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Making The Call
2005-02-24 12:40
by Will Carroll

I get in trouble every time I make a run at this subject, but I'm a bit fired up about this one. I was on the phone today with a reporter/columnist for a major newspaper. The name isn't important, but he was talking to me in relation to "The Juice" when he says:

"You know, why don't more guys like you - the smart ones on the internet use the f---ing phone? I've never, ever seen a blogger say he called the team for comment."

It's a good point. Blogs -- and even online "magazines" like BP -- don't do a lot of this because most of the writers are 'instant columnists.' Few have a reporting background or worked their way up to columnist status. This is neither right nor wrong, just part of the new paradigm that we're seeing shift towards the middle. Yes, we're seeing newspapers co-opt the format or even hire online writers like Derek Zumsteg, John Bonnes, and Steve Silva. They're also using beat reporters as bloggers. The Cincy papers have an interesting one, combining the access of a beat writer with the immediacy of blogging.

So the question I have is, why is this? I don't have any specialized training as a journalist - like I need to point this out. I get on-the-job training and luckily, I have good editors and role models. But this isn't about me. Why can't someone do some actual reporting or at least fact-checking? I'll use Aaron Gleeman as an example here, not to single him out, but because he's widely read.

Aaron regularly writes commentary about his favorite team the Twins and in his last post, wrote this:

And finally ... Twins GM Terry Ryan will be doing an online chat at this afternoon, starting at 1:30 Central time. I'll be heading to class around then, but brave souls with nothing better to do should ask him something challenging and hope he answers it.

Perhaps something like: "On a scale of 1-10, exactly how stupid would someone have to have been to heavily criticize the Shannon Stewart-for-Bobby Kielty deal?" Or maybe: "How many years have you agreed to keep Rivas around for in order for him to destroy those compromising pictures he has of you?"

Now, here's my question - why NOT ask these questions? I'm guessing that, face to face, Aaron might be slightly more tactful. (If not, I'd like to watch from a safe distance.) Terry Ryan's pretty accessible. Aaron Gleeman is pretty well known. If Jonah Keri and I can walk up to Terry Ryan at the Winter Meetings and start a conversation, I'd think Aaron could pick up a phone.

I'm not picking on Aaron here, just using an example -- and I saw Aaron online, so he should learn to get to bed at a reasonable hour. When's the last time you saw an article take a team to task or praise them, then give a quote from the team? I looked and couldn't find any. Even a 'no comment' from a PR intern would be an improvement.

(I should note that Gleeman vehemently disagrees with me on this issue. He says what I write here is different than saying 'you might get some useful stuff if you ask questions. I'll leave it for you to decide.)

There's plenty of net-based writers that could take a lesson from Rich Lederer, one of the few guys around these parts that does pick up the phone, that does work the rooms, and that does a lot of the little things that we all need to get better at. I'm NOT saying that asking questions and turning into the mainstream media is the right way -- I'm just saying that it's a bullet in the gun most haven't fired.

There's some smart guys out there writing about baseball and I think those smart guys can ask smart questions. If we're ever going to be taken seriously, we have to get serious.

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