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When news of Rafael Soriano’s signing filtered onto Twitter on the evening of January 13th, many Yankees fans were aghast at the length of the deal and the fact that the club had sacrificed a draft pick to obtain an 8th inning man. A number of those fans used their platforms as bloggers to criticize the signing. In particular, Mike Axisa and Joe Pawlikowski expressed displeasure with the move over at River Avenue Blues (RAB), while Steve Goldman penned a critical column entitled, “What the Heck Are the Yankees Doing?” that ran at his Pinstriped Bible blog. What happened next reeks of censorship and raises questions about the degree of journalistic integrity required by a sports network that is owned by the team that it purports to cover.

Pinstriped Bible is directly affiliated with the YES Network, as the site is designed to look like the YES homepage and is frequently featured on the YES front page. A few hours after being posted, Steve Goldman’s post was suddenly pulled, only to reappear a number of hours later with a new title (Soriano Strengthens the Pen, But Do Dominoes Fall?) and a softened stance. A visit to the page shows the altered title and article, but the URL still contains the original title. I have the original article saved (available upon request), and the primary differences are a few sentences added in support of the deal, as well as the moving of a positive paragraph to the beginning of the article. When asked about the incident, Goldman declined to comment.

River Avenue Blues has a slightly weaker affiliation with YES, as they simply have a YES toolbar at the top of their page, but they too are featured on the YES website and in commercials that run on the YES network. After seeing what had happened to Goldman’s post, I kept an eye on RAB to try and see if something similar occurred. Sure enough, a few hours after their criticism of the signing, I noticed that the YES toolbar had disappeared. When I asked the guys at RAB about it, they declined to comment, and continue to do so. I am not sure when it returned, but I did notice that it was still missing at least 4 days after the signing. It is now back in place.

So what happened? Being that the guys at RAB and Steve Goldman both declined to comment, I can only take a rough stab at it, but I think the answer is obvious from the facts. Remember, Brian Cashman had nothing to do with this signing, as he has confirmed that ownership was the brains behind the deal. So one of two things took place:

1) Ownership asked YES to block the criticism from being affiliated with YES in any way, and YES complied,

OR

2) YES took preemptive action because they knew that ownership would be upset if they saw the criticism linked to from the YES website.

Regardless of which choice is true, the conclusion is equally disturbing. Because YES hosts Pinstriped Bible, they likely were able to directly censor Goldman, asking him to remove his post and edit it so as to mitigate the harshest points of criticism within it. As for RAB, because YES has limited control over the content of the site, their only choice was to pull their toolbar from the site until the displeasure over the deal settled a bit.

The question then becomes whether there is anything wrong with what YES did in this case. Some might argue that the team has no responsibility to provide a forum for criticism of the club and the moves that they choose to make. The problem with this argument is that YES has already chosen to provide that forum by affiliating with blogs in the first place. PB and RAB are critical of moves made by Brian Cashman all the time, yet no censorship of this sort has ever occurred before, to the best of my knowledge. It is unseemly to suddenly object to the content of the blogs now that they are critical of whomever in the organization was responsible for signing Soriano, particularly when similar criticism of other key members of the organization has gone uncensored in the past.

The Yankees like to tell us that the YES network provides unbiased, balanced coverage of the Yankees, pointing to the fact that they carry Mike Francesa’s show on their airwaves and allow their announcers to be critical of the club. Affiliating with blogs who do not wear Yankee-colored glasses is a laudable step in that direction, and suggests a true commitment to journalistic integrity. However, once a decision has been made to abide by journalistic standards rather than be a propaganda arm for the club, YES needs to stick to those standards rather than sacrificing their integrity so as to avoid upsetting the wrong people.

48 Responses to “YES Censors Affiliated Blogs Over Rafael Soriano Criticism?”

  1. I noticed this as well. Sometimes I click something open to read and leave it on my browser to come back to later. I did this and then had my browser closed and when I clicked to restore all my tabs it said page not found. I searched around on Goldman’s blog for the post but it wasn’t there. I had forgotten about the whole thing until you mentioned this.

    I think that’s pretty F’d up. I did not notice the RAB thing, probably because I read all their posts in my Google Reader.  (Quote)

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  2. RAB becomes the news. We’re through the looking glass, here.

    Interesting post and observations. Obviously if YES is censoring the blogs it hosts or is affiliated with, that presents a problem to the audience. As much as I’m sure we’ll all continue reading and enjoying the hosted/affiliated blogs, it will be unfortunate if we have that little nagging voice in the back of our heads reminding us that they may be pulling their punches because of YES interference. I, for one, wouldn’t mind some sort of response/explanation.  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    Just figured I’d follow-up on my thoughts since this is a relatively touchy subject. As far as RAB goes, the fact that they were not asked to by YES, nor did they, change any content at any time, kind of takes care of things. I don’t love the idea that YES might have pulled their banner in reaction to some of their content, as I think that reflects poorly on YES and might create the appearance, or at least the possibility in some people’s minds, that the writers are being pressured in some way, but in reality the fact that the writers haven’t been asked to change content, and have never changed content due to pressure, should allay any concerns. Any risk of an appearance of impropriety is on YES, in my opinion (and, obviously, this all comes with the caveat that I/we don’t really have any idea if anything even happened here).  (Quote)

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  3. Call me crazy but having a title altered to be more PR-friendly or pulling a toolbar for a few hours isn’t what I’d call censorship. Censorship, to me, implies that the message itself has been covered up or changed. The messages of PB and RAB are clear to this moment: they are very critical of the Soriano signing and state clear reasons why.

    It’s concerning that the YES executives would feel the need to meddle in the affairs of the blogs they sponsor. But to me as a fan, unless they are altering the fundamental arguments of the bloggers, then it’s just PR posturing and I couldn’t care less. With their brand on the page, I can see why they wouldn’t want harsh titles appearing on google searches involving them.  (Quote)

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    The Captain Reply:

    Even if it is just the title of a post, it still constitutes censorship. Look at the wording you used. “Altered” vs. “Changed” is “To-May-to” vs. “To-MAH-to.” They are 2 different words that describe the same action and using either of them doesn’t change (or alter) the fact that YES made PB to re-post their take on the Soriano signing in a way that was not consistent with how the folks at PB truly felt or how they originally intended their feelings to be expressed.

    That’s censorship all the way.  (Quote)

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    Joseph Reply:

    Seriously? You are really naive if you think so to be quite honest. I think whatever little “private world” of yours that you take up residence on must be quite happy place because it doesn’t abide the rules of life in general or common sense.

    The fact remains, the message conveyed wasn’t altered one iota. End of story.  (Quote)

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  4. Excellent summary of the events…I also noted the change in Goldman’s piece (and kind of expected their would be mollification), but the RAB side of the story is a little more surprising. I think the bottom line is that in order to be free of team control, a blog really can’t have an affiliation. Although that doesn’t mean an affiliated blog loses its value, it does take on a different voice.  (Quote)

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  5. Interesting post, Moshe. Do you know if RAB was taken down from blog drop down off of the YES site too? Regardless, if the Yankees had anything to do with posts be altered or either of the blogs being dropped it is stinks. However, it is common practice for companies to monitor the Social Media usage of employees. I don’t know the agreement PB has with YES but if they are employees of YES than they can pretty much censor whatever they like. I can’t say I am surprised but I am disappointed. I’d like to think the Yanks could rise above that.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I have no issue with them censoring employees per se. My issue is with allowing employees freedom to criticize some members of the organization but not others. Once you allow your writers freedom, you need to maintain it, because readers come to expect it.  (Quote)

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    Marcus Reply:

    I agree, completely.  (Quote)

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  6. Terrific stuff, Mo. Whenever asked about their YES affiliation, the guys at RAB have always maintained that YES has never asked them to alter a word they’ve posted, ever. The question must be asked if they can still make that statement, and “no comment” answers the question for us.

    BTW-YES pulled this crap on Mike and the Mad Dog soon after they started being simulcast. Does anyone think they wouldn’t do it to some tiny blog?  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I was watching the content, and none of it changed. If YES asked them to change it, they didn’t comply.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    OK, that’s important to note. Thanks for clearing that up.  (Quote)

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  7. No, Steve, “no comment” does not answer the question for you. We opted to not provide comment for this story for reasons we’d rather not disclose. But I can say without hesitation that YES has never, at any point in our relationship, asked us to alter a word of content. Not one single word.  (Quote)

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    Eric Schultz Reply:

    This is good to hear, though certainly an incident such as this does raise concern of potential future censorship, or even self-censorship (so as to avoid angering the YES overlords).  (Quote)

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    Joe P. Reply:

    The day I self-censor to appease someone else is the day I stop doing this.  (Quote)

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    Eric Schultz Reply:

    Glad to hear it! Keep up the great work.  (Quote)

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    Rob Reply:

    Joe P, I love RAB and read it daily but you asking us to accept your no comment for cryptic reasons does not pass the smell test.

    Like Lewis Brandeis said, sunshine sure is a good disinfectant.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    I wasn’t going to get into this (because I like Joe and am a fan of his site) but its obvious something happened. YES wouldn’t have to be so blunt as to “ask us to alter a word of content”. They could inform them they’re not happy with their site and threaten to pull their banner and drop their link. RAB is free to post whatever they like, but if YES is unhappy they’re free to end their association with RAB.

    The standard of YES being completely off hands on content is of course, absurd on its face. If RAB decided to start posting content that YES finds inappropriate (say, certain NoMaas pix) they would end their affiliation with them, so this all becomes a matter of where you draw the line. But make no mistake, a line is drawn somewhere. I’m sure the 3 authors will argue they have their own personal standards and self censor things they themselves don’t like, but they have to factor in YES as a consideration. That’s just the real world.

    So yes, Joe’s argument doesn’t pass the smell test. He’s trying to argue a very narrow point on a much more complicated issue.  (Quote)

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    Fan of Independent RAB Reply:

    Joe,

    I’m sorry Joe, but I am not satisfied with your response. Simply because they did not ask you to alter content does not give me confidence in your independence. When the YES network took down their banner for a few days, they sent you a message as clear as any spoken request for alteration can be.

    As long as the YES banner is atop the website and advertisements are running on the YES television network, I will have permanent doubts as to your ability to remain independent in your analysis.

    I ask you to please end your affiliation with YES immediately.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    This goes too far. As long as their journalistic standards are aligned, there’s no reason to think their credibility is compromised. As Mo said above, nothing from the article was changed after the banner was pulled, so if YES complained they didn’t comply. You can trust what they write as being independent, and I believe Joe 100% when he says that if he ever feels like he’s writing to please someone else, he’ll stop doing this.  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    “As long as their journalistic standards are aligned, there’s no reason to think their credibility is compromised. As Mo said above, nothing from the article was changed after the banner was pulled, so if YES complained they didn’t comply. “

    Agreed. The only problem is here is one that comes along with any non-independent creative enterprise, whether it be a blog or some other medium, which is that there are factors at play that might affect the work-product. Since we know RAB never changed its content, we have no reason to think they are any more compromised than any other writers who work under someone else’s banner (i.e. every single writer out there except for independent blogs).

    It’s unfortunate that YES put any of these writers in this position. It’s not their fault, but this is something that people will consider and/or keep in the back of their minds.  (Quote)

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  8. I really don’t think this is an issue that pertains to the Yankees. After all, does anyone really expect complete objectivity from YES? That’s not really its business model.

    Instead, I think the credibility at issue is those of the involved writers. Objectivity is their bread and butter, so ultimately those outlets need to decide how much conflict of interest they can tolerate without compromising their reputation.

    Even in spite of the events that took place, I still trust RAB and PB, but future occurrences of similar events could cause an erosion.  (Quote)

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  9. It’s stories like this that make me glad I write my little blog on Blogspot. I can write what I want, when I want, without fear of it being taken down or changed by the powers that be.

    I agree with Moshe’s point about the consistency in YES’ practices. You can’t grant freedoms in some situations and not others. You can’t let your on-air guys bash the team if they play poorly and then censor writers who criticize a potentially-poor signing.

    Go free speech!  (Quote)

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  10. This is something that I would like a response from YES/The Yankees about.  (Quote)

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    Tom Swift Reply:

    I agree. If YES did this, it was short-sighted. Blogs have value in large part because they represent the unvarnished fan base, or portion thereof. By censoring a blog, in the long term all you are doing is destroying brand value.  (Quote)

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    The Captain Reply:

    Can’t argue with the value of blogs, especially ones like RAB, but I wouldn’t hold my breath holding out hope on getting any kind of apology from YES on this situation.  (Quote)

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  11. I noticed the Goldman article vanishing and it seemed pretty obvious it was censored at the time.. Errors occur, there are occasional website problems, etc, but usually the posts come back up. Not that one.  (Quote)

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  12. To quote Darth Vader; “Most Unfortunate”. What an extremely lame move by YES. All this does is make them look worse, and gives haters the ammunition to question the integrity of every blog post from now on. Not cool.  (Quote)

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  13. Who really cares?  (Quote)

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  14. Are you folks kidding me? This is NOT a big issue. This is about a sports team and its strategic moves, not about movements of troops in the Middle East or other national security secrets. This is not about the government controling the press. This is about a business having the ability to manipulate a story on websites that they have an affiliation with. The Yankees have the right to control what is shared about its team if it deems it necessary. Trust me….reporters for major publications who travel with the team show discretion over what they write about or they risk being frozen out by players. This is nothing new and a non-story people. Let’s not make baseball [which I love] or any other sport as important as other issues which might affect our liberty. This is not a freedom of the press issue by any means.  (Quote)

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    Tim Watley Reply:

    AMEN!  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    Nobody has claimed this is a freedom of the press issue and nobody has compared this issue to anything that ‘affects our liberty.’  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    The whole “we won’t air your laundry as long as you feed us stories” agreement died out in the 80′s at this point everything is fair game and there is 0% chance you could “freeze out” a writer who follows the team for a major newspaper, at worst said news reporter could just go to other team mates that might not like you and get as much dirt as he wants.

    You really can’t show discretion of what you print because if someone else finds it out and prints you can get fired for being scooped on your beat, trust me if they have a story and it will sell papers they don’t hold back.  (Quote)

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  15. I love the debate, but I truly feel like this is the problem with the good ol US of A. You guys have nothing better to do with your lives than not only read these blogs 24/7, but now you are taking out time to yell at each other about censorship. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this has been going on for years. If you really and truly feel that any of us is free and we can exercise our first amendment rights whenever we please, than you are sadly mistaken. We are all pawns, whether it be controlled by corporations or the Government. Every one of us is censored in one way or another. The whole point is to go with the flow and get paid in the process and I’m sure that’s what RAB, PB and every other writer whether they like to say it or not is doing and at some point has come into this situation.  (Quote)

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  16. It’s pretty weak that they all declined to comment on why.  (Quote)

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    Daler Reply:

    That said who can trust either website now to be critical and objective. Huge blow for them. And for what? How much extra $?  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    I really doubt they got paid to take down any article, probably just more a threat of excommunication did the job this is the black hand or something so I can’t see money being exchanged over whats blogged about.  (Quote)

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  17. Let’s see,Randy Levine brought in Goldman Sachs to partner with the Steinbrenner’s with YES.The word is that Levine’s fingerprints are all over the Soriano deal so the arrow tilts toward old Randy who seems to have Hal’s ear.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    Bingo. Seriously, does anyone see Lonn Trost doing something like this? Brain Cashman? Does anyone think Hank or Hal give a shit about these things when they’re running a 1.5 billion dollar business?

    Whose fingerprints are all over this deal? Who’s credibility on baseball matters (or maybe job security) is on the line with this deal? Levine. He knows he stuck his neck out on this one, and now he’s trying to stifle criticism. Misstep after misstep. These are the kinds of moves people make on their way out in this town.

    BTW-Randy was hired to deal with the city and get the stadium built. He also brokered the YES deal as you said. The stadium is up, YES is 10 years old, what exactly do they need him for now? I know he’s supposed to be a legal expert, and may do work with various contracts. But his current role isn’t one that he’s uniquely qualified for, as it was when he was a former Guiliani aide who was dealing with the city.  (Quote)

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  18. These blogs are done. Can’t recover from this.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    I’m pretty sure this is sarcasm, but imagine for a second if RAB did comply and word leaked out about it. Their credibility would be shot, they’d be seen as shills for the Yankee brand. Free to post whatever they like as long as they don’t upset anyone in the Yankee/YES front office.

    So yes, they would be “done” for many die hard fans who follow the Yanks, which is the bulk of their audience. Glad to see they did no such thing.  (Quote)

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