Baseball media is rooted in public relations just as much as it is rooted in news


Ever notice that the folks who cover sports full time are often a bit late to get on to stories that are bad for the sports they cover?

That, sure, once someone breaks something negative there is a big pile-on, but (a) why is it that a person who lives and breathes the sport every day tends not to be the one breaking it; and (b) where were the guys who cover this sport day-in, day-out when that negative thing was there, just waiting to be talked about? Think PEDs, business issues in which players were taken advantage of by ownership, racial strife, the plight of minor leaguers and the like.

Today, over at The Hardball Times, Jack Moore takes a look at the history of baseball reporting and illustrates how the symbiotic relationship between sports media and the teams and leagues they cover has, historically, worked against negative news — or, sometimes, even perspective-providing news — from being broken by the very people who are closest to the game:

The baseball reporter’s job doesn’t and couldn’t exist without the access granted by owners and executives. The owners and executives, naturally, expect something in return: free advertising and publicity, putting baseball into the minds of readers and viewers, ideally in a way that paints the league in a positive light.

Over the generations, the role of the sportswriter has evolved. Although sports remains the journalistic “toy department,” some writers have shirked the PR role to become valuable reporters and great storytellers. But today’s sports journalism grew from the seed of Lewis Meacham and the rest of the baseball writers whose job it was to, as Connie Mack put it, “make us ‘news.’”

It’s a good read that explains an awful lot about how most of the baseball news we all consume is filtered through some pretty specific 150-year-old lenses, the sorts of which most readers — and, I bet, most of the actual current reporters — don’t often realize.