By Mike Steffanos
On Friday I wrote about the coverage in the Daily News of Paul Lo Duca's clubhouse blowup the night before. While the beat writers for most of the area papers seemed to go out their way to give Lo Duca a break in their stories of what happened, the News' Peter Botte went in the opposite direction, calling it a "telling admission" that Lo Duca's words were directed at his Latin teammates, referring to how a "crazy-eyed Lo Duca" was tossed out of the game that led to his suspension, and referring to the old news of the catcher's marital problems and personal life in general.
Despite the spin given by other writers for the same paper in more recent articles, there was a definite negative tone to the article that came through quite clearly when I was reading it. While other writers seemed inclined to give Lo Duca a break based on his past cooperation and the fact that he was admittedly having a bad day, there was no slack in that story. And that's fine, it was Botte's story to write as he saw fit, and he chose to take a fairly cheap shot at a guy who has made reporters' jobs easier since he's been there.
In that same edition of the news, there was an annoyingly self-righteous column from the News' Lisa Olson that also talked about Lo Duca. I referred to it in my original piece, but elected not to quote from it. The words that rubbed me the wrong way were as follows:
The Mets don't seem to mind unveiling their inner clowns, warts and all. After last night's game at Shea was postponed because of rain, Paul Lo Duca aired several gripes. In particular, he said the media ought to interview more of the Spanish-speaking players.
Never mind that they are often the ones milling about the clubhouse before games, generally accessible and usually willing to communicate in English. Outside of Carlos Delgado, whose grumpiness coincides with his batting slump, the Mets' Latino players, like their Anglo counterparts, are almost always accountable. And Lo Duca's hardly in a position to be offering media advice.
... The Mets have taken to wearing hideous orange T-shirts, fashion don'ts that fit nicely with Shea's backdrop. The back reads, "there ain't a big top big enough for this circus." David Wright said the shirts refer more to the team's personality, because the Mets have so many clowns. On that point, few would disagree.
What Lisa Olson seems to miss is that she and many of the others who cover this team are indeed card-carrying clowns in the circus. Especially when they feel the need to be preachy and patronizing to both the ballplayers they write about and some of their readers. Rather than drop it after her annoying column Friday, she returned with something even more annoying the next day -- an open letter to Lo Duca showing him the error of his ways while supposedly admitting to some of the mistakes on the part of the media. Lisa Olson asks the question: Is it fair to say we both have erred?, but then never really admits to anything being the media's fault. She does get a little patronizing shot in at those of us who don't understand how the media do their jobs, including dabbling amateur bloggers like yours truly:
Readers, listeners and fans generally don't give a fig about how we go about our jobs (though many of them dabble in amateur blogging). But based on your emotional interview yesterday, clearly you care about your reputation, just as we care about ours.
Actually, I understand very clearly how the media does their jobs. I'm aware that it wasn't an option for any of the writers who witnessed Lo Duca's blowup to ignore it. Others would write about it, and your editor would rightfully demand to know why you didn't. Still, the writer always has the option on how to slant the story, and Botte slanted it quite negatively. Still, that was less annoying then Olson's patronizing advice to Lo Duca and the little slap at bloggers. I chuckled when I saw those words, actually -- something like that only stings when you respect the person who writes them enough to take offense.
As a blogger, I'm aware of what I am and what I'm not. I have respect for the beat writers as I know how hard it is to write on a deadline. There are a handful of columnists I respect, although many of them don't impress me as particularly insightful -- including you, Ms. Olson. I might be an amateur, but when I dabble in this space I take responsibility for what I write. As a matter of fact, I feel strongly that each writer has to answer to his or her personal integrity. I find it somewhat artful when sportswriters tell me that they are not responsible for the scandalous stuff that appears about athletes like Lo Duca in the rest of the paper, but then refer to it often in their own stories or columns. Even an amateur like myself knows when someone is being hypocritical.