t want out in the public for more private time.

  7. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 2, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Here’s a shocking question, why didn’t the reporter ask Gomes directly for some clarification? Even if he was stonewalled, he could have called the manager/pr person and stated “I’m planning on running a story saying Gomes cheered when he heard Wainwright was hurt. Any comments?”

    I’m sure it would have been cleared up asap.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:36 PM

      Because he didn’t actually know what Gomes was singing about when he first heard it. It wasn’t until he talked to Dusty Baker that he realized what happened. Gomes sang what he sang. Everyone knows it. Hal McCoy is a hall of fame writer for a reason…he’s good at what he does. Gomes is a pussy for a reason…because after the furor came out about what he was singing, he backtracked and pussied out. Anybody who believes differently has their head in the sand. All those who claim they “didn’t hear what Gomes said” haven’t actually refuted Hal’s story. They are just saying they “didn’t hear it”. They are as much a bunch of pussies as Gomes is.

  8. pwf207 - Mar 2, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Can we please drop the charade that the people who cover sports professionally are engaging in journalism? obviously this is an over generalization and should mostly apply to beat writers and after the facts analysts are definitely excluded but here are the Principles of Journalism from the so titled book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, which after four years of research was published to give standards and principles to the profession.

    1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
    2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
    3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
    4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
    5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
    6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
    7. It must strive to make the news significant, interesting, and relevant.
    8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
    9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

    In the April 2007 edition of the book, they added the last element, the rights and responsibilities of citizens to make it a total of ten elements of journalism.

    This is NOT what sports “journalism” is in large parts, it is better classified as entertainment. and considering that sports are also entertainment, and have revenues in the billions as such, it is not at all surprising that other similar entertainment business models obtained. anyone paying for access, whether expressly in the case of broadcasting partners (note the word partner) or indirectly through agreeing to limited access like only one hour in the locker room will have a very difficult time abiding by the principles of journalism.

    • pwf207 - Mar 2, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      in case it’s not obvious, my conclusion from the above is it’s all fair game. if you live by the sword of entertainment, you can also die by it.

  9. macjacmccoy - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    I dont agree I think the teams open up the clubhouse for interviews. So the media has a chance to talk to all the guys not just the popular ones who get the press conferences. They should only be reporting on what is said to them not what they over hear. Because when they report on things they over hear they are making it out to be like that is how the guys are in there own element. Which isnt the truth because like you pointed out most of the time the media isnt allowed in so when they are in there its not the normal clubhouse envirorment. The scene the reporters are trying to set by reporting on the things they over hear, like thats just how the players are when they have time to there self isnt true bc its not a normal clubhouse situation bc the cameras and reporters are there. So instead of giving them the freedom to try to convey that something is happening that really isnt they should be strictly told that when the clubhouse is open it is only for interviews and nothing else and if they cant abided by those rules they cant come in. Dont get me wrong I dont blame the writers they are just doing what they do. You cant blame them for reporting something if they havent been told that they cant report it. I think they should use better judgement then they do most of the time but pushing the limit to see what you can get away with is just human nature. It doesnt need to be so complicated the teams should tell them whats allowed so the reporters dont have to worry about if reporting something is the right or wrong thing to do.

  10. dickclydesdale - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Gomes is a panocha!

    • cur68 - Mar 2, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      that the same as a chipwich? Sorry to ask but I’m in a heavy debate with Darth chrisny3 and research time is scarce.

  11. xmatt0926x - Mar 2, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    There’s probably not a black and white clear answer to this, but my generalization would be to say that gossipy types of things or players making off the cuff remarks within the clubhouse are assumed to be off limits unless the player says it’s ok. I really don’t care either way but if someone held a gun to my head I’d say that the Gomes song should have been off the record and passed over as just a young guy being a young guy doing stupid things that aren’t necessarily newsworthy. I obviously have no idea how these things work but I think the media is given a certain part of each day to gather and do their thing. Could they just take a general approach that anything that happens outside of that hour or so is generally to be considered off the record unless you specifically ask the player if he cares whether or not you report it? This is assuming that it’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t jump out as a major story like finding out about an injury or something like that which directly affects the team. That kind of stuff would be on the record at all times.But if it’s just a bunch of players spouting off and its not media hour then it’s off the record unless you ask. Not knowing how these things work, thats how I’d approach it.

  12. rapmusicmademedoit - Mar 2, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    The only thing I would tell a reporter is ” hey dude, smell that” right after I ripped a good one.

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