A Trivial But Vivid Case Study In Unethical Journalism

“Wait…did we leave out something from that story?”

Yes, I know: it’s another Boston baseball story (“Yoooouk!”), and I’m sure there are similar stories from other cities. And yes, I know that the journalists at issue are sports writers, which have traditionally been to journalism what a Big Mac is to gourmet cuisine. Nonetheless, this is an instance where some members of the Boston media have gone out of their way to misrepresent the facts of a story specifically to impugn the character of an innocent athlete and to rile up people  –in this case, Boston Red Sox fans, who often mutate into something far scarier than “people”—who depend on them for information, and who can be counted upon to over-react to everything.

Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholtz recently ended up in the hospital and on the disabled list with a dangerous episode of internal bleeding. After a few days he was released, weak and medicated, and told that he could resume normal activities immediately. Baseball needed to wait a bit longer, understandably, and anyway, he isn’t eligible to play in a game for two weeks. Last night, he attended an event that he had committed to attend before his medical problem, a charity event to raise money for the Greg Hill Foundation. Lest there be any question, this is a good thing, and noble. Buchholtz could have begged off, for he was just hospitalized and surely doesn’t feel great, but he didn’t, choosing instead to assist a group that raises funds to help local families touched by tragedy.

And here is how this is being covered by some of the Boston sports media:

“CLAY BUCHHOLZ didn’t travel with the team to the west coast, but was at a vodka-sponsored pool party at MGM Foxwoods last night. Details NEXT.

Indeed the charity event was held at a casino, because charity events held in slums and soup kitchens don’t seem to draw very well, for some reason. The event also featured a party by the pool funded by a vodka label for PR purposes, which only means that the company paid the bill and got sponsorship credit, not that the pool was filled with vodka. The “bulletin” from a sports talk show was picked up by other sports commentators in baseball-fanatic Boston, vilifying a young pitcher for following through on a commitment to a worthy charity…which, you will note, was the part of the story omitted from the description above.

This exceeds unfairness and dishonesty to charge into the realm of evil: causing harm to others for personal gain and pleasure. The reporting of the story is deceptive, and the only conceivable motive for such reporting is to inspire enmity against an individual who did nothing wrong. To stir the pot. To get people shouting. To make people angry, and persuade them to think bad thoughts about someone else.

Political websites like Drudge and the Daily Kos, as well as talking heads on all the networks, especially MSNBC and Fox, do this kind of thing all the time. The Boston sports-liars only hurt one Red Sox pitcher with their unethical reporting. The method they used, however, is tearing America apart.

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Spark, Pointer and Source: Craig Calcaterra

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

3 thoughts on “A Trivial But Vivid Case Study In Unethical Journalism

  1. As punishment they should make those writers sit through a 48 hour constant screening of Good Will Hunting and the horrible accents.

  2. Love it. Not just the ethics decision, but the format of the post. The trivial example makes the unfairness of the tactic clear without the readers having to deal with their own partisan biases. Once the reader gets the issue, there’s only a little push to note that this same problem infects more serious topics.

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