Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Tale of two Tales

This is turning out to be Media Week at Shysterball. In the wake of yesterday's rant, and the previous post about Comparative Bonds 101, now come two takes on yesterday's sentencing of Gustavo Dominguez, the baseball agent convicted last April of illegally smuggling Cuban ballplayers into the country.

Canada's National Post takes a bloggy look at it, riffing on the Reuters wire report. The headline: "Agent sentenced to five years for smuggling Cubans... baseball players that is" evokes a Seinfeld episode, and will no doubt serve as the jumping off point for jokes for the DeadKoblerLeatherSpins of the world. The two main opinions of the piece are (a) mild surprise that smuggling Cubans is a crime in the US, followed with decent informative backfill; and (b) the suspicion that, given the dollars at stake for Cuban ballplayers, the sentence isn't going to deter anyone.

You may not be surprised to find that the Miami Herald takes a different tack. It's a tearjerker, focusing on the crying prison widow and portraying Dominguez as a shell shocked, frail, and broken victim who is getting far harsher treatment than others who the Herald implies were complicit in the crimes. Even if his hair is actually gray, in my mind calling a 48 year-old man "silver-haired," misleads the reader into picturing a little old man, when in fact he's a contemporary of Roger Clemens and Julio Franco. The Herald also dwells a bit too long, it seems, on a sentencing letter written on Dominguez's behalf and sent by Sandy Koufax. Sentencing letters tend to have little impact on a judge's actual decision, and when written about, tend to be afterthoughts. Koufax's letter is the lede of the whole story.

I don't mean to pick on the Herald. It's a Miami paper with a readership that is no doubt sympathetic to Dominguez and anyone else seen sticking it to Castro. I'm no media ethicist, but it seems to me that the Herald is practically duty-bound to cater to its readership like this as long as it still provides the facts, which it does.

But the example certainly is a lesson about employing a natural skepticism when reading anything in the paper, not just the overtly political stories. Reporters and editors are human, and every human has an agenda, no matter how pronounced and no matter how aware of it they are. Even when it comes to baseball.

No comments: