Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein yesterday responded to accusations that the team was instructing media to “lay off” Addison Russell.
“If you want to write critical articles about Addison or about the club’s handling, you’re more than welcome to. Seriously, we believe in the freedom of the press and this is an issue where we expect there to be strong opinions. People have the right to have those opinions and express them however they want. We would never try to stifle freedom of the press. The threat of reprisal to a media member about any topic, especially one of this nature, is not acceptable. I would be surprised if that happened with the Cubs and if it did I would want to know who it was and they wouldn’t be working for the Cubs much longer. That’s a fire-able offense.”
These comments came a day after the Cubs didn’t respond to The Big Lead’s request for comment on the report.
Those who cover the Cubs have apparently had different experiences — or at least different interpretations — in regards to attempts to influence coverage.
Gordon Wittenmyer, beat reporter for the Sun-Times, tweeted that he’d never herd “a whisper” of such efforts by the Cubs from anyone who covers the team.
Paul Sullivan, who served as the Tribune’s beat reporter for many years and still covers the team as a columnist, offered a different take.
Sullivan offering that editors at three different outlets have been the recipient of lobbying for better coverage is significant, but not entirely surprising. Perhaps this is too cynical, but I’d be surprised if most professional teams aren’t actively trying to angle for a more positive printed word. Those efforts could be subtle and gentle or over-the-top and loud.
We’ll see if any other reporter or editor covering the Cubs weighs in with a tiebreaker for the court of public opinion.