PiPress reporter defends questioning Torii Hunter

Pioneer Press reporter Mike Berardino felt compelled today to explain why he didn’t serve up the usual softballs to Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter at Hunter’s news conference earlier this week.

In a statement posted to the Pioneer Press website, Berardino said his questions about Hunter’s public statements on same-sex marriage weren’t intended to make the outfielder feel uncomfortable.

Rather, having read the strong criticism directed toward him on social media and via Deadspin.com in light of his recent endorsement of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, which included a comment related to gay marriage, I wanted to give Mr. Hunter an opportunity to respond to his critics.

I also asked him if he thought the political backlash might have impacted his recent job search as he eventually settled for a one-year contract at a 19-percent decrease in his average annual salary. Finally, I asked Mr. Hunter if he intended to be as open with his political and religious views moving forward after having gone through this recent experience.

Berardino says he considers the matter “closed” but the fact there’s nothing shocking — or really, new — in his statement suggests he’s gotten plenty of blowback for asking questions that other sports reporters said were inappropriate for the setting. He hasn’t responded yet to an email I sent seeking more information about the reaction. (Update: He notes it’s the same statement he gave to KARE on Wednesday night)

What kind of reaction?

Steve Neuman, who writes as “Stu” at the Infinite Guest blog documents some of it, including the gay slur, of course.

(h/t: Nancy Yang)

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    The reporters should be up in arms about how their colleague was treated. That they’re not speaks volumes.

    • The colleagues were among the harshest critics.

      It’s interesting that nobody has stepped in . Not Terry Ryan, not Paul Molitor, not the BBWA (the immediate past president of which sanitized the incident out of his story in the Star Tribune), and not the editors at the Pioneer Press.

      Compare:
      http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/08/28/brandon-phillips-goes-off-on-cincinnati-enquirer-baseball-writer-c-trent-rosecrans/

      Let’s face it: We’re talking a meal ticket here.

      • kevinfromminneapolis

        I thought I saw him say the editors have his back. Listening to the audio people laughed at first, which I’d get because Torii is kinda that way. But then he kept going and when they realized he wasn’t joking around it’s like they were all stunned.

        • Dave

          “I don’t know you, but you’re a prick.”

          That’s an awful nice thing to say after essentially being handed a check for $10m to ground into double plays.

  • Gary F

    It will be interesting to know what other Thought Crimes that will be exposed during the season this year forTwins players.

    We may have a team full of Steve Carltons.

    • The question is what is the role of a reporter to ask questions on things that have been advanced in public already.

      Berardino didn’t ask a guy about an issue that the guy didn’t — on his own — already advance in public; that would’ve been a terrible thing to do. But that’s not what he did.

      I get why people are trying to frame it that way. But that doesn’t change the facts of the situation.

      • The other thing that people forget is: You don’t know what the answer to a question is going to be. That’s why you ask it.

        Suppose, for example, that Hunter’s response to the question of whether he’s concerned his public views would cost him at contract time was “I only had two nibbles in this deal — the Rangers and the Twins. And everyone else said ‘sorry, we can’t touch you because we don’t want to alienate a fan base,’ and so I signed with the Twins and that’s cool because I’ve still got bullets left.”

        What’s your lede if you’re a sportswriter covering the news conference?

        If it’s not THAT, you shouldn’t be a journalist in the first place.

        And if it IS that, then it’s a great question, isn’t it?

    • Chris

      “Thought Crime”? So melodramatic. You know Torii could have said, “thanks for the question, you know politics is separate from baseball, and I do have my personal beliefs and exercised my rights as a citizen during the election, but now I’m looking forward to playing baseball.”

      Instead he got huffy like he couldn’t handle a fastball. I do wish that Bob Collins could just be the official media critic in the TC full time, we certainly need one.

      • But the question remains: What is the role of the journalist? My point below is that you don’t know what the answer is. a LOT of journalists (and a LOT of editors) THINK they know what an answermight be, but they don’t.

        But it’s a common thing in the media when reporting a story to THINK you know what the story is. You start asking the questions that will help you tell what you THINK the story is and — surprise — you come away with the story you thought you were going to get.

        I think there’s a case to be made that THAT’s not reporting and THAT’s not journalism, which is why it’s significant that some of Berardino’s harshest critics have been other journalists in the room who were getting the story they thought they were goign to get when they got up that morning.

        Berardino didn’t do that. He was seeing if there’s a story where he thought there MIGHT be one,

        And if Hunter doesn’t call him a “prick,” it doesn’t become a story at all.

        And that’s the other thign going on here. News conferences have historically been places to ask questions and find out if there’s a story.

        Then TV and the Internet came along with the ability to go live from anywhere and NOW they’re basically TV interview shows and there’s no longer anyone willing to go back to the old school way of finding a story in the traditional venue.

        And one other point: Almost EVERY major story about Twin Cities sports is broken by an out-of-town reporter.

        It’s not like the locals are getting much in exchange for the protection they provide local athletes and teams.

        • John O.

          Coming into his 19th season, how does Hunter NOT know that if he publicly calls a reporter a “prick” in response to a (ahem) prickly question, that only makes things more complicated? If I’m a Twins PR flak, I’m reaching for my Maalox.

          It’s going to be interesting how much he talks to the press this coming season. Especially if things don’t go well for the team.

    • Dave

      Wedge successfully driven. Thanks Torii!

    • Ninja0980

      I think if Torii hadn’t decided to use his status as a MLB player to campaign on behalf of an anti-gay governor, he wouldn’t have gotten asked the question he did.

  • RF Jim

    Berardino was okay with what he asked. He wasn’t being pushy or even insistent. No surprise that Neal and the others stay away from anything that might detract from their access. This is why they call sports the Toy Department.

  • David

    local media should be upping thier fee the twins pay them after this off season’s performance.

  • June

    Pretty amazing the Twins flaks didn’t prepare Torii for Bernadino’s totally predictable question. Instead, as John O. says, Torii was surprised and reacted badly, compounding the problem.

  • JMF_mn

    Wonder how Torii’s reaction would be to people claiming interracial marriage was a sin — which was also justified by selective Bible quotes, 50 years ago.