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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.

Matt Wieters is close to signing with the Washington Nationals

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles connects on a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on October 2, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are closing in on a deal with catcher Matt Wieters. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that it’s a two-year deal. UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is for two years, at $21 million. There is an opt-out for him after year one. He will get $10 million in 2017 and, if he returns in 2018, he’ll get $11 million.

Wieters was not expected to go this long without signing, but his market, which many thought would be robust, never materialized. The Nats had been rumored to be interested for months, but they were apparently waiting to swoop in late and get what one presumes will be a bargain.

Wieters, 30, finished last season hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI in 464 plate appearances. The Nationals currently have Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton, so who falls where in the catcher fight in Washington is unclear, but one presumes that Wieters getting a two-year deal puts him at the top of the depth chart.

Sergio Romo experienced some difficulty in the past couple of years

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Sergio Romo #54 of the San Francisco Giants walks off the mound after allowing an RBI double in the ninth inning of Game Four of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park on October 11, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal has an interesting story up about Sergio Romo as he begins spring training with his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There is some fun stuff about his family, all Dodgers fans from southern California, but the more notable stuff is about Romo himself, who has dealt with a lot more than has been reported over the past couple of seasons. The loss of three of his four grandparents is a big one, as it has thrust the mantle of head of the family on Romo in ways that he was not fully prepared for. There are also allusions to personal and psychological problems Romo has experienced — there is a vague suggestion of alcohol or maybe just late nights out and perhaps depression, but he is not specific about it — which he worked on with the help of friends and teammates on the Giants and which he now has overcome.

There’s always more going on the lives of baseball players than we as fans know.