Well this was disappointing…

The posts on The Players Tribune are not written by the players.  If I would have thought about this, I would have realized that they were too well written…

Richard Sandomir of The New York Times provides that answer in an excellent feature on The Players’ Tribune that ran this weekend. Much of Sandomir’s piece looks at how The Players’ Tribune beat mainstream media to David Ortiz’s comments about drug testing, which is notable in its own right (and has even prompted a thoughtful response from Dan Shaughnessy, of all people), but the part that’s perhaps even more interesting, and concerning, is his discussion of how articles on the site come to be:

Like nearly every post on the site, the Ortiz essay was not written directly by its bylined athlete but instead crafted from a recorded interview with a Tribune staff producer. Hoenig said these interviews are less traditional question-and-answer sessions than monologues with questions to nudge the conversation along. Editing is minimal, he added, and the athletes get the final approval. The staff producers who talk to them do not get bylines.

It may not be shocking to many that most of the well-written pieces appearing on the site aren’t actually just the result of a professional athlete sitting down at a keyboard, but the actual discussion of this process raises plenty of questions. The way The Players’ Tribune presents its pieces is at best disingenuous, and it’s problematic from a couple of standpoints.

First off, there’s the nature of the portrayal. Having these pieces appear under an athlete’s byline, with no addition of “With [journalist],” suggests they’re actually written by the athlete. They may be using the athlete’s words, but it’s the uncredited producers who are actually assembling them into a piece. Yes, Hoenig says editing is minimal, and yes, athletes are signing off on the final pieces, but presenting these pieces as if they’re essays carefully crafted by the athletes themselves rather than assembled from interviews gives the wrong impression and context to readers. It also does a disservice to the athletes (and other prominent figures) who do actually write their own material.

One thought on “Well this was disappointing…”

  1. Between ghostwriters and syndication, it’s hard to tell who is writing what anymore. I’ve noticed a degradation in some of the bestsellers when syndication has replaced the original author, so this phony-writer phenom can work both ways–improving or downgrading.

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