Thursday, November 01, 2007

Shooting From the Hip

I'll preface the complaints I'm about to make by saying that I generally like Charley Walters. I did a telephone interview with him for a class a couple years ago, and he was very friendly and interesting. I also like the fact that he once (very briefly) pitched in a Twins uniform many years ago, an experience which would seem to lend him more credibility than some other sportswriters in this town.

Unfortunately, Walters' credibility is dwindling fast, at least in my mind. A longtime columnist of in the Pioneer Press, Walters has always had a habit of inserting seemingly baseless little rumors and tidbits in his columns that never end up containing a shred of truth. Recently, however, his column has been featuring some pieces of information that are so blatantly false that one might be led to question the credibility of the entire publication.

First, Walters reported the following "news" in his column a couple weeks ago
If the Twins can't re-sign free agent Torii Hunter, plans are to trade, sign a free agent or go in-house to find his center field replacement.
This isn't so much false as it is inane. Walters basically was reporting that someone will be playing center field for the Twins next season, which is not the type of information anyone needs to purchase a newspaper to learn.

A few days after that masterful tidbit, Walters reported that the Twins had offered Carlos Silva a three-year contract worth "slightly more than $7 million a season," citing "a little birdie" as his source.

A couple days later, Joe Christensen said he made a call to Silva's agent and was told that the Twins had not made an offer of any kind. "You can quote me on that," Silva's agent told Christensen.

Yesterday, Walters offered up the following piece of breaking news:
The Cincinnati Reds snapped up pitcher Alexander Smit when the Twins took him off their 40-player roster the other day.
This is true, actually, except for the part about the moving take place "the other day." The Reds claimed Smit off waivers from the Twins back in July.

In my classes at the U of M, we are often taught that the central tenant of journalism is to "seek the truth and report it." Is that really happening over at the Pioneer Press? I know that Walters works very hard and makes a lot of phone calls every day, and I also realize that the idea of his column is to plant little rumors that are far from concrete. Still, at some point he and the sports editors over at the St. Paul paper need to take a look at what has been happening over the past few weeks -- much of the content being published in his section is not just unsubstantiated, but blatantly and provably false.

I suppose it may appear that I'm unfairly leveling my criticism at the Pioneer Press in this instance considering that the Star Tribune's own Page 2 columnist, Sid Hartman, has his own ethically questionable journalism practices. I guess I just hold Walters to a higher standard because I actually know him to be a nice guy and I don't believe he's completely senile.

It just seems to me that in cases like the ones listed above, Walters should follow the advice that labels a portion of his column: "Don't Print That."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yahoo rumors is in love with Charlie Walters. 90% of the yahoo twins rumors cite him as a source. According to Charlie during the season, Nathan, Morneau, Santana, Hunter, would have been traded before the 2007 season was over.

Andrew said...

That's nothing but pathetic...oh how I "love" my beloved Argus Leader columnists in Sioux Falls!

Glanzer said...

I saw that blurb about what the Twins would do if they couldn't re-sign Hunter and didn't think much of it. A few seconds later, it hit me just how stupidly obvious that report was. I suppose if I had to justify what was written, whoever Walters talked to probably said that they would be willing to do any of the three to get a center fielder, as opposed to only going in-house. Still, the wording was terrible.

Twins Territory said...

I have thought the same thing for some time. The funny thing was that Smit clip though. I think almost every blog had something about that before he did.

RM said...

Hey Nick - Are you the one that writes for The Wake Student Magazine? How come you don't write for the Daily?

Nick N. said...

I applied for the Daily a few times in my early days here the U, but never latched on. My roommate is the campus editor there now and I've been encouraged several times by editors there to join the staff, but the truth of the matter is that I have little desire to do so at this point.

For one thing, I heavily prefer magazine writing to newspaper writing -- it is much less rigid and a writer can actually insert his/her style into their writing. Perhaps the larger issue, however, is that I simply don't have the time. At The Wake, I'm responsible for one column every two weeks (the mag publishes bi-weekly), while occasionally contributing articles for other sections. Workers at the Daily are required to write several articles per week, and I can tell from watching my roommate that it is very draining. Being that I take four classes and work 20 hours a week as it is, I really don't think I could handle that. Don't get me wrong though, I like the Daily and I think they do a great job.

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