Respecting “the way things have always been.”

From the NYT: Press Boxes Become an Afterthought, After the Thought of Luxury Seats

The original press box at the 16-year-old U.S. Cellular Field was a fine place to cover a White Sox game. From their nest behind home plate, reporters could easily discern the spin of a curveball or hear the thwack of bat on ball.

But this year, the White Sox gutted it and remade it into the Jim Beam Club, with 200 theater seats and barstools that cost $260 to $315 each; when sold out, the club could generate $4 million or more in revenue. When asked why he moved the press to a much worse vista two levels up and along the first-base and right-field line, Reinsdorf unhesitatingly said, “Financial.”

This article had me shaking my head for multiple reasons. Firstly, you have to love the audacity of the New York Times. Only America’s most pretentious newspaper could “objectively” report on fellow journalists having their pressbox moved. Let’s put aside the huge issue of journalistic ethics here–that they clearly made no effort to understand the other point of view, they never checked to see what the fans or the consumer thought, that perhaps it’s a little unreliable for a reporter to interview another reporter on an issue directly relating to the comforts of reports–and just marvel at the self-indulgence. Do they really think that anyone cares? Are they breaking a story concerning to the public or to themselves? And again, how elitist and absurd is it for reporters to judge the actions of people who have to give them free tickets to every event?

But that’s not the really stupid move. In the end, this could have all been predicted and subsequently avoided. How did the White Sox not see this coming? You NEVER piss off your vocal minority–unless of course, as I discussed early, it is for the benefit of your silent majority. In this case it’s not, so why on earth would you insult the people who write about you?

Mark Cuban clearly understood this. And that’s why, when he saw cuts at the local newspapers, made an effort to make the lives of the reporters on the Mavericks beat a little easier. The Sox needed to ask themselves, is $4 million over the entire season really worth a year of bad press coverage? If it’s worth it this year by a hair, will it be the year after? Yes the NYT did a horrible job reporting this story and that’s exactly the problem. They HAD to do a horrible job. They HAD to stand up for their brethren.

Look what the chairman of the Sox said:

“We were giving the press the best real estate in the building, slightly elevated behind home plate, which they don’t need,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, the real estate investor who is chairman of the White Sox.

Why do you think they had the best real estate in the building? So every morning The Chicago Tribune would promptly give the White Sox the best real estate in the newspaper. That’s how public relations works. That’s how life works. Of course they don’t “need” it they could watch it on TV or, fuck, make it all up like Mitch Albom. The point is they get it because their influence makes them dangerous. You placate the people who can hurt you or crush them totally. The last thing you ever, ever do is make them angry.

When I read stuff like this, I always like to try and figure out why either side would as as they did. In my opinion the NYT and the rest of the reporters who will surely weigh in, are merely reacting as they ought to be expected to, just as any biased human would. From the stadium owner’s perspective I see short-term greed and utter stupidity, rational irrationality. And then, when I see the logic that brought about such a decision I try to make a conclusion or an aphorism to stop it from happening to me.

“Never induce indignation or disrespect in the people who serve as a liaison between you and your audience. So if that means coddling the middleman, respecting an absurd tradition or treating some loser better than they deserve, so be it. Either get rid of them entirely or maintain their precious status quo.”

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.