And You Are Trying to Figure Out Why We Don’t Tell You the Truth

What is my point?

Players usually hold back their real opinions during interviews with journalists because they don’t trust the media to deliver their intended message accurately.

Why Does it Matter?

Due to this lack of trust; fans, media, MLB organizations, and players are all equally frustrated that players have to hold back their real opinions when they speak to reporters.

Example

Let’s take a look at an actual article and break down how it is written.  Our goal is to focus on our perceptions and feelings as we read.  The subject matter is irrelevant to our focus.

Article

Jerome Solomon is a sports writer for the Houston Chronicle.  Recently he wrote a story about the Astros’ first baseman, Lance Berkman.  It was titled “Berkman Open-Minded About Trade.”  I suggest that you read my analysis first, before you read the article.  I know that right off the bat that sounds shady, but there will be a moment later in this analysis that will tell you when a good time to read the article is.  I will put quotes from Solomon’s article in italics.  My comments will be in plain type.  Are you ready?  Let’s go!

Title

Titles are very important to a reader’s interpretation of what is to come.  Not only will a title quickly tell us the author’s intended subject matter, but oftentimes the title will cast the reader’s opinion of the subject in a positive, negative, or indifferent light.

Here is the title for Solomon’s article:

Berkman Open-Minded About A Trade

Take note of your initial feeling based on the title.  Is your opinion positive, negative, or indifferent?

Introduction

The Astros’ clubhouse was dark, lights dimmed to match this dark season.

Some song from Enya’s album Only Time, as appropriate a death march composition as has ever been penned, played on the stereo. (Please tell me why anyone with a reason to live would listen to that stuff.)

Solomon uses imagery to help set the tone for the article.  Imagery helps the reader imagine the feeling of the players in the Astros’ clubhouse.

Ending of First Section

Solomon then describes Lance’s bats on the floor with blankets over them.  He describes them as,

babies that had been rocked to sleep. The idea was that after an afternoon nap, those babies would be wide awake by game time.

Oh, it was sad.

Solomon finishes the first section with this paragraph.

If you are like me, you have pictured Berkman riding off into the sunset, feted as one of the franchise’s all-time greats and a likely Hall of Famer, having hit each of his home runs, scooped up all of those grounders and delivered every one of his often hilarious one-liners in an Astros uniform.

What are your feelings at this point?  Do you feel like this imagery is positive, negative, or indifferent?  Your feelings up to this point may influence how you interpret Berkman’s statements.  It might be useful to write down if you believe Berkman’s statements are going to be positive, negative, or indifferent right now.  This could help you understand how imagery influences your interpretation.

Berkman Speaks

Subtitle: Willing to Change Plans

That is the way it is supposed to be. But the veteran first baseman admits he has considered the possibility he might not finish his career as an Astro. In fact, were he in charge — and barring a miracle run over the next couple of months — he might even look to trade himself.

Solomon has just given the reader a hint of what is about to come.  Remember that we haven’t read any comments from Berkman yet.  Do you believe that his comments will be positive, negative, or indifferent?

Here is Lance’s quote.

“If it was me and I was running the show here, if we didn’t make a great comeback like we did in ’05 and be sort of around .500 by the All-Star break, I’d try to trade every veteran I could to reload,” Berkman said. “That’s the quickest way you’re going to be able to reload and get it going in the right direction”.

“As a player, if they came to me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a deal to go to a contender,’ I’d take it. Heck, it’s only a three- or four-month deal. It’s not like I’m signing on for 10 years with another team.”

Remember we are not concerned with the subject matter.  We are trying to gauge how we feel when this information is presented to us.  We are trying to see if Solomon’s description has led us to feel positive, negative, or indifferent about Berkman’s statements.

The next sentence is from Solomon.  This is what he writes:

Berkman is in the final year of his contract, with the team holding a $15 million option for 2011. He wants to retire an Astro, but if things don’t pick up and the team comes to him with a trade, he might, in essence, take one for the team.

Did your feelings change after reading this sentence?  Do you agree with Solomon’s assessment?

Berkman calls Wade

After this interview it was reported that Berkman called General Manager, Ed Wade.  Here is what Berkman said about that conversation in an article from the Houston Chronicle written by Bernardo Fallas.

“I’m not trying to play GM,” said Berkman, who reiterated his desire to finish his career as an Astro. “I wanted him to know that I’m not trying to force anybody’s hand or communicate anything through the media. It was a hypothetical conversation (the comments), but I’m not going to back away from what I said because I still feel that way.”

At this point I suggest that you read the article.  It is a very quick read.  Here is the link.

My Opinion

The way a writer presents information can influence our opinion.  We rarely read black and white articles.  My goal was to be as black and white as I could even in presenting Jerome Solomon’s article.  Of course, it is hard to be impartial.  My experiences have influenced me. They have colored my view of the world.  So even though I was trying to be “black and white,” I would not be surprised if subconsciously I wrote in a way that leads a reader to feel the same way I do.  (I guess, I’ll find out when I read the comments.  But now… back to the point.)

I love reading.  One book that I am reading right now is called, Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition by Michael J. Mauboussin.  He writes,

“Our minds naturally make connections and associate ideas.  So if someone introduces a cue to you –a word, a smell, a symbol- your mind often starts down an associative path.  And you can be sure the initial cue will color a decision that waits at the path’s end.   All this happens outside of your perception.”

This is bittersweet news.  Sometimes it is fun being tricked, like when someone shows you a magic trick.  On the other hand, it isn’t fun being manipulated in more serious matters.  I think it’s best to acknowledge that we are prone to bias based on association. My dad has been telling me this statement since I can remember,

“Son, there is always one more question. When you are done asking questions… ask one more.”

This idea has been ingrained in my head. My dad created an associative path for me; once I feel that I am done asking questions, my brain is automatically triggered to ask one more. Luckily, my dad’s form of manipulation worked out for the best.  As a result, my default mechanism is to question my original interpretation of information.  Once this is acknowledged, my mind tries to think of the counter argument.  The result is that I am giving myself the best shot at understanding the point.

This past off-season, I sat down with a GM of an MLB team.  Before I sat down with him, I could hear my dad’s words in my mind,

“Morgan, always bring something to the table.  It doesn’t matter what it is, but make sure that it is of value to the person you are speaking to.”

With my dad’s words in my mind, I did just that.  Before I met with the person, I had made an evaluation of what I thought this organization would value.  As a result, my goal was to provide a specific vision of me so that the GM could better understand my position.  At one point we started talking about pitching.  I had been explaining my plan for teaching pitchers how to be effective down in the strike zone.  As the GM was listening, he was nodding in agreement and I could see his wheels moving.  Then he said this,

“You know, I am amazed at how effectively Jonathon Papelbon throws the ball so well up in the zone.”

He was giving me the counter argument.  Inside, I said, “Thanks dad.”  Since I had always been taught to ask one more question, I had tried as best I could to shoot holes in all of my ideas before I went into the conversation.  This is what I said,

“There are some pitchers who are able to throw up in the zone effectively.  Usually those pitchers have a unique characteristic in that they can throw the ball hard or they can hide the ball.  Maybe they have a unique “hitch” (a hitch is a body movement that makes a delivery difficult to time).  But we are talking about less than 10 pitchers in the Big Leagues who have that ability.  My goal is to give every pitcher the best chance at success and I believe that is down in the zone.”

There isn’t a correct answer to this belief.  But there are unprepared answers. Such lack of preparation comes from only considering the information that has been brought before you.  Had I not recognized that my opinions might have been one-sided, I wouldn’t have had an answer.

Of course after typing that down I am already asking new questions.

“Nice point, but did you consider that you didn’t get a job?  Wouldn’t it be better to give an example of a time where this strategy worked out?, etc.”

My Opinion of Solomon’s Article

I think Jerome Solomon did a great job of using imagery and description to lead us to a certain end.  When I had read such a gloomy description of the Astros’ clubhouse, I couldn’t help but think that the article was going to be negative.  As I read Lance’s comments I immediately said to myself,

“Oh no.  Lance is going to be misinterpreted and fans and the organization are not going to like this.”

The reality is that what Lance said is simply a good, honest take on the Astros’ organization.  But my fear is that readers are going to be heading into his comments with a negative expectation, which would cause them to interpret his statements incorrectly.

I Can Control Your Mind.  Want Me to Prove It?

Why don’t you try this experiment?  Go back to the Jerome Solomon article and read the sections backwards.  There are 3 sections to the article.  Begin with the sub-heading, “Hot Streak to Come.”  Then read the second section that says, “Willing to Change Plans.”  Finally, read the first section.  When you are finished, see if you see the article in the same or different light.

As an athlete, it is extremely difficult to give completely black and white comments and have them entirely surrounded with color commentary.  Maybe if the color commentary was more black and white on speculative pieces we wouldn’t feel so afraid to tell you the truth.  Of course I am just speculating.

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53 Comments on “And You Are Trying to Figure Out Why We Don’t Tell You the Truth”

  1. Kenny says:

    As a journalism major and a journalist (I’m a copy editor for the Oregon Daily Emerald), I can tell you that framing an issue such as this in a neutral light is difficult for myriad reasons.

    It’s hard to draw readers into a story with straightforward news-style leads, so setting the scene is often required to create a more dynamic story. A scene is naturally subjective, as not every person is going to see the same thing in clubhouse that Jerome Solomon did.

    As you said, Morgan, there’s an inherent subjective bias with the interpretation of quotes and the construction of a story. Deciding what information needs to go where in a story is often the most difficult thing to do when writing. Finding an angle in a story inherently brings a writer’s opinion into the mix, which can create a point of view even when the writer is not intending to introduce one.

    Lastly, readers must remember that newspapers are for-profit institutions trying to sell their product in order to make money. Speculation runs rampant because it gets people’s attention and sells papers (or brings traffic to websites).

    Also, the headline was more than likely written by a copy editor or web editor, so it should probably not be taken in the same context in which you analyze Solomon’s piece.

    • Kenny did you read the article backwards like I suggested? Did the article change in any way or was it the same in your opinion? I also believe that the fact that a copy editor decides on headlines shows why newspapers are in trouble.

      Morgan

      • Kenny says:

        The lead seems out of place for the tone of the rest of the story and the quotes of what Lance Berkman is actually saying. However, you also have to take into consideration that this was an opinion piece, given the use of the first person in the last paragraph before the first subhead. That also has to change the analysis of this piece — it’s not being presented as straight sports news. Given that this is opinion, there is a lot more leeway in what the writer can say and how he can frame quotes and such. I think you’re going after the wrong kind of story to talk about subjective biases in reporting.

        If you’ve ever seen some of the work turned in by reporters before it runs through the copy flow, there’s a reason copy editors write display text instead of the reporters themselves. Copy editors writing display text is by no means a new thing to the world of journalism, either. There is little correlation between that and the downfall of print media in my opinion, though I am interested as to why you believe that.

        • Kenny I don’t have a problem with what Solomon wrote. My point was to say that writers can lead us to certain opinions before we have time to make our own decision. I just want readers to be aware that they can be lead down a path that is either positive or negative.

          To your second point, I understand that is the “way it is done”, but don’t you think that puts the writer in a bad spot? I have been around writers and they don’t get to make some decisions that I believe are important to the story.

          Morgan

        • Kenny- I don’t mind the piece at all. My point has to do with acknowledging that good writers can guide us to favoring a certain opinion.

          To your second point, I understand that copy editors make display decisions. It frustrates me that they have control over that because that may not be the intended interpretation of the author. I am not a big believer in doing something because “that is how it has always been.” I couldn’t disagree with you more about the downfall of print media. The fact that the writer doesn’t get to have 100% authority over the article shows me that they too are in the same boat as the player. In other words, they submit their article and then they have to trust that the copy editor interprets their take.

          Morgan

  2. mechanicalTurk says:

    I wonder if Mo has ever read FJM. If not, I think he’d like it. I know it’s been dead for 18 months now, but sometimes I go back and read articles, and they make me smile.

    http://www.firejoemorgan.com/

  3. Linda says:

    Another season Solomon wrote something that just struck me as goofy. So I asked him in his blog where he got his information, and had he been in the clubhouse? He admitted that he had not been in the clubhouse, and was just speculating. I stopped reading his stuff after that. He lost all credibility with me.

    But it seems to me that Lance will always shoot straight when asked or giving his opinion. If people don’t know that about Lance by now, they’ll never get it.

    • I assume he was in the clubhouse for this piece. Either way I don’t really have a problem with it. I am trying to show how writing can frame a readers mind before the reader knows what the article is about.

      Morgan

  4. casey says:

    One of the blogs I read provides audio from the postgames. To hear the words from a players mouth including whether they were serious or laughing when they said it and then see how different they appeared in print in the paper the next day was eye opening.

    • Casey both players and writers are in terrible positions. The writer feels tremendous pressure to deliver stories that their “Bosses” like, and players realize that no matter what they say, they are at the mercy of the writer to convey the statements accurately.

      Morgan

  5. Mike Trozzo says:

    Glorious as always. Thinking of ways to help fix the dilemma.

  6. Susan says:

    I re-read the article as you asked. It only felt sadder to me the second time around as I read from the bottom up.

    I don’t think fans would interpret would he said any differently, and with 62 comments on that article, I think many had a decent understanding of what Berkman said.

    There is also a very big difference between beat writers and columnists. Columnists do not write in black and white. They have to find a color and stick to it.

    In addition, any news outlet that requires headlines – being newspaper, magazines, websites and so no – have copy editors that write the headlines and subheadlines. There are many issues with newspapers, but I just don’t think that is one of them. However, I wish more readers knew what the writer is not responsible for headlines or photo captions.

    • Susan I think you missed the point. I understand columnists and copy editors are involved. My point is to see if you feel like the writer is influencing your opinions. That’s all. You agree that it is negative either way. That is good.

      Susan, I totally understand your feelings about having people know that writers don’t choose headlines or photo captions. We baseball players feel the same way when we read articles about our statements.

      Morgan

      • Susan says:

        Well, my point was that a columnist’s job is to pick an angle and lead its readers to it. So, yes, Solomon used cues and direction to get to his point. Reading it top to bottom or bottom to top doesn’t really change, for me, what is going on here.

        In fact, I thought bottom to top had more impact because I was then left with that lasting impression of how down-trodden the Astros locker room seemed.

        BTW, I enjoy the blog very much. Thanks for reaching out to us regular folk.

        • Susan I love this type of discussion. My point about reading it backwards was to try and point out how starting off the article with the positive part may have lead a reader to think Lance’s statements weren’t as negative. I did a poor job of explaining what I was trying to show.

          Morgan

  7. Ashitaka says:

    Well, I actually read the article in question when it was published days ago, so maybe my opinion was already pre-skewed and I don’t count. That said, when I read it, I didn’t get the feeling that Berkman was dissatisfied or wanted to leave at all. That may be simply because I trust him…in fact, I guess I trust him to an unnatural level considering I’ve never so much as been in the same room with the man. However, he’s always seemed like a very real person to me, and he’s never said or done anything that I know of that’s ever given me good reason to doubt his intentions.

    There were indeed several people I knew who blew a gasket at it and started calling him lazy and a slob and saying he’s phoning it in and all of that nonsense (of course, now that he’s hitting .379 in his last eight games, they’ve shut up, ha ha HA). But when I thought about it, those people were the same ones that had been insulting him before, whenever he says anything, whenever he goes into a slump, whenever he flies out with a RISP, etc. When I think back on it, they seem to be people that simply hear what they seem to WANT to hear him say, or others say about him.

    I can’t fathom how anyone could take something negative from that article; he said he would be willing to listen if the team approached him about a trade. It’s not like he called the Astros a sinking ship or anything (even though I’m sure he realizes it is). In other words, the only people criticizing him that I know of were those with a history of it. And really, they’re the ones that criticize everyone all the time, as far as I’ve seen.

    A pro player has to speak his mind or he’ll be called fake, but he has to never say anything controversial or he’ll be labeled a malcontent. If he’s not hitting, he’s phoning it in. If he is hitting, he’s not hitting enough. If he’s on fire, he’s not getting enough of those hits with RISP. If he’s driving in three runs a game, it’s only in non-critical situations. He has to sign autographs for every child and collector that wants one for three hours each day, or he’s being rude and has a big ego. Expectations double with each million he’s paid.

    I don’t know. I trust Lance, and in all honesty, he didn’t say anything that every fan and armchair GM in the world hasn’t said before. Isn’t it natural to talk about the future, and moves that might be made? I trust Lance. If that makes me naive, then…I guess I’m naive.

    I don’t disagree that Solomon used some slanted words and imagery, but I guess my point is…I don’t see how anyone could read Berkman’s quotes and take away negative meaning to it. That may be because, when I read an article about someone, I generally tend to just skim or even skip all the fluff and just read the quotes, then form my own opinions. I prefer reading blogs actually; at least then you go in with the presumption that you’re getting someone’s opinion rather than cut-and-dried fact, and on the other end the author is free to clearly say things like “this is the feeling I got from this person” and whatnot.

    TL;DR – in my opinion, someone would have to want to hear something negative about Lance to really and seriously interpret his comments in such a way.

    • Ashitaka says:

      And before I forget…are you saying that you interviewed with a MLB GM to be a pitching coach in the off-season? That’s what it sounded like, but I would think you would be more of a hitting coach-type because…well…you were a hitter, ha ha. (and more people need to walk 100 times a year like you did! So many GIDPs recently I could cry…)

    • Wow that was a lot to take in Ash. I think my point is more about writers giving you “cues” before you know what the article is about. And maybe those “cues” cause you to associate a specific message.

      Morgan

  8. teamlittleguy says:

    Morgan: I think Solomon’s piece overall was fair — I’d love it if he would post up here and share his thought processes about what he was trying to do with the article.

    In my own humble opinion, worth less than two cents on the open market, he missed a chance to connect the fan more directly to the player. His lede could have delved into perhaps what an Astros fan might be thinking about the future of this team given their bad start, and then connect it to Berkman’s comments.

    In other words, any Astros fan with a brain has to be wondering if some of their favorite players are going to be on the team come August 1. I would imagine a lot of the veteran players are having the same thoughts. And that’s the direct connection point between the player and the team.

    Those are painful thoughts on both sides. Losing sucks. The possibility of change can bring fear. Saying goodbye to people you love & admire hurts.

    I would humbly submit that those thoughts and fears are a bit more compelling to a reader than what’s playing on the boom box in the ‘Stros clubhouse.

    (They really play Enya in there? Really?)

    • teamlittleguy says:

      Morgan – I do want to mention one more thing, and it dovetails with what Couch Tater said below. A lot of the comments I see on newspaper blogs and web sites are from fans who are trying to inflame and be provacative anyway. They have the veil of anonymity and the desire for attention.

      Now I don’t know a lot about baseball – much less than you obviously and most of your readers here. But what I do know is – you can’t separate people from the humanity of their situation. It seems to me that many — not all — commenters on newspaper sites seem to throw that particular baby out with the bathwater.

      The trick as a journalist is to promote truth and knowledge, while taking care to avoid inflaming the masses in search of a few extra clicks.

    • TLG- I don’t have a problem with the piece. I think it was well written. My point is to show that readers “may” be lead down a path that helps shape their opinion without knowing it. In this case, I think Solomon’s opening section could leads the reader to believe that something bad is going to happen.

      Secondly, Houston fans have heard Lance more than national fans. Understand that Lance’s statements were the first to acknowledge that he would consider changing teams if he was asked by management. National fans may interpret Lance’s statements differently than Houston fans.

      I like Enya. I think it is sort of soothing.

      Morgan

      • teamlittleguy says:

        To be sure your post makes an interesting point – my own “personal bias” in reading that story is basically that McLane has been accused of hanging on to players instead of dealing them to re-tool and position the team for the future (and I agree). So I processed the article using that particular bias, which would not appear to be the writer’s (or Berkman’s) direct intention.

        I don’t have any emotional attachment to my belief — so I see your point about how a Houston fan might process things a lot differently.

        Secondly, I like Enya too – I guess I expected something more hardcore. You ball players never cease to surprise us fans. :)

  9. Couch Tater says:

    He wants to retire an Astro.

    That’s positive and black & white, right?

    Blogger A response: “Berkman is an Astro through and through.”

    Blogger B response: “Hell, for 15 million who wouldn’t?”

    Morgan – I’m not a journalist and have never been the subject of an article, but as you’ve seen with some of your own writing, some folks are going to interpret every statement, no matter how innocent, a different way. I agree, some headlines are fashioned for readership hits, but do we really want this?…

    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/can-computers-replace-journalists/#comments

    So far, the software has been applied primarily to sports statistics, but Frankel sees applications in medicine, crime and finance as well. (Note to self: consider a new career, soon.)

    [Disclaimer: This response was generated automatically by an algorithm.]

    • Couch I am happy if a reader simply understands that we can lead to a certain end based on a writers presentation. This isn’t an attack on Solomon. I just thought it was a great example of a theory.

      I have read Freakonomics and I loved it.

      Morgan

  10. Bob says:

    morgan can you blog about the time you got robbed in spring training in 98

  11. Sarah says:

    Well, considering players in Seattle are “blacklisting” the guy who wrote about Junior sleeping during the game, and some Minnesota players won’t make comments when a certain reporter is present (he wrote about Joe Nathan’s surgery, leading to the impression that he was hurt long before his surgery–Joe denies it), I think players can sort of “police” the situation themselves.
    Reporters are in a tough position-never have a negative story, and you’re considered a homer and “paid” by the team. Always looking for scandal or a “big story” usually gets you run out of town because the players won’t talk to you.
    As for Solomon’s story–I read it for what it’s worth, but I also heard Lance making similar statements before. I don’t believe he wants to leave, but the front office needs a push to rebuild–and if certain cornerstones of the franchise with NTCs are willing to waive them, they’re admitting the franchise needs a rebuild.

    • Sarah I don’t buy the “blacklist” idea for a single second. I have never been on a team that has tried to do that and it seems silly that players would think that will do anything. It is a losing battle. You can’t stop the media. They may be trying to do it, but it is a band aide to a bigger problem.

      My point was to say that writers can lead readers to certain conclusions based on how they present the information. I think Solomon did a good job of writing a certain viewpoint.

      I have never heard Lance say anything like that when I was around him. It surprises me that I haven’t heard that. I will google it right now and see if I can find something that I missed.

      Morgan
      Morgan

  12. John says:

    Morgan,

    I understand your concern about copy editors writing headlines instead of writers — you think this leads to headlines appearing in print that don’t accurately convey the writer’s intent, and you think it would be better to have the writer also write the headline.

    However, if a writer’s intent isn’t clear from the plain language of the story itself, then the writer has failed. And headlines need to match the plain language of the story as it appears in print, not the writer’s unexpressed “actual” intent. (Imagine the confusion when a headline says “Player X wants to stay in Houston” when the story is all about how Player X is actively seeking to be traded.) Thus, having a third party write the headline can often ensure that the headline reflects what actually appears on the page and not the writer’s unwritten intent.

    I know there are situations where a copy editor goofs, and doesn’t accurately convey some nuance or subtlety of the story itself. There are also stories that are so complex or nuanced, it’s pretty much impossible to accurately convey them in a four- or five-word headline.

    I also think there are plenty of instances where the headline that appears on a writer’s story DOES match the writer’s intent, but the writer takes some heat for it from players and instead of standing by the headline/story, cops out and says, “I didn’t write that headline.”

    Writers, especially beat writers, have a tough job. They have to spend a lot of time with players, and they have to make sure those players are willing to talk to them. A beat writer who can’t get quotes from the players is worth very little to his or her employer. So there’s strong incentive for a writer to get along with players. The best way to get along with players is to not piss them off, so when Player X approaches the writer and complains about a headline or story, it’s easier for the writer to blame a copy editor, who the player will never meet, than to stand by his or her story and the accurate headline that accompanied it. (Note: I’m not saying all writers do this. But some do. And to a certain degree, it’s understandable.)

    I also think there are plenty of times a player says something and takes some heat for it and then claims he or she was misquoted. But that’s another topic. (Note: I’m not saying all players do this, but some do, and it’s also understandable.)

    There are also strong logistical reasons why writers don’t write headlines that go beyond “it’s always been done that way.” Writers are busy with other things, and there’s no time to have them write headlines, too. Often (especially with night games for newspapers that aren’t on the west coast), the turnaround time to get a story edited and have the headlines written is only a few minutes, so you need a specialist, who isn’t at the ballpark, to handle that job. Also, headlines come with very specific space constraints, and it’s a lot of work to make them fit. It’s simply not efficient to have a writer attempt to do that from Minute Maid Park.

    I understand this headline issue is a secondary point, but I thought it was worth some further discussion.

    • John I would have no problem what the copy editor wrote if they were at the interview so they could hear tone. Look let’s just get real here. Headlines are to get readers…plain and simple. Newspapers have lost their way because they have given into the “shock” headlines that are prevalent on Gossip Magazines. If you ask fans, they won’t believe what a player has said because they can’t differentiate between real and gossip.

      John, newspapers could differentiate themselves if they were to teach their writers about the game of baseball. If that happened then writers would ask more pertinent questions and you would be drawn to their content. You have to believe me when I say that a newspaper who willing to learn what questions to ask based on play will become a force so big because fans simply want to learn. I know this because I would read it also.

      Let’s start a newspaper John! Who’s with us?

      Morgan

  13. Randall says:

    I enjoyed your view on this Morgan!
    I’ve always liked how Lance is a straight shooter, but it works against him sometimes with these hacks. A few years back he was on a radio show and he referred to Richard Justice as “the writer of wrongs”. That cracked me up and I think about that anytime I read Justice, or the Chronicle for that matter.

    In my opinion, the Chronicle hasn’t been objective in years. I’m sure the same can be said for a lot of other media outlets (see AP). One day they loathe the teams/players they cover, the next day they hail same teams/players as role models for success. Last fall I met one of the Chronicle’s beat writers for the in a social setting (he’s a neighbor of one of my friends). At first I was real impressed at his behind the scenes knowledge, I just found it intriguing. Then the more he talked, it seemed like he enjoyed just trashing players. When I thought about it later, I wondered how a person with such bias one way or the other could effectively cover a team and its players and remain objective. The obvious answer is they can’t.

    • Randall I don’t think that most of the writers are bad guys at all. My point about Solomon’s article was to point out how good writers can lead us down a path unknowingly. It is impossible to be completely objective and we should ask anyone to be. Instead, it is our job as readers to be aware that we could be “led” to certain conclusions.

      Morgan

  14. lisa gray says:

    i understand perfectly why so many athletes are VERY understandably reluctant to say anything that isn’t a bull durham quote.

    very often, the reporters are trying to goad the athlete into saying something inflammatory or controversial from which they can make hay (see milton bradley) or use even simply ordinary phrases to portray the athlete in the best/worst way possible. and there is also the problem of SOME media persons wanting to make themselves part of the story when in fact they are NOT part of the story. but it makes them more money.

    barry lamar bonds got so tired of having his words taken out of context and used against him that he decided to record EVERY interview and broadcast it in its entirety on his own website – guess that happened after the little, uh, happening when he told the enormous crowd of media around his locker to back off his son – or he’d snap – and they very conviently “forgot” to include the first half of the sentence.

    as for lance,
    well, he is an intelligent and forthright man. and no matter WHAT he says, guaranteed there is gonna be someone who doesn’t like it…

  15. meiczyslaw says:

    The first rule of the journalist: Never burn your sources.

    The second rule of the journalist: Information doesn’t have an agenda, but your sources do.

    Those of us who consume media need to remember that second rule, as well. Reporters have biases that they subscribe to, and especially lazy reporters have narratives that they force their facts to fit. The information they give us might be true, but it’s usually not the whole story.

    Sports journalists doing such a thing is no big deal, except when they’re covering the business side of the game — that way we voters know what we’re buying when we pass that bond issue for that stadium. Problem is, they never tell us the truth — their jobs rely on those teams being in town.

    And don’t get me started on so-called “serious” reporters …

    • Wow Meiczyslaw….you just single handedly intimidated me with those words. I want to be on your team. But you are right on.

      Morgan

      • meiczyslaw says:

        You are on my team; you joined when you started blogging. Unfortunately, the Army of Davids doesn’t cut paychecks. You’re on your own there. ;)

        I’m probably going to link back to this post from my own blog at some point. It’s much easier to discuss the media when you don’t get distracted by arguments about the Commerce Clause.

        One final thought, which I hope will not intimidate you further: you’ve been in the news, which is an experience that most of us haven’t lived through. When you talk about that history — even indirectly, like this post — you move your subject matter from entertaining (which is still a good thing) to thought-provoking.

  16. LAT says:

    Simply put, your point is that we are manipulated by the writer and we don’t even realize it. (Although curiously you avoid the “M” word). The goal of the Huston Chronicle is to sell as many papers as possible. Using Solomon and his “imagery” for this purpose is no different than Carl’s Jr. suggesting that if we eat double bacon cheeseburgers Kim Kardashian will show up in our bed or Paris Hilton will writhe around while washing our car. It just economics. The difference is we know we are being manipulated by Carl’s Jr. but we want to believe journalism will maintain a shred of integrity. It can’t. With the tidal wave of competition from the net it no longer has that luxury. You want impartial reporting, watch Charlie Rose. Intelligent, ethical, conflict-free and boring. Sadly, its a TMZ world because that is what sells and all paths lead back to selling.

    That being said, although the web is the 650 lbs. gorilla on the back of the print media, it is also the place where anyone can access more in-depth analysis. I didn’t have a clue about UZR ratings or VORP 5 years ago. If I waited for the Huston Chronicle or any other paper to mention it , never mind explain it, I would still be focused on the likes of batting average and ERA. That is not to say I’m a stat-head (I’m not) but at least I have an idea about these other things. I understand the importance of defense and walks because the web is a unbelievable resource that the print media cannot compete with without. So the answer is that the web will eventually kill the newspapers but it will also give birth to the type of in-depth and educational analysis you wish newspapers would provide.

    • YOU GOT IT!!! NICE LAT! There are always opportunities and the newspaper industry doesn’t realize that they can be the “voice” of baseball again. They are playing a game that is too nimble for them so they are copying, but they forgot what they are great at. I’m not going to tell you what that is because I think you said it in your piece.

      Morgan

    • SFC B says:

      Wait… you mean Paris Hilton won’t be writhing around while washing my car after I finish this burger?

      CURSE YOU CARL’S Jr.!

  17. Chris says:

    What strikes me about that article isn’t the lackluster lead, as much as the fact that Berkman is so heavily quoted, he just as well could have written the article himself.

    Lance made it easy to write that story. He was doing Solomon a favor. But Solomon didn’t do Lance any favors with this: “The season has been so ugly that Berkman has had thoughts about it coming to an end — somewhere else.” That’s kind of harsh. It implies that Berkman wants to leave because he’s playing for a losing team. But the quotes make it pretty cleat that Lance only considers leaving because that may be in the best interests of the team. It’s not a lead, it’s a mislead.

    Come to think of it, that lead would fit a lot better if the story were about Oswalt. He’s not as good a quote as Berkman, but he says a lot in a few words: “I knew I needed to probably throw a shutout, you know, maybe we can get one [run].” This from a guy with a 2-5 record on a 2.62 ERA. We all know that Oswalt wants to play for a contender. But he’s also made it clear that the Astros is the only losing team he’d want to play for: “I don’t want to get traded and get put in the same situation that we’re in right now. I would want to go to a contender that’s a true contender, not someone that just kind of has a chance, a far chance to get there, you know, if every card was played right you’d make it. I would want to go to a contender. You know, I only have this year and next year on the contract so hopefully try to get a ring before that one’s over.”

    You can’t blame the guy for having professional goals. And he’s not coming close to demanding a trade. Oswalt said that he’d listen to trade offers in response to a question. That’s it. But unlike Berkman, Oswalt shows some frustration. There’s emotion in that story. There’s a lot less incongruity if you write that story about Oswalt: “The season has been so ugly that [Oswalt] has had thoughts about it coming to an end — somewhere else.”

    But Oswalt’s had a rough year, what with the tornado going through his hometown and all. It would be mean-spirited to throw him under the bus like that. Maybe that’s why Berkman was so willing to talk on and on about being traded. Maybe he wanted to be a good teammate, and protect Oswalt from having that story written about him. Or maybe Berkman’s just a better quote.

  18. Nolan says:

    Morgan, I agree with you that how an article is written can frame a player’s neutral quote in a positive or negative way.

    As Kenny commented earlier though, it makes a difference whether the article is a objective news article (“Joe Player has been placed on the DL. He has been on the DL three times in the past two years.”) or if it was a subjective commentary (“Joe Player has been placed on the DL. That guy is always injured and we can’t depend on him.”). As readers, it’s up to us to determine what we believe and make our own opinions on the subject.

    In your experience, does any of this stuff affect the clubhouse relationships? I mean, if a player feels like their quotes have been misinterpreted in an article do they get questioned by their teammates the next day or do they feel the need to explain what they said? Do Berkman’s teammates treat him differently after reading an article like this, or do the players even bother to read these types of articles at all?

    I’m really enjoying your posts and perspective. Thanks for writing!

  19. jimm ny says:

    Hey I call B.S., Enya in a MLB clubhouse….c’mon…whats next Berkman yelling “CRANK IT TO 11!!!!!!!!!!”

    ARRGGHHH , Morgan stop controlling my mind!!!!! I just ate three burritos, did you do that?

  20. brian says:

    jeezum crow, you are some good writer, morgan. i rarely comment on anything but consarn it all you are some good writer. thank you.

  21. Nice work on the OSU vs AZ State broadcast, Morgan. AZ State looks like a lock for Omaha.

    Can’t be-LIEVE 13 teams passed on Jayson Heyward, the Braves 20-yr old sensation. Found a great article on “how that happened” http://bit.ly/9f7nGQ

  22. [...] Morgan Ensberg writes a bit about why athletes don’t often speak their minds to reporters. [...]

  23. hey i meet a girl who work for blog searching and we talk about how to find the great blog that you never read before..she talk about your blog and write it with my pen and now i finally got it i will read this and thanks for making this blog..this is awesome keep it up…


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