What Baseball Writer to Trust

Matt Cerrone brought up a good question and poll at MetsBlog: Who Do you Trust in the Media?

Personally, I trust no one, and lately have zero faith in the traditional newspaper journalists-turned-web columnists. The immediate impact of the internet has a lot to do with this … guys like Jon Heyman had a set deadline for years, often giving him hours or even days to confirm a rumor or legitimize a “source” while they worked for the Holy Grail of “breaking a story”. Now all of a sudden he’s writing for a medium that wants information five minutes ago, and he doesn’t have the time nor means to confirm information.

I use Heyman as an example because he’s the most recent newspaper guy now trying to make it on the internet. As with the others —Murray Chass, Buster Olney, Peter Gammons, to name a few — Heyman is clinging to the journalistic dreams of Peter “Scoop” Brady (remember that Brady Bunch episode?). Between the “reliable, unidentified sources” and the blatant personal speculation (a.k.a., “wild guesses”), Heyman had turned into one of the most unreliable sources since moving to SI.com a few months back.

Further, instead of backtracking or correcting a rumor, he tends to re-state it over and over, much like a radio driveler will talk louder to force a point. Prime example: Heyman’s insistence that the Yankees were shopping Randy Johnson to clear up dough for Zito — could his “sources” have been more wrong?

Heyman’s not the only one, of course, and we don’t mean to beat up on him — most of the old newspaper guys are having a hard time with this newfangled internet thing that all the young whippersnappers are using. Eventually Heyman, and the others, will learn to keep moving forward, roll with the punches, and present their personal guesses and rumors as “speculation”, rather than rushing to the keys to be the first one to break the story.

I guess what they don’t understand is that in the end, we the reader don’t really care who broke the story, so long as we get the facts straight. And it doesn’t matter if you’re first to get your story to the screen, because within five minutes over a thousand other internet sources will be breaking the same story, often WITHOUT a link and credit to your original post. Even if there is a hyperlink, how many people are going to rush to hear it from the original source, when the story is right in front of them on their favorite website, blog, or RSS reader?

Not sure about you, but I don’t rush to ESPN.com to see if Buster Olney has a juicy rumor, because I know if anything is brewing, I’ll read it on one of my RSS feeds or find it on MetsBlog or MLBTradeRumors. Sure, I may eventually get to Olney’s column, assuming it’s not one of those “INSIDER” articles — another ridiculous concept. It’s not like the old days, when you might decide whether to purchase a Daily News, Post, or Times for your subway ride — so whoever you trusted got your 35 cents. Today, we can read all three, plus every major newspaper in the world, in a matter of minutes online — for free. We’ll download everything we want automatically onto our Palm Pilots or laptops to read whenever. If I can’t read Olney’s article because it’s “for INSIDERS”, and therefore requires the purchase of an online subscription, I’ll simply find someone else online who is telling me the same story, for free. Sorry, but I can wait the ten minutes for the breaking news to reach across the globe. I don’t need to pay $84 per year to get news faster than that — especially when the “IN” story turns out not to be a scoop but someone guessing that the Yankees might be clearing payroll to go after Barry Zito.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude January 6, 2008 at 11:57 am
    First time reading this post and, even over a year later, it still holds true. Excellent peice of writing, Joe.
  2. joe January 6, 2008 at 4:30 pm
    thanks isu! I had forgotten about this article. I need to figure out a better way to make these “vintage” pieces easier to find. How did you come across it?
  3. isuzudude January 7, 2008 at 6:58 am
    Actually, whenever the spam artists post a link to an old story, I re-visit that story just to see what it was about (since I didn’t start reading this blog until July-ish of this past year). Then I just started scrolling thru some of the earby stories and came across this one, and thought it deserved a comment of praise. It’s funny, too, reading some of your suggestions and predictions and seeing how right or wrong you were.