The more I examine news reports and even features, the clearer it becomes that what we now generously call “journalists” feel entitled to manipulate, distort and omit facts in order to support their desired narrative while pushing public opinion in the direction they prefer as propagandists. I was taking a break from ethics by reading the sports pages (What was I thinking?), perusing a Times piece about the New York Mets failing to sign their #1 draft pick, and the consequences to both the young player (Kumar Rocker) and the team. The article focused on the similar experience of Carter Stewart, now a pitcher for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league. (And you thought “Cleveland Guardians” was a bad baseball team name!) Carter is the focus of the story, as we learn from Times writer Alex Coffey that he is bitter and angry about the consequences of his failing to sign with the Braves when he was their first pick in 2018. Stewart says that when the 2019 draft arrived after he had amassed impressive statistics pitching in college, he decided to opt out of the system that had, in his view, betrayed him. He signed a six-year contract with Japan’s Hawks for $7 million. “I had no real allegiance to Major League Baseball,” he told the Times. “They hadn’t done anything for me so far, so why did I have to force myself to stay here?”
Wait, what about the United States, Carter? Has the nation of your birth “done anything for you”? Is it all about money? What’s going on here?
There was no explanation in the article, which was written to support the position that the system unjustly favors the teams over the players. Then I noticed something odd about a photo in the article showing Stewart in his Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks T-shirt. It was hard to tell, but he looked Eurasian to me.
Intrigued about what the Time story might have omitted, I checked around the web. There was no mention of his family background at all, other than the fact that Carter was born here. However, I did find a lot of photos like this…
I also found a photo of Carter with his family, and there were no apparent Asian-Americans in evidence. Maybe it’s nothing; maybe he was adopted (like my son); maybe playing Japanese baseball makes you start to look Japanese. But especially considering Stewart’s dismissive quote about leaving the country, the existence of any bonds he might feel to Japan is relevant—unless, of course, the reporter would prefer that we not know. The photo of Stewart the Times chose is suspicious in its failure to clearly show the pitcher’s face.
I would expect a competent, curious, trustworthy reporter, having seen photos of Stewart, to at least ask the question or investigate—except that I no longer expect reporters for the New York Times to be competent, curious or trustworthy.
As I said in the title, it’s a trivial issue, but the fact that that such episodes occur at all is significant. We can’t trust reporters, which means that we can’t be sure we are ever getting the whole story, the real story, or the story we need to know in order to understand the world around us.
And that isn’t trivial at all.