Comment of the Day: some journalism deep-think

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Gleeman and I were chatting a while ago about why the news is so damn slow lately. We basically think it’s all about the lack of pennant races. If there were more races, more attention would be paid and national outlets would be sending their guys to big important series that, this year, aren’t happening.  Moreover, the multi-sport outlets and reporters are devoting themselves almost exclusively to football, treating it as a long lost lover that has finally returned.

I get it.  Kind of sucks if your job is reading and riffing on baseball news, but it happens. It’s just important that we use our downtime wisely and do things like contemplate our existence in the world. As a resident of a shantytown on the outskirts of Media City, my existence is more or less the world of journalism, so I contemplate it.

Which leads me to this comment from reader MKD. It came in the MVP thread, in which the notion of a journalist’s subjectivity was on the table.  I think there’s a lot of truth here:

When it comes to the history of journalism, I think we will look back on the period between the emergence monopoly newspapers (one paper per city) and the emergence of the internet as a peculiar time when people believed that “objectivity” was possible in news.

As it turned out, there were a million subjective biases being coded into “objective” news stories, but we never noticed them because our sources were so limited. With the explosion of the internet we’ve been forced to recognize that no matter how hard you try you cannot squeeze subjectivity out of reporting and so journalists have returned to their roots- coupling facts with analysis and opinion. I for one applaud the new willingness to acknowledge that objective news in an unattainable ideal. Long live debate!

Back when cities had a ton of papers, those papers felt more free to offer opinion, often sharp opinion in a way that allowed them to shape the news of the day in ways that late 20th Century media shied away from in the name of objectivity. The idea of “a paper of record” would have been nonsensical 100 years ago, but not in, say 1980.  Of course, that approach also led to a lot of misinformation being put out there too, which was the yin to the yang of all of that hard-nosed opinion-based stuff.

As MKD notes, the media world now is moving closer to the old model. It’s not the same — no Charles Foster Kane is going to be able to come along and tell people what to think in the Internet age — but the idea that news is not always about putative objectivity is becoming a fact of life. And I think this is good. Obviously not to the extent it leads to misinformation — we have to stamp that out that stuff — but it is good if context and informed opinion accompany the accurate facts.

I grow very tired of reading an article about politics in which 987 people believe X to be the case and 13 loons believe Y to be the case and the reporter — in the name of objectivity –says “there is disagreement, however.”  Fine. There’s disagreement. But put it in context and, even if your story is not on the op-ed page, feel free to call a loon a loon. Or if that’s too much, at least provide facts which put lie to what those 13 loons are saying. If you fail to do that you’ve distorted the matter even more. All in the name of objectivity! Blah.

It’s less stark in sports — I think sportswriters do a way better job of calling out BS in straight news stories, possibly because the stakes are seen to be lower — but I think there’s room for a lot more of it.  If the coach says something that’s nuts, it’s nice if the insane nature of his comment is pointed out soon after it’s quoted rather than to wait until the columnist takes up the matter two days later.

Anyway, the Internet age is moving us more in that direction. And, though there are risks that must be managed as the media becomes more and more dispersed, I think the risks are worth it. And I think it gives readers a much better product overall.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.

The Braves are banning outside food. And they’re probably lying about why they’re doing it.

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Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t realize: there are a lot of ballparks that allow you to bring in outside food.

Not all of them, but a lot do. They don’t publicize it, obviously, because they want you to buy their expensive food, but if you go to the concessions policy page on most team’s websites, you can get the scoop. It often lists “soft-sided coolers” under “permitted items,” which is code for “yes, you can bring your own food in.” Some may specifically limit THAT to sealed plastic water bottles, but for the most part, if you can bring soft-sided coolers into the park, that means it’s OK to bring in grandma’s potato salad and a few sandwiches. They may check your coolers, of course, to make sure you’re not bringing in alcohol or whatever.

The Atlanta Braves have always allowed food into the ballpark. But thats going to change in shiny new Sun Trust Park. The AJC reports that the Braves have announced a new policy via which ticket holders will not be allowed to bring in outside food. Exceptions will be made for infant food and for special dietary restriction items.

Which, OK, it’s their park and their rules. If they want to cut out the PB&J for junior and force you to buy him a $9 “kids pack” — or if they want you to forego grandma’s potato salad to buy that pork chop sandwich we mentioned yesterday — that’s their choice. Everything else about the Braves new stadium has been about extracting money from fans, so why not the concessions policy too?

My beef with this is less about the policy. It’s about their stated reason for it:

The changes are a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league, said the Braves spokesperson.

This, as the French say, is horses**t.

We know it is because not all teams are prohibiting outside food. If there are tighter security measures across the board, other teams are implementing them without the food restriction. Even the Yankees, who take security theater to extreme heights as it is, are still allowing fans to bring in their own food.

The Braves, I strongly suspect, are using these measures as an excuse to cut down on competition for their concessions. Which, like I said, go for it. Just be honest about what you’re doing and stop blaming “tightened security” for your cash grab.