One of the things that always troubled me when I was a reporter for traditional media outlets was how we would sometimes take an innocuous quote that someone gave us and twist it into something that the person didn’t intend it to mean — not misquoting them at all, but more quoting them out of context — so that it makes for a better story. Like, trying to make it sound like they said something inflammatory when they intended to do nothing of the kind. And I’m not casting stones from a glass house here, because there were times over the years when I was as guilty of this as anybody, especially if I felt that it would give me a better story than the competition.
Now that I’m on my own, running my own blog and not feeling any pressure from above, the one promise I have made to myself is that I won’t do that again. Ever. From now on, the way I will report what an individual said is exactly what the individual meant to say. In context. As close as I can get it, anyway.
In that spirit, I want to give you something Zack Greinke said after the game tonight when asked about his mound opponent, Cliff Lee. It was a totally innocent quote that Greinke didn’t intend in any way as a slight to Lee. But there are reporters in this industry — none of them are presently on the Dodgers beat, but they are out there — who would have taken this and presented it as Greinke somehow slighting Lee, which he absolutely wasn’t doing.
Anyway, here’s the quote, in answer to a question about facing Lee and knowing he didn’t have much margin for error:
“It’s tough. He goes through stretches where it seems like he throws a complete game every game. If you catch him on one of those stretches, you know it’s going to be pretty much impossible. But if he isn’t on one of those stretches, if you do your job, you should be able to give your team a pretty good chance.”
Essentially, what Greinke said was that if you’re pitching against Lee, you’re lucky if you catch him at a time when he isn’t basically unbeatable. But if someone were inclined to twist this into a headline-grabbing story, they might present it as Greinke insinuating that unless Lee is at his absolute best, all you have to do is pitch well and you’ll beat him. And our tendency to do that is a big reason why most players distrust — and many actively dislike — the media in general. They have to be careful not only about WHAT they say, but HOW they say it, what specific words they use and whether those words can be twisted into something radically different from what they meant to say.
Now, in the rare instance that a player fully intends to say something provocative or inflammatory — and those situations do come up from time to time, because this game can get emotional sometimes — then of course, that’s the way it’s going to be presented here. But I will never sensationalize. I promise you that. I can’t say with any honesty that I never HAVE sensationalized. But I promise you that going forward, I never will.
Just a little late-night commentary on how the journalism biz sometimes works. I hope it was informative.