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WHITESOXINTERACTIVE.COM. Totally Biased Coverage of the Chicago White Sox!

It's News to Me! 

By Mark Liptak 

Reporters, journalists and broadcasters are no different then a doctor, lawyer, housewife, carpenter or taxi driver…they are human beings, they make mistakes. 

But as someone who has spent almost 30 years in the sports media game what has amazed me, now more then in the past, is how multiple reporters can get basically the same set of circumstances and come up with polar opposite conclusions based on those facts. It shouldn’t happen that way. Journalists are trained to report the facts and if say an accident happens due to a missed red light and that fact is known, it shouldn’t happen where one reporter says the accident takes place because of a missed green light. 

To me this disturbing tendency has been on the rise and this past week, with the Carlos Quentin situation, that tendency may have come to a head. 

Most Sox fans know that Quentin was pulled from the lineup before Tuesday’s game because of soreness in his wrist/forearm area but things got very murky after that, as reports started surfacing that all was not right with the MVP candidate. 

By Wednesday Sox fans knew he was sent back to Chicago for additional tests. What they didn’t know was what was going on behind the scenes.  

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune began reporting in his stories earlier in the week that Quentin was probably going to be out of action at least through the Angels series and maybe longer then that. 

By Wednesday he was saying that it was possible Quentin could be out much longer than that, apparently based on his sources. His inference (which proved to be correct) was that Quentin had a serious injury. 

On Scott Reifert’s blog Thursday, a comment was posted saying that according to a nurse, Quentin had his wrist in a cast, would be out four weeks and that the injury may have happened when he slammed his bat on home plate after a strike out. This was on a blog though and accordingly many questioned it, as it should have been. 

I personally contacted a source in the Sox organization after reading this report and was told “something’s up with him…heard it wasn’t good.” That seemed to help confirm that there was some type of injury issue. 

Just a few hours later though Joe Cowley of the Sun-Times had an on line story saying that according to his sources, the initial tests on Quentin’s injury were good and that if the tests Friday were also good, he could be in the lineup Friday night. This was in direct contrast to Gonzales’ speculation as well as Scott Merkin’s at White Sox.com.  

By late Friday morning though it was becoming clear, that all was not well. Radio reports started talking about a broken wrist and around that time, at the Sun-Times web site, Cowley was now posting that Quentin could have something seriously wrong but the Sox weren’t saying anything about it. 

How from Thursday night to Friday morning, could Cowley’s story change 180 degrees?  Did he have a bad source? Was he inferring something that wasn’t there from his personal observations? 

This is not to single out Joe Cowley, like I said at the top, we all make mistakes. But journalists are being paid to get the story right the first time, especially in a major market like Chicago, when covering a daily beat. Sometimes they can’t do that for reasons beyond their control, but it does raise an eyebrow when yours truly, certainly not a mainstream media member in Chicago, can get a comment from a senior member of the organization that seemed to shoot down what was written by him just a few hours later. Couldn’t he have contacted the same source or a better one given who he works for?  

Compounding things were his comments about Joe Crede’s back injury. He also wrote on line that Crede as well, might be in the starting lineup Friday. Ozzie Guillen himself all the past week, had been publicly saying that he wasn’t counting on Crede “for the rest of the year.” Yet by putting that news at the web site, Cowley was raising the hopes of Sox fans. That turned out to be dead wrong too, as Crede was on his way to see a back specialist and Ozzie was praising Joe for his courage in trying to play through apparently bad back pain which for all intents and purposes has ended his season. 

Reporters have been getting things wrong at times since day one, it happens to everyone, but the issue now is why is it happening more often and how much is the sensationalistic nature of the beast responsible for it. Personal feelings are apparently also becoming more of a factor although that too isn’t automatically a recent trend. 

Former Sox right handed pitcher Joe Horlen tells the story of one Chicago wag who took an issue against him all the way to maybe costing Joe the Cy Young Award in 1967.

“A few years before, I think, I was pitching in Los Angeles and I was really struggling,” he said in his interview with White Sox Interactive. “The Sox got me some runs early and it was something like 5-3 or 6-4 in the last of the 5th inning. Al Lopez then came out and replaced me before I could finish the inning and maybe get the win. I’m back in the clubhouse and this writer comes up to me and asks ‘so how pissed off are you that Lopez took you out early?’ I told him that ‘I’m not pissed off but disappointed because I wish I could have finished the inning and maybe got the win.’ So I’m changing clothes when a minute or so later Lopez comes out of his office, he starts pushing me into my locker and calling me every name in the book.” 

“I said, ‘Al, what’s wrong?’ He starts shouting ‘I’m the guy who’s running this team and I’ll decide who plays you (blankety blank!’) ‘So and so (name of writer) said that you were pissed off that I took you out.’ I said ‘Al I am not pissed off, I told that guy I was disappointed that I couldn’t finish the inning and maybe get the win.’ That calmed Al down a bit although he was still saying ‘well I’m the guy who makes those decisions.’

“I guess that Al then went back to the writer and got all over him in his office. That’s probably why he didn’t vote for me. All I know is that writer got a lot of guys in trouble that way.”

So there’s a case back in 1967 of a writer for whatever reason or reasons trying to make something out of nothing, getting called on the carpet for it and paying a player back over it.

Getting called out apparently also happened to Joe earlier this season, according to a source. When the Sox released Pablo Ozuna, Joe wrote that Jose Contreras, a close friend of Pablo’s, was upset at Kenny Williams for letting him go.  When the Sox were in Kansas City, this source said Cowley was called into Ozzie’s Guillen’s office where both Contreras and Omer Munoz took issue with him for assuming that Jose was mad at Kenny, when apparently he was just upset that he was released. Based on my source it looked like Cowley never spoke with Contreras about it in the first place.

The capper on this strange, bizarre set of circumstances this week came with the news then on Friday afternoon, after the Sox “official” version of the Quentin injury, that Carlos may have hurt himself punching his locker or a wall in Boston that weekend. Joe’s ‘twitter’ notes was the only place, mainstream or blog, where I saw this. Where that came from is anyone’s guess but Quentin emphatically denied that is how he got hurt. Obviously someone saw it and brought it to his attention or asked him about it for him to respond as he did.

The name of this game for the media is accuracy and credibility, they have to get it right. If that means waiting on a story or an issue, especially in as strange as the circumstances were this past week, then so be it. Rather to be right then to be first.

Lately that adage is being put to the test, by a number of different reports, at a number of organizations, in a number of mediums. This needs to stop and stop now.

Jay Mariotti and Mike North, two of the biggest “gasbags on parade” to quote sportscaster Al Michaels (talking about today’s bombastic sports reporters) are out of work in the Chicago market…that should serve as a warning to all who remain. The game is the story, the players are the story, the news is the story…not the reporters themselves, not the columnists, not the ‘talking heads.’

Get the story and get it right.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    

If you have any questions, opinions, comments or criticisms of the following story, feel free to contact me at mliptak1@msn.com


Editor's Note:  Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work.  He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years.  "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.  

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