In the wake of yesterday's press conference/clown show, Omar Minaya has received most of the criticism for his performance, and justifiably so. An overlooked aspect of the day's events was the mini bombshell (for me at least) that Adam Rubin approached Jeff Wilpon for guidance on how to break into the business of baseball. Rubin predictably downplayed the occurrence, stating:
I asked, How do you go about getting a job in baseball? That’s the extent of it.
Doesn't sound like a big deal? I think it is.
Most journalists wear their objectivity and lack of rooting interest like a badge of honor. "No cheering in the press box" is the famous mantra. I don't believe for 1 second that someone who is interested enough in baseball to make a career of it does not root for or against certain teams/players. Nonetheless, in the name of fair coverage and reporting it's definitely for the best that writers maintain the illusory role of passionless bystander. I don't read the Daily News or Rubin's work religiously, but what I have read is generally well done and superior to the rubbish produced by Bart Hubbuch at the New York Post. It is not Rubin's writing I'm calling into question here - it's his previous contact with Wilpon. Asking for pointers on how to break into the baseball business seems like questionable behavior at best and a minor breach of ethics at worst. Would it be appropriate for a New York Times reporter interviewing Barack Obama to ask for tips on how to enter the world of politics? How about a Wall Street Journal writer asking Warren Buffett how to start a successful financial services firm? No, of course not. Especially if the conversation is kept from the public and not documented in the published work. Such discussion could influence coverage of the subject (either positively or negatively) and give the impression to the public that treatment of the subject is biased.
I don't know how I'm going to cover the team now.
The same statement could have been said after Rubin's inquiries with Jeff Wilpon.
Neil Best at Newsday thinks this is not a big deal at all and says it goes on all the time. His justification is that jobs in the newspaper industry are increasingly scarce and Rubin's actions amount to little more then networking. I am no journalist and have no formal training in journalism outside of an easy-A class in high school, so maybe I am missing something here. However, this sounds hypocritical for a profession full of men and women who pride themselves on their ethics and objectivity. This is not a defense of Omar Minaya, who deserves to be fired for a number of reasons, with yesterday's debacle near the top of that list. My main point is that journalists like Rubin can't have it both ways. Do not claim to be an outside observer without allegiances then go and ask the COO of the organization you cover for career advice.