Twitter has entirely changed how baseball reporters and writers deal with the information that they collect and how they interact with their readership. Ken Rosenthal chimed in on this topic last night (h/t @crashburnalley):

Early in my career, I would lose sleep if I reported something inaccurately, even worry about losing my job. The standards now are much lower; too often, the emphasis is on being first rather than factual. Many stories lack nuance and context, particularly when reported in 140-character tweets.

I’m not preaching from any mountaintop here — I pride myself on accuracy, but occasionally make mistakes, too. It is the nature of the business now. It is not a step forward. And from the perspective of an executive such as Williams, it is just one more hassle.

Rosenthal is right, as the nature of Twitter sheds details from stories and often leads to misinterpretations by readers and fans. Furthermore, the offhand nature of Twitter tends to make it impossible for readers to distinguish whether a tweet is the writer’s opinion or is based on actual reporting. We had one example last night from Jon Heyman, as Steve clarified this morning. Heyman was just stating an opinion about Joba Chamberlain, but a number of people ran with the story as if he was reporting it. Similarly, Mark Feinsand sent out the following tweet this afternoon:

Yankees postgame notes: M. Rivera has hamstring injury; J. Vazquez among latest round of roster cuts.

The actual notes referred to Mike Rivera and Jorge Vazquez, but some believed that Mariano Rivera was hurt and a mini-panic started. When Feinsand revealed that he was just kidding around, most shrugged it off and laughed, while others were fairly upset (others ran and wrote a blog post). This lead me to think about these reporters and their responsibilities when using Twitter.

Being that people follow them due to their status as baseball writers, do they have a responsibility to maintain similar journalistic standards to those they are expected to have on their blogs and in their papers? Should the writer assume that everything he says about the team will be taken as an act of reporting unless otherwise denoted? Or is it the responsibility of the reader to filter the information and assume that Twitter reporting is less likely to be precise or accurate?

I lean towards it being the responsibility of the writer to contextualize all of his team-related tweets. A simple IMO (in my opinion) can delineate between reporting and analysis or opinion, and avoiding misleading data can be done with just a little bit of diligence. However, being that reporters are still figuring out the medium, I think that readers need to be cognizant of the fact that the standards on Twitter are lower at this point, and use the information accordingly.

How do you feel about this issue?

8 Responses to “Discussion: What Do You Expect From Baseball Writers On Twitter?”

  1. I think they should be careful what they wish for. If they don’t want folks to take them seriously, don’t whine when they criticized and/or complain when new media increasingly steals eyeballs away from their dying newspapers. If you’re a serious news reporter and want to be thought of as such, you get judged differently than if you’re a columnist spouting opinion. I’ve always had a lower standard for Francesa than I do for Sweeney Murti, for example. One is there to report, the other to entertain and attract an audience.

    That said, Feinsand was just having a little fun. Everyone’s allowed to do that. I hope.  (Quote)

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  2. I think that Twitter is an overrated tool that diminishes complex thoughts into silly 140-character limitations. It is no substitute for actual writing, and as a society we will lose out if it becomes an important tool to any kind of journalist, sports or otherwise. I reluctantly participate in the system, but deep down I hate the penetration that it has made to political and sports media over the past year.  (Quote)

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  3. Anything worth saying is worth saying in a complete sentence. If these fools are paid professionals, they can find a way to deliver an accurate, or at least properly qualified, message.  (Quote)

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  4. In addition to thinking Mariano Rivera was hurt, they could have thought Javier Vazquez was cut.  (Quote)

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    Jason Reply:

    Yes and by Yankee, he could have been talking about the “damned Yankee” which usage dates from 1812. During and after the American Civil War (1861–1865) Confederates popularized it as a derogatory term for their Northern enemies.  (Quote)

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  5. This has also been an issue with some of the Mets beat writers on Twitter with regards to Jenrry Mejia. They toss off their own opinions that have no basis in what the team is doing and it sends the bloggers into a frenzy.

    It doesn’t help that guys like David Lennon openly taunt people who don’t think that Mejia should start the year in the bullpen.  (Quote)

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  6. There’s really two separate issues here: reporting something inaccurately because you rushed to put it up on Twitter before anyone else, and reporting something inaccurately because you’re being lazy/careless.

    As for the former, I’m afraid there’s not much to do about it. There’s such a high degree of institutional pressure placed on these guys to break the news first that it’s a difficult thing to overcome. Ideally, you’d like everyone to verify their sources before publishing, but I don’t think it’s realistic anymore in this sort of forum.

    The latter problem is something that could be fixed. If you’re a professional journalist, you should take pride in what you do an and strive for clarity, no matter it it’s a 3,000-word feature or a 140-character tweet. It’s OK to be more casual on Twitter than in the newspaper, but you still have to be clear about your intentions. As much as I strong reservations about Twitter, I think it can be a useful tool if employed properly, so it’s unfortunate that some people seem unable to do that.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Agree with everything you said. Being first now trumps being right, and there is not much if anything, that can change that. Simply put, being first gets more pageviews than being right, and that’s all that is going to matter to the employers.  (Quote)

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