Daily News writer admits he may have gotten too close to Ike Davis, Lucas Duda story
New York Daily News baseball writer Andy Martino wrote an interesting blog post this week about getting too close to his subject. The headline is a bit long, so I’ll give it its own paragraph:
Martino writes about the position battle at first base for the Mets over the last few years between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. Davis, he writes, is a charming, thoughtful, funny guy. Everyone says so, including Duda, who is more reserved and not comfortable with the media.
Martino writes that he’d thought over the last few years that the Mets should have settled on Davis over Duda, who he thought, based on personal interactions, lacked the confidence necessary to succeed in the big leagues. As it turns out, it looks like Martino was wrong. The Mets gave up on the struggling Davis, shipping him to Pittsburgh, and Duda has settled in to have a fine year as the Mets’ regular first baseman. Martino writes:
We arrive now at the sticky area of reporting. I’ll turn it inward, without presuming to speak for colleagues and competitors. On a subconscious level, did I convince myself that Davis was a better choice because he was a better quote, a friendlier guy, one for whom I came to feel genuine affection as a person? …
There are many levels of ethics, in this sensitive business of writing about real people. On an obvious level, we should not produce agenda-driven work, where we write positively or negatively about people based on what they can do for us, quid-pro-quo. Duh.
But there is a more subtle crime that can be difficult to avoid: Accidentally interpreting the information we gather through the lens of what we want to happen. Davis was interesting to talk to, sympathetic and likeable; did that up-close knowledge render me incapable of drawing an objective conclusion, and presenting it to readers? And to overstate Duda’s problems, which he seems to have since overcome?
Well, yeah. Reporting is still the best way do the job, but it must include an additional step: Pause, step back, be aware of what you are feeling. And question it, more than I did while working this particular story.
It’s a remarkable bit of candor for a professional writer, and a solid lesson for the rest of us.