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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An Open Letter to Objective Bruce

Dear Objective Bruce

You are always welcome to post comments on this webpage. You definitely bring a different point of view and we appreciate that. Yet, you sometimes make points which are either flawed logically or are otherwise erroneous. In so doing, you often make disparaging comments about this page’s bloggers. We often call you on these points but you inevitably fail to respond. Let’s look at two recent examples:

  1. DBVader has repeatedly called on you to admit your error regarding a recent column in which you claimed a reference did not exist but DB showed definitively that it did. He has asked you about this repeatedly and you have not responded.
  2. On this past Sunday’s blog entry, I claimed that Shaughnessy was being hypocritical in criticizing Schiling’s Cy Young contract clause while at the same time Shaughnessy pushed the work of his fellow Globe writers. You claimed that this was a poor comparison and you called me na├»ve and you called my agenda silly.
Specifically, you said:

How incredibly naive.

No, Schilling isn't going to share his million dollar bonus with a sportswriter who throws him a vote. But with a million on the table, can it be said that Schilling won't be friendly toward a sportswriter who could give him a vote? Doesn't giving a sportswriter the opportunity to single-handedly increase someone's income by a million dollars also give that sports writer greater access and give the player an incentive for giving information to that writer -- and not just information about the team but, oh say maybe information about what happened in a close-door clubhouse meeting?

The conflict of interest could not be more clear. It is truly naive if you can't see the difference between placing a reporter in a position where he can make someone that he covers a million dollars richer and praising a book by a colleague.

Now, I started to break your statement down in the blog response section but since you generally don’t respond to those, let’s do some detailed analysis of the absolute absurdity of your comment above and let’s do it on the front page.

You question the wisdom of giving a sportswriter the opportunity to single-handedly increase someone’s income by a million dollars. First of all, I would suggest that this goes on all of the time but it is not in such a direct form. I am certain that athletes give certain reporters access that they don’t give to others. What is the payoff? Favorable coverage of course. Favorable coverage translates into improved public relations perceptions of that player which means things such as more lucrative endorsements which means lots of dollars. I imagine certain players are absolute masters of this. Can you refute this Bruce?

Bruce, you talk about players giving reporters insight into the team behind closed doors. You imply this is a bad thing. Please complete this sentence, Bruce: “This is bad because….”

In my line of thinking, it is bad if 1) if the reporter does not provide a fair assessment of that player –in other words, he gives him an unjustified free pass or 2) if the reporter blatantly does something like provide an unjustified Cy Young vote to a player who clearly does not deserve it. We already discussed the fact that 1) probably happens to some degree—whether it is a deliberate act by the reporter or if the reporter does not even realize that he or she is being a pawn. I would sincerely hope that a reporter would not be so weak as to be manipulated like this—but I guess I would not be surprised either. After all,I do recall Shaughnessy's review of Larry Bird’s new line of wine a while back – Bruce, do you think that little column increased sales of Bird’s wines? What's the difference here, Bruce?

The second case (casting an unjustified Cy Young vote as a form of payback) is much more blatant – and because it is so blatant, it would play out in the court of public opinion. The reporter would likely be revealed and censured – his integrity would be under attack. Why risk this? The player would also come off incredibly poorly—would it really be worth it to the player being portrayed as manipulative to cash in on a contract clause that has marginal impact on his salary? At any rate, things have a way of self corrrecting when they are made public like this – it is the power of the market of public opinion.

What is Shaughnessy’s solution? “Let’s take the vote away from the writers.” That is pure brilliance. Does Shaughnessy really have such little faith in his fellow sportswriters to think they need to be saved from their collective incompetence? Look around Bruce…people all around the world are in positions of power – in these positions of power , they are often in a position to be bribed. By logical extension, Shaughnessy would have you believe that the solution to this would be to remove them from their positions of power. I can hear it now, “Sorry Congressman, we need to remove you from your position because you might get bribed.” If this were the solution, would anything in the world get done? Shaughnessy’s solution is absurd to its very core and it is also a slap in the face of his fellow sportswriters.

Switching gears here, let’s look at the old cronyism in the sportswriting profession in which someone like Shaughnessy endorses the work of his fellow employees at the Globe. I am perhaps guilty of hyperbole in suggesting that these guys are sharing royalties but I am trying to make a point. What if instead, there is a tacit agreement between the writers “I will give you a favorable push if you return the favor down the road.” This is intellectually dishonest especially when it is the case that a particular writer’s work doesn’t merit a push. I, as a reader, may be deceived because a given columnist (who I thought I trusted) did not provide an intellectually honest opinion about a fellow journalist because he is engaging in tit for tat endorsements. I would suggest this is just as bad as the abuses that can play out in the athlete/sportswriter relationship discussed earlier. Why doesn’t Shaughnessy suggest the ban of these endorsements? Because he's too busy doing it and does not realize the utter hypocrisy of it all.

Our agenda is not silly. Shaughnessy is paid big dollars to write for a major newspaper. His work is often fundamentally flawed and we have every right to call him on that. The readers of the Boston Globe deserve much better than Dan Shaughnessy’s mindless drivel.

21 comments:

objectivebruce said...

1. I'll have to go look up this matter than needs correcting. IN the meantime, I'm still awaiting a correction going back some months, perhaps a year or more.

2. If I see something written in response to me, I sometimes respond. Sometimes the arguments are so absurd I simply ignore them. Sometimes I couldn't be bothered. Time is a precious commodity.

3. There is still a big, big difference between recommending a book by a colleague, and standing to single-handedly help someone make a million dollars. The issue is less whether a single reporter will decide to become a rain-maker than it is the appearance of conflict. There is often a quid pro quo involved in reporting. That's undeniable. But that is hardly a justification for contracts which let a single sportswriter make a checkmark on a ballot and increase someone's income by a million dollars. The mere fact that such an arrangement exists can bring the entire profession under suspicion by creating a potential for checkbook journalism that exceeds any previous benchmark. Favorable mentions for inside dope happens all the time, as does negative coverage influenced by a negative relationship. That's why God invented editors. But don't confuse public relations with pay-for-play, which you naively continue to do.

4. The book given favorable mention in the Shaughnessy column is no Al-Hirshberg (look him up) weekend puff-piece. It's a realistic look by a magazine section writer at the dynamics of a successful high school basketball program. I've read the blurbs only, but it seems to be an important work for anyone who watches high school athletics. Coming as it does after Shaughnessy's recent book about his son's baseball career, I think the columnist is uniquely positioned ot recommend it, and I recall him recommending other books by non-Globe staffers.The Swidey book seems to be an important work, and I don't recall seeing Swidey's side of your imagined tit-for-tat.

4. So why hasn't Conflict-of-interest Massarotti been vilified hereabouts for climbing into the sack with Ortiz to write a book?

5. It is bad for a player to give a reporter insight into what is happening behind closed doors when that reporter has the potential to make a million dollars rain down on the player.

6. Is taking the vote away from the writers punishment of the writers? That's a naive viewpoint. In reality, it would protect the writers for allegations of collusion or carrying out agenda-driven voting patterns.

7. Your agenda is absurd. Most of the commentary is driven by hatred of Shaughnessy for not jock-sniffing. Delayed adolescence probably described it best.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bruce (or as you will now be called Frank from Gloucester).

Your argument in number six is exactly the sort of justification tyrants have used to "Protect others from Themselves" for centuries. I'm sure you will call me immature or naive or something else but you just made an argument that a someone like Mussolini or Stalin would love. Take away the rights of the press, they won't mind, in fact we are saving them from themselves. Nice Bruce, er Frank.

Yes I realize suggesting to take away the writers vote in the Cy Young is not nearly in the same ballpark as what those dictators did but the essence of your argument about it is the same.

Anonymous said...

One other thought, with these two facts in mind:

1. This coming year will be Schillings last (unless he changes his mind again which is doubtful).

2. Cy Young voting occurs at the end of the regular season.

Now, can someone explain to me how a reporter is going to get inside access or what advantage that reporter would get in currying favor with a player about to retire? The only way possible for it to pay off for a reporter would be if that reporter told Schilling before or early in the season that he PLANS to vote for Curt.

That seems a very unlikely and very dangerous as it could cost the sportswriter the right to vote, his credibility, his job and his lively hood.

Another point, is we all know Schilling says what he thinks when he is asked ... he admits himself he gets into trouble because of this. Between this tendency and his blogging activity and his appearances on WEEI ... How much more access could he possibly provide then he already is?

dbvader said...

OB,
Here is the mistake.

It was pointed out soon after you made it.

Monkeesfan said...

Bruce,

Your Tony Massaroti comparison is stupid as always - Maz does not get things wrong in serial fashion the way Shank Shaughnessy does, and he's not the one controlling the book's content, David Ortiz is.

The commentary against Shaughnessy is driven by factual analysis. Your responses are driven entirely by jock-sniffing Shank.

Dubegedi said...

To me the problem with a lot of the banter that goes on here is a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that if someone that they disagree with is wrong, they must be right and the person they disagree with must be a complete idiot.

OB, yes you are right that a good deal of the Shaughnessy hating is done by people who dislike him just because he doesn't write love letters in his columns, but don't try and make it sound as if (you haven't said this directly but this is the vibe you give off) anybody that criticizes CHB must be a sycophant. Sometimes you attempt to make yourself sound like a moderate, saying something like ( I'm paraphrasing) "hey I don't even agree with the guy most of the time but your criticism is wrong because ....", but never once have I read you acknowledge legitimate criticism.

A question for the main bloggers? What is your actual purpose? I can see writing to point bad journalism out just for the hell of it (like FJM) but if you think that this is some sort of public service project or movement that will get the man fired you are just out of your mind. Everybody here is talking about Dan Shaughnessy and his writings. Whether or not they make sense isn't relevant to the point from the Globe's perspective; the man writes his opinions and they are supposed to make people think. Maybe it makes you want to throw a puppy in front of a truck when you read something like "YOUNG Theo and his minions are so dumb for thinking Dustin Pedroia can play baseball!" dressed up with recherche language to make it sound as if it makes sense. If it does, don't read Dan anymore.

Dave M said...

dubegedi
Thanks for your post. What is our actual purpose? Speaking strictly for myself, I remember reading an article by Shaughnessy in August 2004 (I call it the Hang Your Head John Henry article) and I had such a visceral negative reaction to it. I thought to myself, "How does he get away with this crap?"

A few months later, after reading another infuriating article, I remember googling "Dan Shaughnessy crap" and this website pulled up as one of the first entries. I was amazed that so many people had similar thoughts and I was thankful for the forum. It was a cool feeling

When Chief decided to shut the site down last year, I was disappointed. DB and I petitioned Chief and he was generous enough to let us continue it.

My main objectives are: 1) in some small way, I would like to hold Shaughnessy accountable--I know he is not going to get fired but I just cant let some of the things he says pass without objection; 2) I'd like to give people the same feeling I had when I first encountered this site; and 3) I love logic and economics and I hate when I see basic principles violated...if I can use Shaughnessy to illustrate examples of poor logic and economics in action, all the better.

This being said, I do wonder - I imagine I will eventually soon come to the same conclusion that Chief did last year at about this time--perhaps this site has served its purpose and perhaps this is all overkill. I also recognize that Shaughnessy is a human like the rest of us for better or worse. Does he really deserve to be isolated as one of many sportswriters who are guilty of the same flaws? Should we just let it go? But I come back to the notion that Shaughnessy is one of these guys who people genuinely love to hate. Perhaps that is his ultimate genius and the reason he seems to thrive?

Dave M said...

OB

3. Never said the quid pro quo that exists between reporter and athlete justified the clause in a contract. What I am saying is that there is not much difference between the two. It is a bad thing when the reporter reciprocates and thereby accepts the bribe. In any event, I have pointed out that there is a powerful check and balance in the system - the fact the reporter would be revealed and humiliated. You have not addressed the power of this key point. In this sense, I am more comfortable with this than the quid pro quo that may exist between fellow sportswriter--in which there is not a powerful check and it is more subtle.
In any event, it remains absurd to suggest that this vote be taken away. You have not given a convincing argument otherwise

4. Shaughnessy's recommendation may be pure...I am not arguing that. But I find the fact that it may not be to be troubling. How can I know?

4 part II: This is not the Tony Massaroti watch

5. Sure its bad but you still have not addressed the fact that there is a powerful check and balance in the system

6. You cant be serious? Lets remove the temptation because sportswriters cant be trusted

7. Absolutely nothing to do with a hatred of Shaughnessy for not jock sniffing (whatever that means). It is my distaste for Shaughnessy's crimes against logic.

objectivebruce said...

So, basically, it's fine to rip Shaughnessy because he give a favorable mention to a book that is about a general topic -- modern-day high school athletics -- that he has written about, but we ignore Massarotti's clear conflict of interest -- even justify it with the utter nonsense spewed by monkeesfan about 'controlling the book' when a sports 'journalist' is involved in a for-profit venture with someone he covers?

sure. whatever you say.

Anonymous said...

I'm not ripping Shaughnessy because he gave a favorable mention to a book. I am ripping him for being a hypocrite and failing to realize it.

Dave M

paul said...

RE: "but we ignore Massarotti's clear conflict of interest"

Last time I checked this is Dan Shaughnessy Watch not Tony Massarotti Watch...

But seriously, what is Massarotti's conflict of interest? If there's any conflict of interest in Boston sports it's the Globe's parent company owning part of the Red Sox.

Monkeesfan said...

OB, you obviously don't read well - there is no conflict of interest involving Tony Massaroti, and he is not the one who is a serial purveyor of falsehood, Shank Shaughnessy is that. And you forgot to mention Shank pimping his kids by having them tell people to write favorable reviews of his book at Amazon. Don't compare Maz or anyone else to being that much a slime, Bruce.

dbvader said...

Seriously, OB. I gave you a link "to go look up this matter than [sic] needs correcting." Why don't you give the least effort to answering the issue?

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Anonymous said...

How is it ok for an active sportswriter to share authorship and profits from a book with an athlete on a team he covers?

Anonymous said...

I don't get why Shank cares if the Red Sox give Curt Schilling an extra million bucks if he gets a Cy Young vote. What difference does it make? Does Shank have to chip in to pay it? He is such a moronic, petty loser.

paul said...

"Does Shank have to chip in to pay it?"

Well, his parent company would have to fork over $170,000 if Schill gets a Cy Young vote. I wonder if any of that Shank's check.

:)

X said...

The sox could have saved us all from *this* dialogue by having had the wording been a million dollar bonus for a top 10 finish in the Cy Young voting and it would have accomplished the same thing since usually only a handful of players receive votes. Yet at fist blush, it would not appear to be in the hands of just one individual.

But back to the CHB angle, I was surprised to hear him take the side of taking the votes away. Of course that is him just wanting to stir the s&*t. My first thought on the clause was some writer that is bitter against the Sox (and all that they and RSN represent) could give Schill a vote just to cost the Sox he extra $$.

Anonymous Bob said...

And when CHB tirelessly wrote about the Bambino in his column that never helped him sell his cute little fairy tale?

No conflict of interest there.

Tim said...

OB:

The reason it's fine to rip on Shaughnessy is simple:
He's a douche.

Hope this clears things up!

Your pal,

Tim