December 08, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS — Forget the official name of this annual event
These are the Twintter Meetings now.
It's quite a scene. Reporters of every age are tweeting while walking in hallways, while they're standing on the escalator and while they're on their way into the john.
They're tweeting while standing in line for coffee, while talking with other reporters and even while flagging down another GM for a morsel of information that will be transcribed into 140 characters and sent along to baseball fans starving for the next tidbit that will swim down their computer screen or smartphone.
Like a babbling class of ninth graders, the winter meetings have gone Twitter crazy.
First, the good: At last year's meetings in Las Vegas, I'd estimate that no more than five or 10 reporters had a Twitter account (let alone understood how to harness its power for reporting). Followers weren't as plentiful either — the BLS feed probably had under 200 readers — and very few news items (if any) were born out of Tim Brown, Jon Heyman or Ken Rosenthal giving a quick forum to the lobby's loudest whispers.
Flash forward to this year. Now the thumbs of that national news trio are getting a workout and rare is the reporter who doesn't have an iPhone or Blackberry at his or her ready. For a public desperate to gain insight on their team's attempts to get better, the result is a never-ending diet of news, rumors and speculation. Fans don't even have to keep hitting refresh on their favorite team blogs to find out the latest. The complete elimination of distribution barriers is Christmas come early for the MLB Trade Rumors set.
But despite all that instant gratification, there's a hypocritical part of my info-hungry self that feels this whirring mix of puzzle pieces has drained a lot of the fun from what attracted us to the meetings in the first place.
Not to sound too crotchety here, but it used to be that reporters had an entire day before the next edition — or at least a few hours before the next blog post — to sift through all the B.S. and decide which passed muster and which didn't. The result would be a piece that would float a few possiblities that we'd be able to consume and mull over.
Now we have a conflicting wall of noise that's often hard to translate. Want to write a blog post that takes an analytical look at the pluses and minuses of a proposed deal from your local beat reporter? Want to chew it over with fellow message board posters? Better make it quick, because by the time you even write a title, there'll be 18 additional tweets that will make your item obsolete before you hit publish.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't be striving to have the best information out there, but I've always enjoyed the winter meetings for all the possibilities that we slow cook in our minds before digging into the actual meal of trades and signings that follow. For better or worse, Twitter has eliminated the chewing process in favor of swallowing everything whole. It's introduced a microwave to our kitchen.
Also, consider this: Reporters are now devoting a good deal of time to reading the tweets of others and chasing the dispatches of others, whether they're true or not. Rumors and spec must be vetted by others, but that multi-tasking chase isn't conducive to talking to as many people as possible before running with an item or staying close to a story that you're attempting to break. The overall quality of information suffers and while I enjoy weighing deals that might never happen, I still prefer that there be a morsel of truth behind the proposals.
I'll admit that there are probably many who don't agree on my last few points. Twitter was designed as a place for raw information and there are many who prefer to do the sifting and winnowing of the truth themselves while wading through the meritocracy of information.
Still, I have to say that I miss the quiet lulls between reports that were present at the winter meetings as recently as just last year. In our rush to shout the latest news, we're starting to kill the very thing that created the market in the first place.
What do you think? Has Twitter helped or hurt the winter meetings?
UPDATE! The technological backlash has begun! Walkoff Walk's Drew Fairservice and Fack Youk's Jay share similar sentiments while NBC's Craig Calcaterra wonders why reporters are saving their best material for Twitter and not their paper's websites.