Monday, January 29, 2007

The Bill Ladson Controversy


Hurricane Farid

Media commentary is part of what I contribute to Curly W, so here is some.

Today, Brandon brought to my attention the blogstorm started by Farid's excellent interview of MLB.com Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson. I don't really read Bill, but you can bet I'll add him to the list of voices I troll in this upcoming season. Farid's piece set off a storm of comments, then a reaction from Ryan at Distinguished Senators > storm of comments, then an epilogue from Farid with comments.

Farid's interview began with a lengthy introduction highlighting his big takeaways from the interview. I don't really know what Farid is talking about when he says that bloggers can cause intentional or unintentional damage. To what? Bill's rep? The team's prospects? National security? Although I tend not to go straight for the Constitutional argument like Ryan did, baseball consumers are the paying customers. Whether sitting in a seat that you paid for with your own money, watching a game on TV or wading through a commercial website like the Washington Post, it's entertainment for our consumption and we can pretty well say whatever the hell we want about it. That goes for the people that bring us baseball. That goes for the people that cover the people that bring us baseball, and the people that cover them and so on and so forth. Obviously if anyone is out there giving out Bill's home address and where his kids go to school, that's legally actionable and if anyone is trying to damage his career that writing may be subject to libel or defamation suits.

But is implying that by virtue of his employment by MLB he may have some level of access not granted to other writers harmful? I guess that depends on who's answering. As a commenter on Farid's post mentions, Bill is a credentialed reporter, and therefore is an insider relative to us schmoes on the street. And no matter how many times the league denies it, I'm always going to be skeptical of beat reporting on a league franchise by the league sponsoring the franchise. That doesn't mean he's a bad writer, it just means I don't think it's totally independent on any subject matter. If that's what you think is harmful Bill, I apologize. It's not you.

Fourteen spacebars down, we get back into the red meat when discussing bloggers. Bill's comments about bloggers hacking his computer, printing lies and knowing it all are on the border of obsessive. I don't know if he is referring to specific blog entries or just hysterically generalizing, or if his skin is just too thin but Bill, all this talk is happening in bars, over watercoolers or at games anyway so is your beef that it's in print or that it happens? Baseball is a source of emotion for some people, a source of frustration for others and a source of humor to others. Besides, in comments, Farid mentions that three blogs were called out specifically. Hmmm, wonder which ones? By naming the blogs and reporting on what Bill said, that's not biasing against the blogs, it's reporting what was said in an interview. By not mentioning the blogs, Farid is inserting himself into the story.

Farid, are you repeating your sense of the interview when you lament our lack of editorial oversight, or are you putting forth your viewpoint? Blogs go too far? Are unfair? What are you talking about? This is baseball. It's a game. Fairness and personal-ness are in the eye of the beholder. Accuracy is to be prized, but accuracy in baseball really comes down to what transactions happened when, markers in time. Everything else but the W-L is opinion.

Farid, your style is not to agitate, and that's one of the things I like about it. You are landing these interviews, which is incredible and adding a depth to Nationals coverage that we would not have otherwise, and for that I am grateful. Personally, I have little desire to get big interviews. I am a Nationals fan, but I want to remain independent. I'm not loyal to anything but the laundry. A bad play deserves to be pointed out, a bad move deserves to be mocked and good things deserve to be pointed out. My sense of fairness is exactly that, mine.

Ryan's response on Distinguished Senators was a little rough, but not necessarily out of order. When you start making generalizations about specifics, those within that brushstroke are going to get a little edgy. I don't think Farid is enabling, I don't think this interview is cover for some covert culling of Nationals blogs by shaming them into writing shiny happy things. I think Farid was deferring to Bill by showing him the respect any of us would (or should) a serious journalist, and he obviously promised to to represent fairly Bill's positions on blogs when he went live with the intervew.

Farid's style is not as acerbic as others, and he should not be disrespected for that. As I indicated above, Farid has inserted himself into the story by dropping that Bill named names, but I do not believe Farid owes anyone anything.

Farid's follow-up piece contains one specific item that was alluded to in his interview, but not made clear until the follow-up: Bill thinks it's ok to disagree with him as long as we email him first...presumably to get his take and allow him to justify himself? Unless we are talking about the basic verification of fact, that's not how it works, especially when he gets 200 mailbag emails a week. I'm not waiting around for Brandon to return my email before I go live with a piece, much less a guy that gets 50 emails a day. Opinion writers air their differences, and apologies in print. That Bill does not have the time or charter to rebut every blogger's assertions in print is his problem, not mine.

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Farid, I hope everything is ok with you.

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JammingEcono disagrees with Bill's assertion that defense was the reason the Nationals finished in last in the division. By Bill's standards, that's an attack.

William Yurasko reminds us the last time two blogs fought for real, they both died.

Dave at Nats Triple Play says opinions are as opinions do.

Harper agrees that Bill is probably not totally independent, possibly no moreso than any other beat reporter relying on the team info for material.



Hurricane Floyd image from here