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The Mets, Carlos Beltran and the problem of media access

Mar 14, 2012, 11:03 AM EDT

Carlos Beltran Getty Images

Yesterday Adam Rubin of ESPN New York made a series of tweets regarding that flap from 2010 about Carlos Beltran not visiting Walter Reed Hospital.

You remember it: Beltran didn’t go, he had permission not to due to other charitable obligations, the team said it was OK, but then stories came out about how mad the team was at him and how selfish and awful he was.

Yesterday, Rubin defended the media’s role in all of that thusly (read from the bottom up):


When I saw it I was astounded. Astounded that Rubin seems to be saying that it’s inevitable that team smear campaigns are going to be parroted by a credulous or complicit press.  My view yesterday was that it doesn’t have to be that way. That, rather than oblige the smears by reporting them at face value, you offer context or criticism or, at the very least, identify them as the smears they are. Tell the full story rather than serve as a conduit for team sources.

Today there is a much richer take on all of this from Matthew Callan at Amazin’ Avenue. After making a similar observation I made, Callan notes how access to teams and clubhouses and stuff is part of the problem here:

The only reason I can come up with as to why this story was put out there unquestioned is because it came straight from ownership. So failing to report the “story” could not only mean getting scooped, but losing access as well. I understand that in journalism access trumps all, but what good is access if all it buys you is closer proximity to lies, half-truths, and axe-grinding? And what is a reporter’s job if not to question the “official” story? In the case of the Walter Reed incident, there was precious little reporting and a whole lot of dictation.

Journalists will tell you that there is nothing more important in the reporter’s craft than his objectivity, and I presume that their response to what Callan writes will be to say that calling out the Mets’ ownership’s official line in the story would somehow not be objective because, hey, what they said is what they said and when we reported that, it was totally true.

Seems to me, however, that such objectivity can — as it did in this case — mislead readers as to what is actually going on.  And that is way worse in my mind than reporting news with some critical skepticism towards the source of that news.

  1. Spiro Agnew - Mar 14, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    For some reason, talking about serious journalism on Twitter makes me laugh

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 14, 2012 at 11:21 AM

      Is that a ghostly laugh from your grave Spiro?

  2. stex52 - Mar 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    One more window on a completely dysfunctional ownership. So much of the portrayal of Wilpon has been of a basically decent guy in over his head with Madoff and with team ownership. But now so much suggests otherwise. Perhaps it goes on as much with other clubs, but that is pretty amazingly low class.

    • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 14, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      “Perhaps it goes on as much with other clubs”

      Followed the Red Sox much this offseason?

      • jwbiii - Mar 14, 2012 at 1:50 PM

        The Red Sox have been doing this for a long time. Nomar Garciaparra went from being the “Welcome to Boston” voice at Logan Airport to Public Enemy #1.

      • quintjs - Mar 14, 2012 at 2:34 PM

        As much as it hurts to say this, in terms of ownership throwing its own players/ officials under the bus, no one beats the Red Sox.

        As good as this current ownership has been to Fenway, and the team in general, when they don’t like something you have done, you get destroyed, no matter what good you have done.

  3. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 14, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    Glad the Wilipons can continue to be themselves. And by themselves, I mean classless meandering foolish thugs.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Mar 14, 2012 at 2:32 PM

      Team refers to more than just the owner. How about the manager? The General Manager? Any of a number of vice-presidents of something in the front office?

      Assuming it was the owner because you want it to be him doesn’t make it true.

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 14, 2012 at 2:43 PM

        To paraphrase your comment:

        Team refers to more than just the owner. How about the guy the owner hired to manage the team? Or the General Manager, who the owner hired? Any of a number of vice-presidents of something that were hired by the owner in the front office.

        Assuming the person at the top of the chain isn’t responsible for everything that happens below them is an attitude largely unique to corporate America, and it is absolutely a foolish thing to believe.

      • Alex K - Mar 14, 2012 at 3:11 PM

        BBBITO- In your example the parents of a criminal should be punished for the crimes of their child. They are the people at the top of the chain, aren’t they?

        While I think the Wilpon’s should be forced to sell the team it is unfair to hold them 100% accountable for something someone who works for them says.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 14, 2012 at 3:12 PM

        This wouldn’t be a HBT post if semantics weren’t involved. Your nitpicking is reminding me more and more about how we need the season to begin already!

  4. scatterbrian - Mar 14, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    “I understand that in journalism access trumps all, but what good is access if all it buys you is closer proximity to lies, half-truths, and axe-grinding?”

    Callan nails it right there. Rubin seems to belive his job is to simply write what he hears, but an entry-level journalism major can pull off that feat. Journalism requires investigation of information provided, not just regurgitation.

    • hammyofdoom - Mar 14, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      Hell, I’m a history major and I could do that! Silly me, I always thought journalism required a little bit of research and in-depth reporting, not simply copying and pasting from the mouth of mean spirited hags in the Mets front office.

  5. randygnyc - Mar 14, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    The real story that the “journalist” should have written at the time was how the Mets manipulated the press to smear Beltran. So unprofessional. And ultimately, who’s reputation takes the hit? Well, Beltran is happy getting paid elsewhere and there’s not a big leaguer worth having that would willingly sign with the Mets. That won’t change until the Tampon’s are forced to sell the team.

  6. IdahoMariner - Mar 14, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    I am trying to reconcile Rubin’s stance with the NY media’s standard line that they are the “toughest” media market for a player/team/star to operate in…apparently “tough” means sit on your ass and wait for ownership to feed you your story, pass it along and go back to watching nick at nite until the next spoonfed story comes your way. That WOULD be a “tough” environment to put up with, but not due to any “effort” on the part of the media.

  7. 5thbase - Mar 14, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Yet again, New York sucks. What a bunch of blowhards.

  8. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 14, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Funny that this is a defense. I would respect overly-sensational journalists far more than stooges who write exactly what their subjects tell them to write. These guys could have been given interviews by Al Capone, and they would have written about his booming furniture sales business in Chicago.

  9. forsch31 - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    I missed the whole Beltran-not-at-Walter-Reed story, but there’s an oft-repeated criticism in this thread that the journalist should have “outed” the Mets for feeding him the story.


    The idea that the Mets fed the reporter the story makes it a “half-truth” or is “running a smear campaign” completely misses the point–the story was that the Mets were not happy with Beltran for missing the trip to Walter Reed. That’s the truth of the matter, and last time I checked, the reporter is supposed to report the truth of the matter, not the dressed up PR story where everybody is happy and holding hands.

    The responsiblity of the reporter is to provide all sides of the story–present what the organization really feels and give all parties the chance to respond to it, then provide those responses in the story so that readers may make their own judgments.

    • forsch31 - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:30 PM

      Also, when a reporter writes that “sources say” in his story, what do think that is? It’s either sources the reporter built up himself or it’s somebody in the organziation authored to slip the news media the information.

      What Craig is implying is that the media created this story out of thin air and that everybody should just believe what “communications officers” and “media representives” without nary a thought. No wonder journalism is in the dumps.

  10. dickclydesdale - Mar 15, 2012 at 2:58 AM

    Beltran got paid 119 mil. if they gave you all that money would you care what the team tried to do?
    No, then shutup.

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