Reporting in a viral age

Colleagues from both sides of the Pacific had somethings to say about U.S. sports leagues closing their clubhouses to the media, ostensibly because of the coronavirus outbreak and not because Justin Verlander is angry with everyone.

Welcome to the club

Accredited media members in the U.S. are accustomed to getting structured access to the visiting and home clubhouses before and after games. They also ostensibly get pre-game access to the manager, and postgame press conferences with the home team manager and sometimes a player.

I’ve only covered a dozen or major league games in the States — including spring training — so that is more of a tourists’ impression rather than the word of real experience.

This is where the reporters get to interact on a frank level with players, and since I’m not a U.S. beat writer, I can’t speak of the value of talking to players in their sanctuary as opposed to on the field and in the dugout or on their way out of the clubhouse.

But it’s got to hurt reporters, suddenly having one of the key pillars of their daily reporting routine removed from the table.

The view from Japan

Baseball writers in Japan don’t get clubhouse access, period. We get what each team gives us in the time and fashion they choose to do so. Some managers speak to the media before games, some don’t. Everyone talks after games in a manner of their choosing.

Dan Orlowitz, who primarily writes about soccer in Japan, tweeted the following:

Wishing that were so in NPB

International baseball events in Japan, the Japan Rugby Top League and Japan’s pro soccer establishment, the J-League, all have scheduled press conferences and mixed zones, where players have to run the media gauntlet, NPB does things its way.

Pro baseball teams don’t generally offer wifi or LAN access, there is with the exception of Seibu’s MetLife Dome, no free coffee, and for damned sure they don’t have any structured methods for press access.

Because there is no clubhouse access in NPB, the first thing a reporter covering a team on the road has to do is find out where in that ballpark that team chooses to have its media availability. When Hiromitsu Ochiai managed the Chunichi Dragons, he didn’t stop to talk to reporters. They had to quiz him as he walked to the team bus, and sometimes he would stop at the bus.

Many managers, including most in the Central League, don’t have pregame media availability. For those guys, you can only hope they choose to listen to you as they walk by to take up their station behind the batting cage or on their way off the field.

Most teams now have manager availability after losses, something that didn’t used to be the case. Teams will make a player or two available after games at spots and times of their choosing. If the guy you want to talk to about the game isn’t on the list, then you have to wait for him to come out of the clubhouse and talk before he gets to the garage or gets on the visiting team bus.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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