Jason at IIATMS has a major post up this morning about how the baseball press missed the steroids story. There are many good points there, and the most comprehensive cataloging of reporter mea culpas on how they missed the story that I’ve seen to date. At the moment, however, it is this passage that has me thinking:
But the real crux of this discussion lies at the feet of the reporters covering the teams. As with anything, what did they know and when did they know it…and why didn’t they say anything as soon as they learned of something? Questions we’ll never really know the answers to. Some writers, Buster particularly, have been self-critical. Others less so. What started out as a search for some of Buster’s notable admissions and self-admonishments, brought me to an article that’s two and a half years old, but as relevant as ever . . .
. . . The writers and reporters could have done more. Should we have EXPECTED more? Maybe. But honestly, how many of us are strong enough to risk our careers to be a whistleblower? You need to feed your family, a professional identity to cultivate or protect. I can see how and why some chose to cover their eyes and rejoice over McGwire, Sosa and the rest.
I’m not willing to be as sympathetic. Yes, I’m aware of the long tradition of baseball writers looking the other way, but I think it’s a poor excuse for journalistic failure. And it was a failure, brought on by the fact that, unlike any other genre of journalist, sports reporters are essentially expected to be beholden to the subjects they cover. Maybe sports isn’t as important as politics or international affairs or the economy, but wouldn’t we all be better off if the same standards, or at least something close to it, were applied to sports reporting that apply to those beats? Wouldn’t we know more? Wouldn’t it cultivate a deeper interest in the games we watch?