The Message

You're Out!

That leaves the question of whether the Post erred in letting Kiszla use words Walker shared with Renck. Most journalists would cast their vote in the negative. Reporters and columnists are representatives of their respective papers, and newsmakers have long understood that during interviews they're speaking as much to the institution as they are to a specific individual. Indeed, giving credit to everyone who helped write and report a story is a fairly recent innovation. For years, wire-service fodder was labeled generically ("By the Associated Press," for instance), with no mention of the grunts who did all the work. Even today, underlings frequently fail to receive bylines at places like the New York Times. As noted in a recent column by the Village Voice's Cynthia Cotts, the Times is reviewing this approach, which has "hidden the identities of countless interns, clerks, copy editors, office managers, stringers and contributors" over the years.

In the case of Kiszla's offering, the Post didn't list Renck as having pitched in, and there was no indication that Walker hadn't spoken directly to the columnist. Managing editor Clark doesn't believe the Post did "anything wrong, nothing unethical," but he admits that Walker's quotes could have been handled better. "If Kiszla had written that the comment was made to Troy, or if it had been set up in some other way, that would have been preferable," he says. "We always want the reader to know where we get our information."

Clark feels the same way about Walker personally, and says Renck and Kiszla went the extra mile to fill him in about the context in which his assertions would appear. Before Renck spoke to Walker on September 17, he chatted with Kiszla and learned about the topic of his upcoming column. Following the interview, Renck sat down to write but was unable to use the attendance statements because of space considerations. He then offered the lines to Kiszla and asked the columnist to tell Walker about the switch. Once the Rockies had defeated the Houston Astros 7-5, Kiszla headed to the clubhouse in search of Walker. He split after fifteen minutes when the player didn't show up.

Christopher Smith

None of these efforts placated the boys in purple. Ringolsby says Walker decided that he would stop talking to the media entirely because of the Kiszla column, even blowing off a scheduled appearance on the September 19 Fox Sports Net pre-game show. The Rockies as an organization were just as uncooperative. Says Klis, who had nothing to do with the Walker quote-go-round, "After the game that day, I was going down to the press conference, but Clint didn't come out. Jay called the writers down for a private meeting -- but not me. And Saturday [September 20], the same thing happened. I showed up a couple minutes late and they broke up the press conference and moved to Clint's office, but I wasn't invited. In fact, Jay said, ŒEverybody but the Post is invited.'" Because Klis wanted to get an update on the condition of pitcher Jason Jennings, who was hospitalized, he asked Alves if others on Hurdle's staff would be made available to him. No luck: "Jay told me the coaches were off-limits, too."

If a National Football League franchise pulled something like this, says NFL vice president of public relations Greg Aiello, the response would have been prompt and definitive. "Our league media policy has an equal-access provision that says barring individual members of the media from open sessions for what's perceived as unfair coverage is not permitted," he allows. "Violations of the policy can result in disciplinary action at the commissioner's discretion."

Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin, whom Klis called to complain to during the September 20 game, isn't quite so unequivocal. He says his organization is also interested in equal access, but he referred to dictates on the topic as "guidelines," not hard-and-fast standards. "We encourage all personnel to be cooperative with the press, but personnel are not required to talk to the media unless they wish to," he maintains. Nonetheless, Levin told Klis that he'd talk to the Rockies on the Post's behalf if the problem persisted, which it didn't. By the contest's ninth inning, Klis had received a call from Dale that Post types were no longer personae non grata when it came to Rockies management.

For reporter Renck, this incident represents only the second obstacle placed before him by the Rockies since he began covering the team in 1996. (He worked for several news operations, including the Longmont Times Call, before joining the Post staff just over eighteen months ago.) Moreover, the previous roadblock wasn't placed before him alone, and it slowed few reporters down. In 2000, the Rockies began doing their stretching and conditioning indoors rather than on the field, lessening the amount of the press's access to players by around fifteen minutes a day -- but at the beginning of this season, the clubhouse was opened a quarter-hour earlier to compensate.

In Renck's view, "Baseball is really tailored for writers. The clubhouse has to be open three-and-a-half hours before the game by league rule. It's open for 45 minutes before batting practice and 45 minutes after batting practice, which gives you an hour and a half of interview time every day." Some areas of the stadium are off limits to the media, including the trainer's room, the weight room and the lunch area, "so players can get away from us if they really want to. But there's so much time that usually you can just wait a guy out."

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