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Monday, May 24, 2010

Bias in baseball coverage

A few years ago I wrote to some news and sports organizations about the curious way the Toronto Blue Jays were covered in the media. It was very consistent that the "Blue Jays" was not mentioned in post-game recap headlines, nor were they top headlines after a particularly interesting game.

The Blue Jays might win 21-3 and yet some inconsequential Detroit Tigers/Kansas City Royals game made headlines. Or, the Blue Jays would win but the headline would be something like "Red Sox can't figure out Halladay" (they'd mention a player's name on the team, but not the team). If I saw the name "Blue Jays" in a headline, I pretty much knew why - they'd lost: "Yankees hammer Blue Jays 9-3."

Part of my frustration with this is that the Toronto Blue Jays are a legitimate major league franchise; they've won World Series championships (plural, while there are franchises south of the border yet to win one).

Further, Toronto is a legitimate sports town in North America, with a connection to baseball heritage: Babe Ruth hit his first home run as a professional in Toronto, but most sites mentioning this are Canadian-oriented; neither his Wikipedia article nor the official Babe Ruth site appear to mention this historic and significant fact, which is curious as it was the beginning of one of the most illustrious hitting careers in the game's history.

So, the Toronto Blue Jays franchise pays its franchise fees and doesn't get a discount, why should they get short-changed in media coverage? It wasn't right, and I wrote to whoever would hear me.

I don't know if that effort had any direct impact, but I can say that major league baseball has visibly improved this. It isn't perfect, but one nifty thing is each game has two recaps, one written from the "home perspective", and one written from the "visiting team perspective"; we can read both or whichever we prefer as an interpretation of how the game went. And, the Toronto Blue Jays do get a little more brand recognition than previously - I suppose I can't expect that they'll be treated on par with the average American franchise, but I'm quite prepared to say the media is doing a bit better at respecting that the players play just as hard as a member of the Blue Jays as any other player in any other city.

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