A brief reminder of how our modern journalism ecosystem works: First, a reporter or editor happens upon a piece of information, either through independent reporting or (more commonly) because they get a press release or read about it on another news site. Then the first question they typically ask themselves is: Will our readers click on this headline as it whips past them on social media or Google News or whatever? (In the lingo of the biz, “Will it traffic well?”) Next: How long will it take to pull together enough information to write it up and send it out into the world, and will this be fast enough that readers won’t already have clicked on everyone else’s story and been sated by then? And finally, maybe, on occasion, if there’s time: Is this important news that will help people understand the world around them?
And so we end up with stories like this one, from Canada’s SportsNet:
Report: Diamondbacks explore Vancouver as possible contingency site
Another Canadian city has emerged as a possible host for an existing MLB franchise, this time on the country’s West Coast.
A report Wednesday by The Athletic‘s Sean Fitz-Gerald says the Arizona Diamondbacks have visited Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium to explore it as a possible host site in case of a structural emergency at Chase Field.
Click through to the Athletic piece, if you can make it past the paywall, and you find that the only listed source for this information is Arizona Diamondbacks exec Joe Garagiola, Jr., who told the site that “While working at Major League Baseball, I provided the team with numerous possibilities, including Vancouver. Club executives visited there to determine the reality of making it a contingency plan.”
Now, D-Backs CEO Derrick Hall just last week declared that the team owners had “tapped the brakes” on moving away from their current stadium in Phoenix, so the appearance of this story now is either one of two things: 1) some old saber-rattling team execs were doing in 2018 during the fight to get let out of their stadium lease early, which is when the whole “structural emergency” gambit was first raised, or 2) some new saber-rattling team execs are doing in 2020 after realizing that Hall might have just undermined his team’s leverage to demand whatever they might want to demand. We can’t know without knowing whether this was a piece of old intel that The Athletic’s Sean Fitz-Gerald dug up, or something that was newly leaked to him — and since he gives no further information about how this scoop, such as it is, landed in his lap, readers remain in the dark as to who was up to what when.
In either case, the idea that the Diamondbacks might move to Vancouver is now out there in the social mediascape, just as the idea that they might move to Las Vegas was last fall, and as lots of teams have been rumored to be moving to lots of cities just because somebody got on a plane for a day trip somewhere and then returned. (One of the Vancouver trips underlying the Athletic report, apparently, was to go see a Mumford & Sons show.) This is not responsible journalism — certainly not without including the relative media market sizes of Phoenix and Vancouver, which will tell you something about the likelihood of any kind of permanent move — and makes it all too easy for news outlets to be played by sports franchise owners seeking to create headlines for their own ends, but that’s the world we live in, now more than ever.