Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own a sports team

There are many open questions about the proposed Tennessee Smokies stadium in Knoxville — questions like “How will Knoxville pay for $65 million in construction costs without ‘burdening’ taxpayers?” and “Will team owner Randy Boyd get out of paying property taxes if he ‘donates’ the land to the city while still building his private stadium on top of it?” and “Why are the players in the rendering so huge?” So, sure, it’s definitely time for WBIR-TV to run a news story that consists almost entirely of Boyd saying how great a new stadium would be:

The millionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist believes it can be “The People’s Park,” a place for walkers, shoppers, sports fans, craftsmen, music lovers, even couples who want to say, “I do.” …

“The idea of building a baseball park is not something of creating a venue just for baseball, but creating an entire entertainment venue that can have concerts, soccer, all kinds of other tournaments, family reunions, we could have farmers markets.” …

“We’ve got a lot of enthusiasm. We’ve got a lot of plans. But we still got a lot of work left to do,” he said.

Okay, eventually Knoxville Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie shows up to ask some questions — or rather, to say that she has questions and “I’m looking forward to just getting more information” — but then it’s back to Boyd to rave about how people could go to the stadium on their lunch hour or for a walk before work, because those are things that actual humans actually do in the actual world.

WBIR being a TV station, there’s a video report as well, which starts off with the reporter describing how a stadium development would “transform” a “crumbling industrial site” (can a site crumble?) before going on a walk around the site with Boyd, who talks about the “tangible return” the stadium would bring, without presenting anything tangible. This is described as one in a series of reports on the stadium plan by the station, but the last two I can find are another report that is mostly Boyd talking about how great it would be, and one on Boyd launching a new website to promote it.

This is pretty common practice for local news outlets, but, seriously, does anyone think it’s actually journalism? Sure, Boyd is a “newsmaker,” but when certain people get free TV time to expound on their sales pitch while everyone else just has to sit at home and watch, that’s a huge problem. Compare, for example, with this story (recounted in Field of Schemes: The Book, go buy it now if you don’t have it already, there are ebook and Kindle versions too!) told by Tiger Stadium Fan Club activist Frank Rashid of the time he tried to get a local newspaper not even to quote him, but just to run a correction of some stadium propaganda it repeated without checking:

On one occasion, Rashid recalls, he wound up calling the [Detroit] Free Press to complain about an inaccurate story about the Fan Club. He pointed out to a city desk editor that the reporter had printed inaccurate statements by the group’s opponents about the Fan Club, statements that the reporter himself had to have known were untrue.

The editor, according to Rashid, replied with indignation, “What do you expect? [Tigers owner Tom] Monaghan has made money. He’s paid his dues. Who are you guys?”

“I really appreciated the honesty,” says Rashid. “But, damn! None of us is disreputable. We’re all people who are solid citizens, but we don’t have money. Solid citizens without money don’t count as well as somebody who’s got a big corporation.”

If the book, and this website, have a motto, it’s probably that last line. It’s a sentiment that doesn’t seem to have changed at all in the 25 years Joanna Cagan and I have been reporting on this — though I guess it’s only three more years until the Bell Riots, so maybe things will finally improve after that.

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2 comments on “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own a sports team

  1. Why would anyone invest a single penny into minor-league baseball when MLB has just demonstrated that they can take away a team for any reason, or for no reason at all? Even meme stocks are more stable at this point.

    1. I assume because the threat of “someone else” taking away ‘your’ team is expected to shake out tremendous minor league stadium subsidies. Time will tell whether there is enough of that extortion cash to go around or whether MLB will just keep squeezing until even the dumbest municipal governments in the land can see it makes no sense to play this game.

      From a business owners’ POV, however, I would prefer to invest in the lower investment lower return independent leagues.

      We as fans need to move away from the idea that MLB and affiliated MiLB are baseball in totality. They aren’t.

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