Dodgers PR Boss Says MLB.com Writers Spin News The Way Teams Want

Speaking at a PR conference in Sydney, Australia—where he may not have expected word to get back to the States—Dodgers Public Relations Director Joe Jareck had some interesting things to say about how the team likes to disseminate its news:

Via the L.A. Times:

Jareck said this about how the team prefers to get its news out: best to publish on its own website, Dodgers.com, because then "we can spin it any way we want. You can tell the (in-house) writer, 'Here do this' and they'll do it."

When the Times asked Jareck about his comments, he backtracked, claiming he wasn't referring to MLB.com's Dodgers beat writer Ken Gurnick, but more about the odds and ends like transactions, injuries, team meet-and-greets, things the newspapers wouldn't care about. That'd be fine—what does a team website exist for if not to get the things the team wants to put out there?—if Jareck weren't talking about MLB.com, which he totally is.

The line between press release and company organ is a fine one. Every MLB.com story comes with the kicker, "This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs." But in conversations over the years with reporters for various league-owned websites, every one has made clear that they're perpetually aware who they're working for.

The writers—all career reporters rather than flacks—are employees of the league. And while things are never so overt as a team or league executive telling them what they can or can't write, there's an understanding that the most critical their coverage is allowed to get is "neutral."

Which isn't to say aggrieved teams wouldn't make their feelings known. On multiple occasions, the writers would get word through official-unofficial backchannels that a team wasn't happy with their coverage of a controversial issue. (One former writer for a league website [not MLB's] recalls the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, when one of his team's most popular players, who was on fire at the time, was on the block. He says he was told by his editor, "I can't tell you what to do, but both our lives will be a lot easier if you downplay his scoring.")

You probably know all this instinctively, because you're a discerning reader, and you didn't need an unguarded moment from the Dodgers' PR chief. But it's nice to get the occasional reminder of who signs the paychecks of in-house writers; they definitely never forget it.

[L.A. Times]