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Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Geoff Baker ReduxNote: I'm giving this post from yesterday a bump for two reasons: First, it was posted kind of late, and a lot of people don't scroll back past ATH on a given day, so it's "new" to a lot of readers; Second, because Geoff Baker his ownself waded into the comments thread last night. I think that's kind of cool and think that maybe some folks would like to read that too.
Geoff Baker got mad last week when a blogger waded into waters he feels that only professionals like Geoff Baker should be wading. Today he wades into my waters:
Here's a primer on U.S. libel law and how it relates to blogging, in case you're interested. It should be required reading for any blogger in this country.
I was going to write about 1000 words aping his piece from last week, substituting the dangers of amateurs engaging in the business of lawyering for his take on amateurs engaging in the business of professional journalism, but I couldn't keep a straight face. I'm actually fine with Baker writing about this stuff because (a) it's not rocket science; and (b) he's right. Like I said last week, you've got to get your facts right if you're going to get into the accusation business. That goes for bloggers too, and like Baker, I am similarly not impressed with the argument that a blogger can be looser with things if he's only writing for a small, friendly audience (not that Jerrod Morris was being "loose" in my estimation).
But beyond that, Baker remains off his nut. Last week I (and many others) noted that Baker himself seemed to be doing far worse than Jerod Morris was doing when he suggested that the entire 2003 Seattle Mariners team had been on steroids. Today he defends himself:
Now, this may seem like the same thing to a lot of you, but there are important differences. The most obvious is that no individual was singled out. Believe me, this was intentional. There are ways to approach topics like this, to hint at stuff that may or may not have been going on, but it requires subtlety, not a sledgehammer.
I suppose that's fine if all you care about is avoiding legal liability for defamation -- and even then I'm not sure that the Mariners as a team wouldn't have an action for some sort for business disparagement or something -- but certainly that's not the operative ethical standard, is it? Anything is fair game as long as there's an "out?" That's not what Baker seemed to be all worked up about in his original piece. It was all about being tough and accountable and writing with integrity and credibility and all of that. Something greater than mere lawsuit avoidance, at any rate. If anything, Baker's pained rationalization of his February piece directly contradicts his stated belief that looking one's target in the eye matters. His accusation of non-specific Mariners with an "out" built-in is exactly the opposite of looking someone in the eye. It's cowardly ass-covering.
Baker's next point is the freakin' cake topper:
Some of you have asked why I -- and my colleagues -- failed to denounce Rick Reilly for publishing similar things about ballplayers that Morris did. Well, the first answer is, many of my colleagues did denounce Reilly several years back when he challenged Sammy Sosa to take a drug test. Many thought he was unfairly singling Sosa out.
Sorry, I don't cotton to any system with exceptions that so thoroughly swallow the rules as the one Baker sketches out, and that's even when the rules are weak moving targets like those he's proposing. If we are to take Baker seriously, there's a bogey that all of us writing about baseball need to hit -- about thirty years of puff pieces, if I reckon correctly -- and once we hit it, anything is fair game. If I'm wrong about this -- if, for example, I get my license to be irresponsible at, say, 25 years -- I hope that Baker lets me know, because I have a lot of garbage I want to fling at people.
Finally, Baker responds to criticism of his "White Jays" piece from a couple of years ago:
I've had people write in to ask me about my so-called "White Jays'' series of three stories written for the Toronto Star six years ago. What those stories were supposed to be about was how the Blue Jays, after years of pipelining talent from Latin America, had suddenly become a team with the fewest amount of minority players in baseball. At a time when the number of Latin Americans in the game was exploding.
I'm somewhat sympathetic here, because his "White Jays" story, while not his finest hour, wasn't as bad as a lot of people made it out to be. But his explanation of this is instructive: other chefs in the kitchen screwed it up, not Geoff Baker. Kind of undercuts that whole notion he's pushing about the importance and value of all of those editorial layers that separate the pros from the amateurs, doesn't it?
Baker goes on and on and so could I, but we'd never come to agreement on everything. I do hope, however, that we can agree on this: people who write non-fiction for a living need to be accurate and take responsibility for their words no matter who they are and where they write.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 8:20am
Jack, even biting your metaphorical tongue, your political colors have been blatant - the rigidity of your opinions gave them away.
Here’s my final thought:
FOX must strongly portray one view (while claiming “fairness” and “balance”), because it’s how they make their money. No other reason. Hannity loves his paycheck and understands where it comes from. So does O’Reilly. It comes into focus when you glimpse their personal lives from time to time - and surprise, surprise, they live like liberals!
MSNBC has discovered money by going in the other direction (and for balance’s sake, it’s about time). No other reason.
Let’s get this back to the subject at hand: Newspaper baseball columnists love their paychecks. And in droves, their colleagues are losing theirs. And the Internet is the reason why.
So, these writers see it as in their best interest to demonstrate how bloggers - the johnny-come-lately, everyone-can-write hoi polloi - don’t come close to the job that a skilled, industry-supported newspaperman can do.
In the example of Jerrod Morris, here’s a guy who wrote a column for a site that practically nobody was reading. In terms of making waves in MLB, it was the equivalent of bringing it up over beers with your friends.
But someone brought it to the attention of a newspaperman, who thought it would be an excellent opportunity to get a rise out of Raul Ibanez. The ensuing reaction would have two positive results for the newspaperman:
1) Generate more sales and clicks because of Ibanez’s reaction;
2) Bury bloggers as a group.
Has anyone else noticed that Geoff Baker has steadfastly refused to address the fact that we wouldn’t even be talking about Jarrod Morris if he and his colleagues hadn’t decided to make an example of him?
Why is that?
Posted 06/19 at 04:18 PM
Another thought to chew on:
Working yourself up over the “ethics” of every single blogger in the country is as much a losing game as working yourself up over the ethics of every car driver that you see on the street. You can grouse all you want to, but it’s not going to stop the next dude from cutting you off.
Posted 06/19 at 04:27 PM
Jack Marshall said...
Ah, Michael,you scamp, I knew you’d respond sooner or later!
Your analysis of my political views is just as flawed as your other analytical efforts, at least as reflected here. Yes, I have core principles that I believe in and try to apply consistently as much as possible. You can call that “rigidity” if you like, but integrity has no idiological bias.
Posted 06/19 at 06:56 PM
Part of me feels bad for addressing my comment at Jack: he seems to be juggling a lot of torches in this comment thread. He is also saying, often, the most interesting counter-points, so what can I do?
Anyway, Jack, you said:
“Craig: Only Ibanez can say, ultimately, how he has been harmed, and the All-Star vote isn’t probative. Rod Blagojevich is getting talk show gigs and other fun stuff, and maybe he’s doing just fine, but his reputation is shot. Jessica Hahn, once a church secretary, parlayed public humiliation into breast implants, a career doing TV sleaze and Playboy features..that doesn’t prove she wasn’t harmed.”
To work backwards here:
1. Hahn’s harm is clear: she was raped, and the shape of public perception has only ever had to do with sex and abuse. She was working for a church at the time, and that career path was probably made difficult after being raped by an evangelist.
2. Blogojevich was indicted, lost his job, may see serious jailtime. The way in which he has been harmed is even more concrete than for Hahn.
3. Blagojevich, of course, harmed himself by being corrupt in a position of power. Hahn, perhaps, hurt herself, too, by changing public view from pity to disgust as she became a Playmate. Ibanez, I think, probably did not bring on himself whatever harm anyone is attributing to him. Obviously, the suggestion has been that Morris harmed Ibanez.
4. It seems odd to me that standards for conduct are created by the group/culture, but the standards for what happens when some violates that conduct are determined individual. That is, the group on the whole sets the levels for behavior. The group cannot determine the effect of failure.
I don’t think there is anything specifically wrong with that (that is, at first glance, it seemed hypocritical, but it is not), but I do think it’s systematically unreasonable. If we expect the same standards and values from everyone, without regard to their personal goals or intent, should we not expect them to adhere to comparable reactions to failure?
Posted 06/19 at 07:00 PM
Jack Marshall said...
TC: That’s a fascinating point, and I have to think about it. (one of those torches fell on my head, and I’m slow right now.) We do have lots of things like that; one of the most bizarre is sexual harassment, where two guys are breaking behavioral norms by obnoxiously hectoring a woman for a date, but the only one who will be found liable for harassment is the one who annoys her. She can sue one and marry the other, even though their conduct was identical!
Posted 06/19 at 07:23 PM