When I first became a baseball fan, if I couldn’t watch or listen to a game then the next day I’d crack open the Houston Chronicle’s sports section to check out the box score and perhaps get a recap. If I was really lucky there were a couple of articles highlighting a particular player. The way in which I got my news about my favorite game was straightforward – tv broadcasters, radio announcers, newspaper.
Today is an entirely different landscape when it comes to media and baseball. Astros fans are getting information from more sources than I can easily count. There’s the tv announcers and radio announcers, the MLB beat reporter, other MLB reporters, the Houston Chronicle Astros beat writer(s), a plethora of blogs in sports networks and as stand alone commentary, the sites of major traditional sports outlets – ESPN, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, etc. We can’t leave out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
The good part about the changing face of baseball media is that fans can get information quickly. Don’t believe me? Hang out on Twitter during the Winter Meetings. Rumors abound. News breaks at all hours. It’s a constant flurry of information by traditional and nontraditional news sources.
The bad part is determining which source to trust. In the past, we were all pretty clear that what we read the day after the game in the newspaper was well-researched fact. The information available to the average fan now spans from well-researched fact to baseless commentary tainted by personal bias, and sifting through it isn’t always easy. But it is often worth it.
Let’s face it, the more traditional the news source, the better access they will have to the team. Brian McTaggart has much better access to players, the front office, the coaching staff than I every will. Is that a good thing? I’d argue yes and no. I know, I’m cagey like that.
If McTaggart writes an article about an injury sustained by a player, I’m intrigued and generally certain that he has good sources for the information he is conveying. He talked to someone in the clubhouse, got a press release, or spoke directly to a player or trainer to get that information. If I write an article about an injury (or more likely Brooks, since he’s the body guy), you’re more likely to get historical prospective on players who’ve had similar injuries in the past, speculation on how this will effect a player’s development, perhaps commentary on who should or shouldn’t be filling that hole in the line up and even what players in the farm system might be ready to step up and take that spot.
It’s not to say that McTaggart wouldn’t or couldn’t or hasn’t written commentary. We’ve all read pieces he’s done that are just that. My point is this – he has access to information, people, etc that those of us in more nontraditional media do not. Not necessarily good or bad; it’s just the way it is.
But is the traditional media baseball writer still doing what they were doing when I first became a fan? I don’t think they are at all.
The internet changed the game of baseball reporting. What used to be a deadline once or twice a day to out scoop the other local paper has changed to a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week news cycle. When there’s a lot happening like during Spring Training, Winter Meetings, October, there’s a lot to talk about. When there’s not a lot happening, it’s just becomes a lot of pointless noise coming from every direction.
There’s a war of information being fought every hour of every day. Who can break the news first on Twitter? Who can get an article posted and circulated via social media the fastest? Who ends up having to correct something they said that was so very wrong? Who wrote the most absurd article just to use as click bait?
Wrong information happens. And it’s important to note that even trusted traditional media outlets get it wrong sometimes. It’s not always the standalone blogger who makes the big oops. In the rush of the digital age of baseball media, there’s a push to be first. There are outlets you can trust to be thorough and research and get confirmation on something or a quote before printing it, but that’s becoming more the exception than the rule. The result is that people trust media less and less. The whole pool is poisoned by the mistrust earned by a few.
When I was cracking open the newspaper all those years ago to get my baseball updates, I knew the names of the guys who covered the Astros, but that’s about all I knew of them. Today, there’s a personality attached to those names. Thanks to social media and the ease with which you can ask anyone anything, we all have a sense of the personality of the writers we read.
Having a connection, whether real or perceived, to the guy who gives you your sports news changes the news itself. There are some Astros writers who are hilarious on Twitter. There are some Astros writers who are almost never on Twitter. There are some Astros writers who are hard to put up with on Twitter.
Everyone has their favorite and their version of Dick Dastardly, but regardless of who they are for you, you have to admit that it changes the way you read what they write about the team. It changes the way you consume their writing.
Your ability to go to Chron.com or Astros.com or Hardballtalk.com or ESPN.com or CrawfishBoxes.com or AstrosCounty.com or WhatTheHeckBobby.blogspot.com or any of the other news sites, blogs, etc. feed a love of the game. I think a broader range of ideas from a broader group of people is a good thing. I think the fact that not all of them have the same level of access can be good and can be bad, but either way, I like that more people are talking about Astros baseball than just the guy at the Chronicle.
The next time you click on your favorite site to read about your favorite baseball team, give it some thought. That interesting commentary you just read, where did it come from? Who did it come from? What sorts of resources are they using to create this content? Is this someone I should trust? Is there an obvious and constant bias? Is the bias acceptable or does it make it unreadable?
Not everything written will be to your liking. You won’t agree with a lot that gets tweeted, posted, printed, recorded. But I think the smart sports fan is aware of what they can get from a variety of news outlets and blogs, what the level of trust is and should be, and if they’re being fed garbage or something they won’t be embarrassed by when they talk baseball at the Monday morning water cooler.
Now that you don’t have to wait for the morning edition of the Chronicle to get the latest scoop on the Astros, who do you turn to for your baseball fix?