Not if you mean the press box at the Cell, most probably. But after reviewing Sunday’s case of the Courier-Journal’s Brian Bennett getting bounced from the Louisville/Oklahoma State NCAA Super Regional, the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman questions “the somewhat archaic notion that newspaper writers are a class apart.”
The people who deserve special privileges are the beat reporters who cover teams day in and day out. In practice, virtually everyone who does this works either for a team-affiliated organization like an official Web site or for a newspaper, and so a system designed to make life easier for people who work for newspapers basically works out pretty well, but there are all sorts of obvious inequities here, both real and potential. There’s no arrangement, for instance, guaranteeing a writer for Baseball Prospectus access to a ballgame, whereas a writer for the Final Call, if he had a BBWAA card, could waltz right in despite working for smaller, less credible outlet. In practice, writers for established online outlets generally won’t have problems getting access they legitimately need to, but their arrangements are tenuous and insecure, and that’s probably not fair.
This gets a lot stickier when you start thinking through what sort of formal arrangement baseball could make to guarantee credible online reporters access. The virtue of privileging newspaper reporters, after all, is that it makes for an objective criterion: You either work for a newspaper or you don’t. To give online reporters a formal access arrangement would entail inherently arbitrary judgments. Dave Cameron of ussmariner.com, for instance, is about as insightful and credible a writer on the game as anyone presently working; someone who makes a real contribution to baseball. He clearly deserves at least as much consideration as Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times, who doesn’t cover the sport fulltime or, honestly, with anything like Cameron’s understanding. How, though, can you guarantee rights for Cameron without opening up the press box to any clown with a blogspot.com account? You can’t, without judging the quality of the work various writers are doing, and a process of judgment is clearly open to stupidity and abuse.
Indeed, I can see all sorts of disputes arising in the future, and rather than consult the likes of Ted Leonsis on how to issue credentials, I look forward to MLB reaching out to Gillingham FC chairman Paul Scally for tips on how to handle both the old and new media.