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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Murray Chass on Sports: THERE’S A HOLE IN MLB’S MEDIA WALL

Speaking in a telephone interview, candidly explaining his modus operandi, but before these latest headlines were posted, Bob Bowman said, “I absolutely want to remind people if they want ‘At Bat’ or TV, it’s available to buy. I guess you consider that advertising as you would consider selling tickets for the World Baseball Classic. We’re reminding people how they can buy uniforms and bats. I guess that’s an advertisement, but that’s what people want to know.

“We remind people to sign up for fantasy baseball. Is that an advertisement? I guess it is. Do people want to be reminded? Yes. The WBC? You bet I’m going to sell tickets. We always promote Fan Cave and media sports. Is that advertising? I guess so.”

He paused for a moment, then took a different approach. Knowing that I used to work for The New York Times, he asked, “Does The New York Times tell you in The New York Times how to subscribe to The New York Times?”

The Times does that – not every day – and the newspaper also tells you the price of a mailed subscription for the daily newspaper and the cost of the Times Book Review and the large print weekly. However, all of that information appears at the bottom of page 2 of the paper in a 4-column by 3-inch space in agate, or 6-point type. It’s not placed on page 1 in the most noticeable spot on the page, with pictures, no less.

But I will give Bowman this much. The Internet has made the information world a different place. Old rules no longer apparently apply. Some of us in the business, however, don’t see why the new guys on the block can’t exercise the old professionalism and simply separate editorial from advertising. MLB.com’s media wall isn’t high enough.

Thanks to Mohl.

Repoz Posted: February 24, 2013 at 09:18 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business

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   1. bobm Posted: February 24, 2013 at 10:41 PM (#4375410)
FTFA:
Well, I now have aided and abetted MLB.com in its revenue-raising ventures, which I’d rather not do. When I retired from the Times in 2008, a high-ranking official offered me the opportunity to write for MLB.com. I said no, thank you. Having covered M.L.B. for many years, I felt it would have been some sort of conflict. But here I am helping their advertising.
   2. Rough Carrigan Posted: February 24, 2013 at 10:50 PM (#4375416)
How would it have been a conflict if he was no longer covering MLB for a media outlet and if he had never tried to use that media outlet work as a stepping stone to the job working for MLB?
   3. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 24, 2013 at 11:12 PM (#4375426)
How would it have been a conflict if he was no longer covering MLB for a media outlet and if he had never tried to use that media outlet work as a stepping stone to the job working for MLB?


It's possible Chass thinks that even trying to cover MLB for MLB.com is a significant conflict of interest, though the "Having covered MLB for many years..." clause would seem to imply that's not what he's going for in this passage.
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 24, 2013 at 11:16 PM (#4375428)
Some of us in the business, however, don’t see why the new guys on the block can’t exercise the old professionalism and simply separate editorial from advertising. MLB.com’s media wall isn’t high enough.


I agree. Now let me tell you about the wonderful Church of Scientology....
   5. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2013 at 11:25 PM (#4375429)
My guess is he looks at it as being similar to folks who swing from working for the regulatory agency for industry X to working as a lobbyist for industry X -- i.e. to go from covering MLB for a company "independent" of MLB (Red Sox stake aside) to working for MLB seems not quite kosher. Of course it happens all the time.

Now ...

There's a hole in MLB's media wall where all the money goes
And Murray Chass wrote for nothing I suppose ...

(with apologies to John Prine and everybody who just read that)
   6. Anonymous Observer Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:55 AM (#4375472)
Is it as big as the hole in Pedro Feliciano's heart?
   7. jyjjy Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:06 AM (#4375478)
I believe the proper interpretation of this is, "if I write for MLB they probably won't want me b1tching about steroids all the time... unacceptable."
   8. Halofan Posted: February 25, 2013 at 02:29 AM (#4375486)
Primey for the Prine lyric.
   9. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: February 25, 2013 at 03:00 AM (#4375491)
The NY Times employing Murray Chass to write for them was a bigger stain on journalism than anything MLB does advertising their products. And if MLB.com wanted to pay Murray Chass to write about baseball, that's also a bigger stain on them than hawking MLB.tv subscriptions.
   10. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 25, 2013 at 05:09 AM (#4375498)
He was just trying to seem important by playing the "conflict of interest" card, I guess. There's clearly no conflict of interest if you're working for one party and only that party, and unambiguously so. Say I was working for a newspaper as a critic, and then an orchestra wanted me to be their program annotator. First I'm working for an independent entity covering them, and then I'm working directly for them, so it might be a conflict of interest to do both jobs at once, but not in succession.
   11. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 25, 2013 at 07:02 AM (#4375505)
MLB.com’s media wall isn’t high enough.

Agreed. They should really keep sad, little, angry bloggers out.
   12. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: February 25, 2013 at 07:06 AM (#4375506)
Some of us in the business

I thought blogging was a hobby.
   13. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: February 25, 2013 at 09:31 AM (#4375535)
He was just trying to seem important by playing the "conflict of interest" card, I guess. There's clearly no conflict of interest if you're working for one party and only that party, and unambiguously so. Say I was working for a newspaper as a critic, and then an orchestra wanted me to be their program annotator. First I'm working for an independent entity covering them, and then I'm working directly for them, so it might be a conflict of interest to do both jobs at once, but not in succession.


That does create at the very least the appearance of something a bit more untoward. If you were interviewing to work for the orchestra while writing reviews about the orchestra your independence would be in question.

I think Murray is a little too worked up here though. It's not like MLB.com was acting as an independent authority on the subject. In theory any article written on MLB.com about baseball qualifies as an ad since that is the product they make their money on. The blurring of the line between ad and news is one that is troubling but I also think that we as consumers have an obligation to be able to recognize that an article on MLB.com is likely to portray MLB in the best possible light. This isn't a secondary relationship (such as the NYT and the Red Sox used to have) where the relationship wouldn't be obvious.
   14. The Fallen Reputation of Billy Jo Robidoux Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:05 AM (#4375572)
They should really keep sad, little, angry bloggers out.


Mr. Commissioner, BUILD UP THIS WALL.
   15. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:16 AM (#4375579)


That does create at the very least the appearance of something a bit more untoward. If you were interviewing to work for the orchestra while writing reviews about the orchestra your independence would be in question.


Beyond that, it suggests that one might have been writing your reviews in such a way so as to make yourself more attractive to the orchestra down the road.
   16. SoSH U at work Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:26 AM (#4375585)
There's an inherent conflict in MLB.com, in that it's covering the industry that's supporting it. If an MLB.com reporter discovers proof that the owners colluded against Barry Bonds, what happens? Now, there's potential conflict for every newsgathering organization, depending on the situation. It just happens to be much more obvious and unavoidable with MLB.com.

However, as Vaux notes, that really has nothing to do with Murray Chass (other than his own internal conflict, which matters to no one but Murray). As long as he's only working for that site, and not also getting a paycheck from somewhere else, then there's simply no conflict involving that employment, which thankfully didn't materialize (and I doubt anyone is happier about that than the folks at MLB.com).

   17. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:37 AM (#4375597)
Some years back (damn, I guess it'll be seven come May) I worked for MLB.com as an "associate reporter." Read: intern. I was sent to Cleveland to help cover the Indians.

Before the internship started, one of my many, many, many bosses held a conference call with all the interns. At one point, an intern spoke up and asked how balanced and objective the reporting was supposed to be, considering the unique relationship between the journalistic outlet and the people it was covering.

My boss said it was a fine question, then laid out the standard they used. If you imagined the objectivity of reporting on a 1-10 scale, with one being straight PR work, 10 being a miserable, Baylessian, "everything sucks everywhere" approach and five being right-down-the-middle, perfectly fair, just-the-facts-ma'am reporting, the stuff we wrote for MLB.com should be a four. Maybe a three at certain moments.

Some MLB.com writers handle their situations very well. My old supervisor in Cleveland, Anthony Castrovince, is, to my mind, an excellent, compelling writer who's able to convey the (often negative) reality of a situation quite well. On the other hand, MLB.com's Braves' beat writer, Mark Bowman, is, to my mind, a mere mouthpiece for the organization, not to mention a piss-poor writer.

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