The little world inside Great American Ball Park: My experience with the Reds’ high school media day.
Last Tuesday, I participated in the Reds’ high school media day with my younger brother Ritwik. Our family first became connected with the Reds when we moved to Mason three years ago and my brother started going to the Reds’ summer baseball camps, hosted by the Reds Community Fund. After taking advantage of the media day opportunity recently, we have found an even stronger admiration for the Reds.
We started the experience by going to GABP on May 13th, the first game in the Reds vs. San Diego Padres series. Emily Mahle from Business Operations escorted us to the field to watch batting practice. We felt like major VIPs, walking through the tunnel and dugout that the visiting team, the Padres, would walk through just minutes later. On the field, we were witnesses to all aspects of the game — the players, the coaches, the reporters, the camera-persons, the security guards. It was my first realization that there is more to professional sports than the game. There’s an army of people, besides the athletes, that handle all parts of the world inside GABP.
On the field, the players didn’t seem to mind having a few dozen people come to their “office” and watch them do their daily jobs. Even though it was only a few hours before game-time, they were smiling and jamming to music during batting practice. It was still a serious, professional work environment though, and it was awesome that, as a high school junior and fifth grader, we got to be part of it.
(We did not, unfortunately, get a selfie with the not-so-camera-shy BP. There’s always a next time, I guess).
After bidding goodbye to the players, we went to the Reds’ conference room, a place that as an aspiring journalist I might go in the near future for a press conference. Without the cameras flashing and reporters yelling, the conference room was just a quiet corner where we had a chat with the Reds’ media relations director Rob Butcher.
Butcher himself came from a journalism background and was empathetic to the roles in the media. According to him, he has seen the evolution of journalism first-hand.
“[The] writer’s job has changed a little bit in the last few years,” Butcher said. “It used to be if you were the reporter for the [Cincinnati] Enquirer, you would come to a game and you’d write two stories. You’d write what we call a notebook, which is just a lot of little stuff about what’s going on in the day, and then you’d write a game story. Well now, because of the internet, everything’s 24 hours,. Sometimes these guys will come, and they’ll write three or four or five stories, from 4 o’clock in the afternoon till the game ends, so it’s changed a little bit. Because [of] the internet — it’s infinite — so they can write as much as they want as long as they want. And they do.”
Another major difference due to the internet, Butcher said, is the number of reporters coming to games.
“There are fewer and fewer people covering us but we’re getting more and more coverage,” Butcher said.”
As technology and online platforms increase, there also comes more ethical dilemmas. With instantaneous news, there’s always the rush to break the story first. And especially with professional sports, where rumors can fly around about injuries and trades, Butcher said incidents have occurred where journalists legitimize news that isn’t accurate based on overheard conversations, anonymous sources, and negligence in fact-checking.
“You still get taught journalistic ethics and stuff, but now there seems to be more a concern of getting a story first instead of right,” Butcher said. “Writers are more likely to write stuff that they don’t know to be true now, whereas 10 years ago that would never happen because when you put it in a newspaper, there’s a hard copy of it. You wanted to make sure it was right because it’s right forever…[On the internet] everybody remembers what’s written the first time, nobody will remember the correction.”
This was interesting because we discuss this in class often; the ‘dying’ industry of print, whether these drastic changes to move online are good, and whether old journalism was better.
“I don’t know if [old journalism is] necessarily better. We still get good news,” Butcher said. “We get good news and we get it faster now, there’s no question about that.”
But despite the challenges of dealing with faster news, Butcher said the future for journalism and these ethical issues looks hopeful.
“It’s become a little better. I think over the course of the next few years, it’ll start to settle down into a more responsible journalism. When the internet came out, Twitter [and] Facebook all came out and everybody was on [them], not really sure how to use [them], Journalism went through a really bad period of…irresponsibility…I hope once people start to embrace the internet that we get back to that ‘Maybe I wouldn’t write this normally, so I’m not gonna write it now.’ [Because] people were very quick to pull the trigger.”
Butcher said another major development in sports media today is the accessibility of players due to social media.
“Now you not only have to deal with journalists, but you have to deal with the players you cover,” Butcher said. “Because I mean if Brandon Phillips has something he wants to say, he’s gonna tweet it. He’s not [going to] come to you and wait for the story to appear, 2-3 days from now…That’s a big change. Now the players are so accessible via Twitter, Facebook, it’s not as big a ‘coup’ to speak to [for example] Jay Bruce…One of the things I tell them in spring training is if you have a twitter account, what you say on twitter you might as well say to a reporter or into a T.V. camera because [writers are going to] write it as if you did…They just have to be careful [of] what they say and how they say it. And that’s a really big change in the last five years. Players are now essentially members of the media by using [social media].”
And of course, another topic that we touched on was the competition in the field.
“The internet’s a very powerful thing,” Butcher said.”Everybody’s a journalist now. If you have a Twitter feed or Facebook, everyone’s a journalist and everyone has a voice. You have to not only compete now with the newspapers in your area or the T.V. stations [and] radio stations. You’re basically competing with the entire world. That’s a big problem that you’ll face, as the competition is very very stiff. Much more stiff now.”
After spending some time talking about the media relations and journalists associated with the Reds, we got to see the journalists’ natural habitat: The Press Box. And after that, we had our final stop at the scoreboard control room.
The experience overall was a very enriching one and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity. I was reminded that the Reds are an awesome organization. And even though sports are not my major area of interest, that day really opened my eyes to all the possibilities and opportunities in the media world, and I would love to work for the Reds one day.