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Meta Musings On The Blogger-Friendly Mets Front Office

The Mets' new blogger-friendly approach has become a discussion topic during the offseason lull. Some have raised questions about the new policy on other blogs and in the Amazin' Avenue comments, most entertainingly summarized by I.M. Forme at his blogspaceplace:

I may now be the only one even mildly concerned with the potential consequences for independently-minded "coverage" of the Mets in light of the Wilpon's wooing.

But gosh it looks like the Alderson regime has oh so cunningly stroked the egos of those that are paying the most attention, that is, the obsessive fans with electronic diaries. With mainstream Met journalism looking increasingly bankrupt (not because they do a bad job necessarily, but the zeitgeist is bending them over and bloggers are happy to take their sloppy seconds without asking to be paid), and with the Mets having all but purchased one of the largest "fan blogs" out there to go along with their purchase of Mr.-First-Question Kevin Burkhardt, it's not too outrageous to posit that the Mets probably won't be coming in for any serious criticism for the foreseeable future.

Quick item of note: the "Boof goes the dynamite" tag on the bottom of the post.

Forme's worry is echoed by Andy Martino of the Daily news, who offers a good natured "You think you know, but you have no idea" type warning:

The conference call with bloggers served a different function; obviously, the Mets did not control the questions, but they offered fan bloggers-whose advantage is their independence-access, the very thing that corrupts many journalists. By dialing into that call, bloggers stepped into the same ethically murky conflict of access vs. the ability to criticize that we MSM types face every minute. Many bloggers will be able to manage this inherent conflict well, as do many journalists-for the Mets, though, it was a smart attempt to corral some of the creators of public opinion. Worth noting, is all.

I like the use of "corral". It evokes an image of Sandy Alderson as Billy Crystal in City Slickers, trying to rope in the rogue cattle/bloggers. The concern is that access will cause bloggers to paint a rosier picture of the Mets than they normally would. It's a fair concern, and one that professional journalist Martino acknowledges is a reality among his MSM brethren. Outsiders were recently able to observe a real-life example of how access may have affected coverage. I hate to reference Jeff Francoeur, as I've had my fill of Frenchy discussion, but his relationship with the media is relevant here.

Many, if not all, of the beat writers liked Frenchy on a personal level. Spring training puff pieces were all the rage. The writers sought out the loquacious outfielder for postgame quotes even when his thoughts weren't really relevant. They were still tweeting about his memorable one-liners months after he left the team. Many of these beat writers seemed hesitant to criticize Francoeur's so obviously poor on-field performance. Connecting the dots, it appeared that a personal connection clouded objective appraisal of a player.

It's understandable why this may have happened. Frenchy made easier the grueling life (no snark) of a beat writer. Filling newspaper or World Wide Web pages with content on a daily basis is a challenge, and pleasantries from a fan favorite can help meet a word quota. Most bloggers don't create original content as often as Adam Rubin and co. do, but the concept is the same -- it's tough to write negative things about a person or organization that treats you so nicely. Martino posits that if bloggers step into those shoes then maybe they wouldn't be so willing to criticize terrible-but-friendly players, coaches and executives. And maybe he's right. I can't say for sure either way.

What I can say is the following: AA has been afforded access on numerous occasions. The conference call, press access at Citi Field for several games and a Mets Holiday Party invitation are a few examples. Despite this, I haven't noticed a dramatic shift in tone at AA, nor have any readers suggested as much. Although self-ombudsmanning, if that's a word, is a tough endeavor. Yes, the style here may have evolved a bit, but that's due more to the expansion of the writing staff rather than anything else. With ten front page writers, and countless other community members who produce front page quality material in the FanPosts and FanShots, there will be differing approaches and idiosyncrasies. However, that doesn't mean any future access wouldn't affect coverage. We encourage readers to point out any instances in which the Mets' blogger outreach may have affected the work here. If you read something indicating that AA has been de-clawed, please share your thoughts.

An aside and self-reminder: The extent to which access can improve a blogger's work is also a consideration. I have no interest in obtaining post-game bromides from the players ("We're taking it one game at a time") and it's likely that AA readers wouldn't care about that either. But a discussion with a player about something the AA community is curious about, such as Patrick Flood's talk with Jose Reyes about his declining walk rate, is an example of a worthwhile exercise that would not be feasible while sitting in mother's basement. Extracting value from access is a meaningful topic, and one that is worthy of its own discussion on another day.

Given the choice between no-disparagement-allowed access and First Amendment blogging, I'll always take the latter. Fortunately, the choices are not mutually exclusive. I can commend the Mets and AA favorite Sandy Alderson for reaching out to the blogosphere, while also criticizing a poor free agent signing. Just like frequent AA whipping boy Omar Minaya was praised when he made smart decisions. There is no personal agenda; there is a goal of intelligent analysis and commentary (and occasional immature MS Paintz). 

On a more personal note, corruption via access would defeat the purpose of my foray into Mets blogging. This isn't a full-time job; neither the Mets nor a newspaper signs my paychecks. Mets blogging is a hobby, a hobby I am truly passionate about. Not an hour goes by that I don't think of an idea for a post or some way to improve AA. Pulling punches to suit the blogger-friendly Mets organization would betray that passion.

Now, will someone please write a blog post about this blog post, which was about another blog post about a blogger conference call? Thank you, and God Bless America.