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What to make of beat reporters stumping for players they cover come award season

Oct 1, 2012, 2:19 PM EDT

press hat

I wondered about this on Twitter earlier and figured I’d expand on it a little more here.

As the season winds down we’re seeing tons of articles touting various players for various awards and there’s often a location-based angle. Beat writers in Detroit think Miguel Cabrera should be the MVP. Beat writers in Baltimore think Jim Johnson should get some Cy Young attention. Beat writers in Dallas think Ron Washington should get more Manager of the Year consideration.

And on and on and on. You get the idea.

To be clear I’m not necessarily even saying it’s a bad thing, let alone trying to accuse anyone of something serious, but it just got me wondering about what is now the very common practice of beat reporters publicly stumping for players and managers they cover to get award consideration (and, earlier in the season, All-Star consideration).

At this point no one seems to give it a second thought in the baseball world and the same is probably true of other sports too, but do reporters on non-sports beats do anything similar? I’m asking that as an honest question, because I truly have no idea. And before you shout out “FOX News” or “MSNBC” or the like, keep in mind that I’m talking specifically about reporters covering a beat as journalists. Not critics or talking heads or columnists or anything except beat reporters.

It’s probably worth noting that in baseball the beat reporters are the people who actually vote on most major awards, which in itself is uncommon relative to other areas of coverage. In some cases media outlets have banned their reporters from participating in award voting, which is a whole different but perhaps related issue.

And it’s also probably worth noting that “stumping” could be viewed as merely “awareness raising” in the sense that, say, a beat reporter who covers the Pirates every day may feel that those who don’t cover Andrew McCutchen on a daily basis and might not pay a ton of attention to the Pirates in general could allow his great season to get somewhat lost in the shuffle. So, again, I’m not necessarily even saying it’s a negative thing.

Still, when trying to imagine reporters on tradition non-sports news beats–crime or schools or local government or whatever–touting someone or something they cover for awards and recognition … well, the whole notion seems odd. Or am I wrong about that?

  1. blacksables - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    How is this any different than bloggers touting their favorite to what is in some cases a bigger audience?

    • nygiantstones - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:36 PM

      Aren’t journalists supposed to be objective and bloggers are subjective? I guess journalist is a loose term for people that write about sports, but I think a lot of local sports writers do a decent job of being objective, in spite of the chance of being frozen out by the local sports teams if they are criticizing the local team.

    • amandamartino - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      Because the nature of a blogger’s job is different. Bloggers aren’t with the team day in and day out reporting facts from the clubhouse; they’re offering opinions and commentary (by and large; it’s possible there are bloggers out there that are beat reporters; I can’t think of any offhand, though). Beat reporters are covering the facts only and are largely expected to be impartial while doing so.

    • pmcenroe - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      I guess one difference would be two of those beat writters from each market actually get a vote

  2. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    1. Objectivity in reporting is so rare these days it would probably make more sense to report when it does happen

    2. I do see this in many non-sports reports. A neighborhood paper might advocate for additional police patrols in its own neighborhood. Or brag about local schools accomplishments. National papers frequently report US statistics relative to those of other countries. Perhaps not with the same force as an advocate, but certainly to make a statement about relative merits

    • thefalcon123 - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:58 PM

      I think the is a question as to whether reporting was ever objective. Two of our most famous reporters, Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, took a clear stance on the issues of McCarthyism and Vietnam respectively. Another huge problem comes with attempting to be objective on an issue and give each side equal air time when one side is clearly bonkers. Does the anti-vaccine crowd really deserve to air time to question every vaccine because on a scientifically debunked study? Ditto global warming deniers. If 95% of scientists say it’s do to man-made greenhouse gases, why should the other 5% get half the air time?

      My problem is less with objectivity and more with propagandizing, and *this* is what I feel people get confused when discussing objectivity in the media. I have no problems taking a stand on an issue, I do have a problem with an Ed Shultz or Sean Hannity pushing forth an agenda while clearly ignoring and distorting facts that may hurt their point of view.

      And since this is a baseball blog, just change the name of each issue to a player and each reporter into a baseball writer.

  3. blabidibla - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Beat reporters write from the perspective that their team is the most important story. That’s their job. They get eyeballs from the fans of their team, and eyeballs keep them employed.

    I don’t see a problem.

  4. atworkident - Oct 1, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    Jim Johnson has 50 saves, but shouldn’t the Cy Young go to someone on a winning team?

    • rooney24 - Oct 1, 2012 at 6:21 PM

      Checked the standings lately?

    • Bryz - Oct 1, 2012 at 6:56 PM

      Where’s Jon Heyman to tell us that the Orioles having a winning season isn’t getting enough press?

  5. baseballisboring - Oct 1, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    I’m fine with it as long as they’re being objective. If they’re trying to create a narrative for a certain player because they want to see their favorite story win then that’s just incredibly annoying. But if you really believe a guy that you cover should win, and you feel that way for the right reasons then I don’t see anything wrong with lobbying for him. Most people want to see the most deserving guy win.

  6. Lukehart80 - Oct 1, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    For me the issue isn’t that they might stump for the local guy, it’s that they might have a vote on the award itself.

  7. philliesblow - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Right or wrong, it’s self-preservation. Newspapers are dying so writing about the local player possibly getting snubbed will drive sales (or page views).

  8. jayscarpa - Oct 1, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    You see it in elections and on the cable shows. Viewers will tend to watch what they already believe and networks are happy to oblige. Straight news is more impartial

    It’s hard to fault a writer who watches a player everyday for being more impressed by that player. If some of the Cabrera supporters saw rout every day they might change their minds and vice versa.

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