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The New-New Journalism -- Fan Sites vs. Newspapers

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Scott Carter, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. Scott Carter

    Scott Carter New Member

    The following is a true story. And yes, I obviously have too much time on my hands right now, but I thought it might be interesting to hear some of the opinions of folks on this board for a future story. Here goes:

    The news anchor of the local CBS affiliate in Tallahassee, an FSU grad and prominent figure in the community, writes a story for a very popular FSU fan website called Warchant.com. The story focuses on the possibility that the Seminoles’ top football recruit in the 2009 class – defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel of nearby Madison County High – could enter professional baseball instead of enrolling at FSU in the fall, which would be a huge blow for the Noles.

    This was last month, a few weeks before the MLB draft. The story insinuates that McDaniel, a power-hitting first baseman built in the mold of Prince Fielder and Warren Sapp, is a top-flight baseball prospect and takes off from there. McDaniel certainly raised his stock in the baseball draft with a strong senior season at Madison, but he received little attention from scouts and did not play in any of the popular showcase camps that nearly all the top-flight prep prospects play in. The story caught many readers off-guard.

    Of course, the fan base goes off the deep end on Warchant’s message boards. Suicides are threatened, but glad to report there are no known deaths as of this writing. Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel talks to a prominent Florida-based baseball scout and a couple of Baseball America analysts who downplay McDaniel’s draft potential, creating more buzz and intrigue on who exactly is reporting the truth – Warchant or the Sentinel.

    It turns out that McDaniel does end up getting drafted in the 33rd round last week by the Brewers, not exactly where top-flight prospects are picked. The same CBS anchor calls the kid up and reports as a news story that the Brewers have offered McDaniel $800,000 and that he’ll weigh his options. He follows that up with a story that McDaniel will make his decision on June 19. The message boards are foaming out the mouth by now.

    This is where it got really confusing to me and to most of the fans? When do 33rd-round draft picks get offered $800,000 to sign on the dotted line? Since it seems fishy, many of the fans on the message boards question what exactly is going on. Conspiracy theorists go wild. Could there be a misunderstanding? Is McDaniel fibbing? Did Warchant make the story up to boost subscriptions? Does the Sentinel have an agenda to ruin McDaniel’s reputation? You get the picture.

    In the aftermath of this latest twist, a popular columnist for Warchant writes a blog criticizing the criticism of McDaniel on the message boards. He makes some good points, but oops, all hell breaks loose. Those message board folks don’t want to be lectured, not when they pay $99 a year to say whatever is on their minds. Meanwhile, the Sentinel FSU beat writer does some good old-fashioned reporting and contacts a Brewers scout who says the team never made an offer to McDaniel.

    Say what?

    Well, with the mystery hanging in the air over the weekend, on Monday the same Tallahassee TV anchor writes another story for the website stating that McDaniel has turned down the Brewers offer and plans to enroll at FSU in the fall. The TV anchor never quotes anyone but McDaniel in his stories.
    A day later (today), the Tallahassee Democrat writes a well-reported story about the Brewers indeed having contact with McDaniel and perhaps tossing out the $800,000 figure in a text message if McDaniel opts to give up football. Hmm, that’s interesting.

    However, the same scout is quoted as saying “the most important thing here is there never was an official offer.’’ And over the weekend, the Brewers’ director of scouting tells a Brewers beat writer no $800,000 offer was ever made.
    Confused by all the twists and turns and another round of backlash from fans on Warchant’s message boards, Sentinel writer calls up the same scout – after McDaniel calls the Sentinel reporter and says he did get an offer and didn’t want the writer to think he was lying. Scout maintains no official offer was ever made, compliments the kid, who by all accounts is a really good person and a hell of a football player, and basically suggests the whole saga centers around a misunderstanding.

    In the meantime, feeling vindicated, the website uses the fact that somewhere in all of this mess is that McDaniel received a text message at one point in which $800,000 was mentioned – I have no doubt that this actually happened and that is where McDaniel got that number in his head – and defends its coverage of the entire episode while ripping the Sentinel writer for his coverage.

    A five-day story all because of semantics … this is what it has come to I guess …
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Meanwhile, Aunt Martha is lying in a ditch at the edge of town...
  3. Babs

    Babs Member

    This kind of "he said, he said" happens a lot, unfortunately. I guess it's because there's no Truth, but rather everyone's interpretation of reality and the English language.
  4. It is common practice for MLB teams to pay for college for HS players who are drafted and give up college scholarships. Perhaps that is the root of the misunderstanding. Maybe the $800K figure somehow morphed out of that. Granted, that seems like a lot for a 33rd round pick, but maybe the Brewers feel they got a steal.

    But somebody at the TV station should have put the kibosh on their anchor writing for a fan site. You want to write? Write for your own station's Web site.
  5. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    Newspaper writers freelance all the time. Granted, not usually for another outlet in their coverage area, but I can't blame anybody for trying to make a buck in this business however they can.
  6. OnTheRiver

    OnTheRiver Active Member

    If you're competing for the same eyeballs on the same topic -- and it seems like, in this case, they are -- then you DO NOT write for the other site. Period.

    Want to make more money on your own terms? Go sell insurance.
  7. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I don't know anything about this specific case, but the baseball draft is one of the most screwy things I have ever seen. Sometimes you'll see a guy who is considered to be one of the top players in the draft freefall because teams think it will cost too much to sign him or if they think he's going to college.

    I don't remember the name of the player, but there was a guy taken in the 27th round or so by the Cubs or White Sox, I think several years back who signed for first-round money for those exact reasons.
  8. John Kaltefleiter

    John Kaltefleiter New Member

    The bottom line is these fan sites, especially Warchant and the one I was most familiar with during my days in the biz, Dawgvent (Georgia), have an inferiority complex when it comes to other outlets, most notably newspapers. Now that attitude might be changing because newspapers are dead as Dillinger, but for the most part they're run by folks with not a sliver of journalism experience. So accountability or ethics are never part of the equation. They cherry pick crap from their message boards (purported juicy stuff), throw it up on their sites as their own and hope it turns out to be true. Of course, 95 percent of the time they're so far from the truth it's not even close so they just terminate the story and act like nothing ever happened.

    Had an instance during Georgia's search for a hoops coach this past spring when the guy that works for the site that has the Dawgvent reported that Georgia administrators were flying to Norman, Oklahoma to offer Jeff Capel the job. The "writer" had been doing the flight tracker thing and his site splashed the story across the home page with huge point size. Turns out, it was Georgia's assistant FOOTBALL coaches traveling to Norman for a coaching clinic. Even the SID, if he would've been contacted, would've informed him of that little fact. Of course, the colossal clusterfuck was quickly swept away and the site acted like it never happened. No correction, no retraction, nothing. Like I said -- no accountability.

    In regards to the TV guy working for a fan site like Warchant, it doesn't surprise me in the least. Since when do the talking hairdos ever take ethical standards into account? I mean most TV folks, the local ones like in Tally, Atlanta, etc., are the ones being told to tone down their cheering in the press box during games. I knew some good, decent TV folks when I was in the newspaper biz, but no more than the digits on my right hand.
  9. Screwball

    Screwball Member


    Without regard to journalism ethics, here's what happens in advance of the baseball draft: Scouts are asked to talk with possible draftees about what has come to be known as signability. The teams don't just want reports on a kid's fastball or power potential. The teams also want an idea of how much a kid wants to sign and, in the case of a college scholarship, how committed the kid is to actually attending college.

    It is common for a team to use a lower-round pick on a kid with a football scholarship that intends on using it, figuring it's a bonus if you can sign the kid but you haven't wasted one of your top picks if you can't. At that point, the team generally offers to buy the kid out of his football scholarship with a bonus appropriate for a higher-round pick.

    That said, $800,000 would be second-round money, which seems quite high for this kid. What probably happened: The Brewers asked the kid how much he would want to give up his football scholarship. He said--or, more likely, an agent told him to say--$800,000. The scout said he would tell his boss. The kid probably took that as an offer, and from then on ...
  10. John Kaltefleiter

    John Kaltefleiter New Member

    Totally agree with Screwball on the last graph. Hit it on the head.
  11. It is very common for guys who are considered to propsects who split past the first round or two to get drafted late and then get a bonus that is more suited for where they were projected to be drafted.
    Examples include the likes of Ryne Sandberg, who would have gone in top two rounds but had QB opps at virtually every Pac 10 school and Don Mattingly, who would have been a high pick but he has baseball at Miami, Fla., and football at Indiana, which scared off teams.
    Rockies currently have an outfielder, Dexter Fowler, who several years ago was a 14th round pick but was headed to Miami, Fla., to play baseball. He was considered a top 40 pick and when he didn't go in top 40 he slipped because his family had said if he didn't receive that type of compensation he was going to school. When Rockies traded Larry Walker to St. Louis the ownership told scouting department they could have money saved on salary for Fowler's signing bonus. Also when Rockies drafted Matt Holliday, which I believe was 1998, he was a seventh-round pick and received nearly $800,000, which at time was a record. He was a highly rated HS QB and had a full ride to Oklahoma State, where his father was the baseball coach, so teams shied away from him becuase of signability questions.
    I am not saying Brewers made this kid the offer that is claimed, but I will say it would not be surprising given his football abilities.
  12. Scott Carter

    Scott Carter New Member

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the feedback folks, all of it pretty much spot-on from my experience. Sure wasn't expecting a baseball HOF to chime in, but you never know who might show up here. :)

    When I first heard the words McDaniel and Brewers and $800,000 all in the same sentence, I was as skeptical as anyone and I have a few years experience covering MLB. But like you guys point out, the baseball draft is very, very unpredictable and the truth -- or the best we know of the truth in this particular case -- perfectly highlights that point.
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