I’ve recently gone on about how teams are taking greater control of the media message by doing their own reporting via their websites and affiliated networks and by becoming increasingly restrictive with outside media.
Well, there’s another part of this too: intensive training of players and team personnel in the ways of media relations.
Today the Wall Street Journal takes a deep look at how the Yankees handle this. About how on Day One of Yankees spring training, the first thing that is done is putting everyone though a media 101 seminar:
Through a training video and in-guest speaking sessions, media-savvy players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera give tips, beginning with the standard stuff: don’t lie, own up to your mistakes, recognize that you’re on the clock even when you take off the uniform.
Then they move to finer points: Don’t take a picture with a fan without looking at what’s written on their shirt; don’t address outside topics like politics; and never, ever, take a naked picture of yourself and send it to someone.
All wise things, of course. Especially the naked picture part. And indeed, the stuff about not lying, owning up and making oneself available is both critical to keep players out of media controversies and to make the job of the reporters easier too.
But of course, it’s not all about convenience and courteousness for the media. It’s not mentioned in the article, but I would be utterly shocked if there wasn’t a healthy bit of information passed along in these seminars about how to deflect and dodge media inquiries without seeming like a jerk. Perfecting the non-answer or coaching them about how to take uncomfortable inquiries into more comfortable ground. I mean, there’s a reason why so many interviews with Yankees players either peak with some little joke or some reference to Yankee tradition allowing only for victory and nothing else. Those are nice responses, but they also tend to be conversation enders. You can’t really go anywhere from there, and I’m guessing that’s by design.
I guess my point is that this media training, while something that is totally admirable and understandable from the club’s perspective, and in the best interests of the players, is also something that — intentionally or not — pushes us a little bit farther away from the players as people and their very human reactions to the game and that which surrounds it. Which, unless I’m wrong, is the whole reason reporters go into locker rooms to talk to guys after games. If not, we’d just ignore everything that happened after the 27th out and go home.
It’s also something that, in my view anyway, makes outside perspectives on what’s going on in the game a little more valuable and putatively inside perspectives a little less valuable.