Sunday, May 18, 2008

Featuring - or not?

so what if dc did not want to talk after the game? you just report the players did not want to talk
I didn't have a game story assignment last night. As I mentioned in the running blog, I was working on a Marcelo Gallardo feature.
I'd been working on it for a while, actually. On Friday, when I was at the DC/Chivas USA presser, I asked Jaime Moreno about Gallardo, among other things (since I write for multiple places, I often try to get quotes on different topics when players are in town, so I can plug in a relevant quote later).
DC had a practice scheduled after the presser, and I called their media liaison to see if I could ask Gallardo a few questions before practice.
You see, I'd been at the HDC since 10:00. It was almost 3:00, and on a Friday, that means the window to escape the hell of traffic is closing. It was over a hundred degrees, and my air conditioning in my little car was out. The HDC is south of downtown LA, while I live north of it. Now, in MLS, players usually talk to media after practice, but often, if one shows up early and requests only one player, teams are accommodating in granting quick interviews. No luck this time. DC's press guy said I'd have to wait until after practice. From my seat in my car across from the field where they were getting off the bus, I watched the United players and debated staying around versus leaving. Practice would place me in the absolute worst of rush hour, so I instead asked if it was possible to make an early arrangement for a pregame interview on Saturday. Per MLS policy, players are supposed to be available to media members - actually, the locker room is supposed to be open to the press until an hour before warm-ups. Some teams get away with not showing up until this window is over, but they don't need to normally go through such conniptions to avoid the press, because the nature of our jobs is such that we are always expected to get the latest word on things, so only in a few cases does anyone show up to the early interview period.
What's funny in hindsight is that when I was trying to set up a time to ask Gallardo questions, DC's media person kept telling me, "Well, you can talk to Gallardo during the post-game locker room access."
That's what I thought, too, but I was trying to get at least a few exclusive quotes. So after having been assured that I'd get a little time pregame if I showed up right at 6:00, I tried to interview him. I passed on the offer for translation for the simple reason that though my Spanish isn't great, translation takes time, and I thought asking questions directly would save me a minute or two and allow me to ask a few more things.
Not really. I asked three questions, then was told, "Last question. We'll see you again after the game."
Except - no.
What incentive is Gallardo going to have to speak to the media when he sees clearly that his own organization doesn't follow the post-game standard? We press people complain about David Beckham taking a long time after games to come out and talk, but now I appreciate in a whole new way that he does so, every time. I've an assignment of a Beckham feature post-Galaxy games, and that would get hung out to dry if he decided not to speak to the press.
Writers like Danny Bueno did get left out in the cold by DC. His MLSnet assignment is to specifically cover the post-game reaction of the visiting team. Usually, a minimum of three different players quoted is expected. He got one. And he waited for that one player longer than it would normally have taken him to get all his interviews completed and his post-game article written. Other LA writers who are assigned to get reactions from both teams left after half an hour had passed.
Look, I understand that a lot of people think the lot of a sportswriter is a blessed and lucky one, and don't understand why I point out that giving the reporters who do cover MLS hassles is a mistake for a league that wants to grow. Fine. One feature is not going to make or break the future of DC United's public profile.
But the publishing industry isn't going through an easy time right now, and sports reporters are getting reassigned or laid off everywhere. They're fighting to write the most relevant stories, and if an editor looks at a piece and says, "Where's the quotes from the other team you're supposed to have?" then hears the reason why they're not there, do you think he or she's going to want to send more coverage that way? A piece without any exclusive quotes that covers what happened during a match can be picked up off AP. That's probably what the editor will do in the future, thinking, "Screw soccer. We don't need to send a reporter out to a game and then get stiffed on the locker room access that every other sport in the U.S. allows."
Thinking I'd get to talk to Gallardo specifically about the game after it finished meant my early questions were very general. I'm trying to piece something together anyway, but it's not easy.


Anonymous said...

I agree it is a bad call on several fronts for the DC United staff to prevent press access to the locker room. The team is having a bad season but they need to face it. It's business as usual even when you lose. You can keep it short, you don't have to say a lot you can indicate disappointment and re-affirm that you're determined to turn it around - but it says precious puppy to just hide - and maybe the psychology behind the season thus far can be found in that attitude. This team has to face it's results, face the world accept reality and get the hell on with it.

Raffi said...

Well, the best argument for allowing access is that MLS should be a slut to the media right now. It would be one thing if it were hugely popular but since it isn't and it wants to raise its profile, etc you would expect a nice big fine for DC. Interesting to see if there is any.

That said, I don't blame the DC coaching staff for doing what they think is best for the team especially if the trade-off is a light slap on the wrist. That's the league's fault; there has to be an incentive to follow all the rules. Rules that are lightly enforced really are there to be broken when 'necessary.'

Raffi said...

I wasn't going to say, but decided I will. The pissing and moaning about their bad behavior... well, what job doesn't have these types of challenges? Sure, I whine about some of the difficulties I face from the way other groups operate at work but generally what separates the wheat from the chaff is how you succeed anyway in those circumstances.

Sounds like you need to find a strategy for not letting this kind of thing derail you in the future...

L.B. said...

I guess we should tell DC fans to stop "pissing and moaning" when they want to know why Marcelo Gallardo was not quoted in any of the post-game stories and what he thought about the loss.

D.C Mute said...

I really don't understand how not speaking with the media would benefit D.C. United.

What affect does the media have on players, the outcome on a game? I'd say zero.

In my opinion, I think it's a classless and bush league act by D.C. United.

What message are they sending here? We're too mentally weak to answer questions? We curl up into a ball in the face of adversity? We aren't professionals?

You'd think D.C. United and MLS would want the media on their side coverage wise. Obviously, this is a D.C. issue and not an MLS one since the league has press rules. I think D.C. should be slapped a hefty fine.

I somewhat agree with A.C. on how neglecting the media could deter sports editors from sending out writers to cover MLS games, the league.

It's one less sport, and one less sports writer, a paper would have to worry about. And they'd saving $$$, which seems to be the bottom line these days at papers.

But I think the coverage is ultimately determined by the readers. If there's a strong readership for a team, it funnels down to advertising and making money.

A.C., I think you could have made things a lot easier for yourself by being patient and hanging around until after practice. Rush hour blows, but you got to do what you got to do to get the scoop.

And at the same time, D.C.'s media guy is an ass-clown for saying one thing and not owning up to it.

Hopefully, this is just a one-time thing.

Anonymous said...

Right on L.B.

papa bear said...

MLS needs to do something about this. It's silly that they don't have media access requirements.

The league needs all the press it can possibly get. There are plenty of sports in this country that give reporters hell in terms of access. MLS should be the exception and allow more reporter access. Allow more stories to get out there. Many outlets are starved for content, why not give them something MLS? C'mon

Anonymous said...


Why don't you request a 10 minute phone interview mid-week set up by the DCU media relations department? I know that isn't unprecedented in other sports and that would take care of your exclusive interview quotes.

A.C. said...

The feature piece is due today, because the site gets the most hits on Monday.

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