Why Times Journalists Don't Vote MVP (or Hall of Fame or Tonys)

Time initiate explains who we are and what we do, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how our journalism comes together. Shohei Oht...


Time initiate explains who we are and what we do, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how our journalism comes together.

Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Bryce Harper of the Phillies were the best in baseball in 2021. That’s what a selection of North American baseball writers say. But the Times writers did not have a vote. They haven’t had one for over 30 years.

Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote for four annual awards in the National and U.S. leagues: Most Valuable Player (Mr. Ohtani and Mr. Harper), Cy Young (for the best pitchers), Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year. But a handful of organizations do not allow their authors to participate in the process. The Times is one of them. The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post are two others.

The reason for The Times Rule: Journalists should report the news, not help bring it about.

The ban applies to other sports accolades such as Hall of Fame nominations and the Heisman College Football Trophy, and cultural accolades such as the Tony Awards or film festivals. A Cy Young or a Tony can change the trajectory of an artist’s career. Sometimes winners receive contract bonuses from their teams. (Mr. Harper won an additional $ 500,000 for his MVP award.)

“Such cooperation calls into question the independence of the newspaper,” says the Times’s Ethical Journalism Handbook, under a banner titled “Protecting the Neutrality of the Newspaper.”

The BBWAA was founded in 1908 and works with Major League Baseball and its clubs to formalize the working conditions of journalists in stadiums. He also established the annual prices; two writers from each league city submit ballots. Writers with 10 years of membership can also elect players to the Hall of Fame.

Voters, who spend the entire season watching the game and following the athletes, are expected to make impartial decisions.

“We need knowledgeable writers to run these elections,” said Tyler Kepner, national baseball reporter at The Times and member of the BBWAA.

The Times’ ban on voting dates back to 1989. Max Frankel, the editor, revisited the roles journalists and editors played in awards and honors as the newspaper expanded its sports and local coverage in New York City. He did not doubt the integrity of The Times reporters, but believed that voting could create a conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of a conflict.

“Our increasing sophistication in detecting fraud in government, business, sport and even science has gradually made us aware of our own vulnerability to conflicts of interest, real and perceived,” Frankel wrote. , 91 years old, in his memoirs, published in 1999, “The times of my life and my life with time. “

A sticking point has arisen in Baseball Hall of Fame Voting. Some have argued that this is an exception to the new rule.

In a memo written by Mr. Frankel in December 1990, he concluded that “The Times instructs staff to write about baseball for one reason only: to inform and entertain our readers.”

Prior to joining The Times in 2000, Mr. Kepner voted for the Cy Young Award in his previous reporting positions with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Riverside Press-Enterprise in California. He said the Times policy was well known at the time.

“I can see how difficult it is to vote for or against players on your pace, but I think most, if not all writers accept responsibility without worrying about disturbing or appeasing those they cover,” M said. Kepner. “I can certainly understand the logic of The Times to stick with the news coverage and not be part of it.”

The BBWAA began listing the full results of the league awards votes on its website in 2012, and the internet allowed instant reviews. Writers often share how and why they voted online. After Corbin Burnes, who throws for the Milwaukee Brewers, was received the NL Cy Young Award in a close vote last week, fans and writers debated the case of runner-up Zack Wheeler of Philadelphia, who led the league in pitched innings but had a slightly higher earned runs average.

These difficult decisions, now more visible to the public, are typical of screenwriters, who submit their ballots before the playoffs.

“The Times rule spares me a lot of aggravation and criticism, especially in the age of social media, from people who would disagree with my selections,” Kepner said. “For peace of mind, it’s not that bad.”

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