Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Do Beat Writers Serve a Purpose?

I’ve been watching a lot of Red Sox DVDs these days. (What better way to escape a losing season than watch DVDs celebrating their World Championships?) These have a lot of “behind the scenes” action, which show a lot of beat writers and sideline reporters doing their job. Whenever I see them, I can’t help but feel sorry for them…and wonder what exactly their purpose is supposed to be.

You’ve all seen them. Huddled around a player in the locker room. Each of them extending a microphone, or tape recorder, or iPhone, or whatever. Stretching and reaching trying to grab a quote from the player. When the player makes a lame joke, they all chuckle in unison. They all nod their heads as the player says the team played well, or poorly, as if it was validating their own opinion. As if it was actually an opinion in the first place.

Or they’re on the field, butting in during batting practice. Catching little quips as players brush past. Ortiz says he’s sore, but feels good. Middlebrooks agrees that obstruction is a weird way to end a game. Begging for a little nugget to insert into a story.


Are they adding anything to the story? I reminded of someone who said whenever they wrote a story when they were working the beat, they tried to make it sound like they needed to be there. That they got something from being there that I couldn’t get by not.

When was the last time that happened? Does the quote, “John Farrell said the bullpen really pulled it out tonight.” Do anything for you? If you saw the game, you know that the bullpen did a great job. If you didn’t see the game, was that adding any insight? Couldn’t the reporter just have said the bullpen did a good job? Does it really matter that Farrell said it? And, that’s assuming that the quote from Farrell was an actual quote from an interview. It’s just as likely that a reported passed Farrell and mumbled, “Bullpen did great tonight, eh?” To which Farrell responded, on his way to the can, “Yup. Really pulled it out for us.” That’s not an opinion. That’s small talk. It’s discussing the weather.

Isn’t this all just grabbing stuff to fill column inches? Isn’t a simple recap enough? None of it’s exclusive. None of it is revolutionary. What if the Sox just did a press release after every game with comments? John Henry said, “Job well done.” Pedroia said, “Look how awesome I was! Did you see the dirt on my uniform?” Wouldn’t that be enough? Then they wouldn’t need all these people clogging the clubhouse?

What’s their purpose? 


  1. I don't think you quite understand the job. Where do you think your in-season Red Sox media coverage is coming from?

    The beat reporters are the ones who are writing those game stories, asking the questions in the post-game news conferences, and finding out which players have those little nagging injuries that may cause them to miss a game but don't land them on the DL.

    Get rid of the beat reporters, and all you will get is a box score and a maybe a game highlights video put together so MLB and/or the Red Sox can collect a little licensing money for the clips.

  2. I think I'd be OK with the Red Sox and MLB video.

    Yes, obviously, I would like some sort of information other than a box score. But, the injuries? Those are mostly reported incompletely, or incorrectly. So and so was limping. Limping why? Limping how bad? Limping for so long? No idea. So and so is set to throw again soon. How long will he need to throw? What comes after throwing? How long before he comes back? No idea. Seems the only thing they report on injuries is that someone is taking too long to come back from one. Of course, they're the ones who told us when they were coming back in the first place. I don't need that. I think an NFL style injury report will be just fine. Like when a guy leaves a game early, and it's later announced why. Just do that before (or after) the game for everyone.

    The press conference questions? Clay Buchholz just threw a shutout, John Farrell, what can you tell us about that performance? I don't need Farrell to tell me Clay pitched really well.

    I don't need people hanging around the clubhouse looking for controversy.


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