The first important sports election of 2015 has taken place and on January 6, the results of the handful of voters who register their ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced. But there is an ethical problem with the people who cast their votes. Baseball writers should not be voting because it is a blatant conflict of interest with their job of being journalists.
I’m Evan Weiner with The Politics of Sports Business.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a private entity that is connected to Major League Baseball and set the rules for the business. When the baseball shrine began operations in 1939, the museum’s trustees decided that only baseball writers should vote on a candidate’s worthiness to be included in a special area honoring only the best of the best. The thinking was baseball writers saw all the players and are experts and the voters who belong to the Baseball Writers Association of America would have at least 10 years of experience on the job making them experts.
The trustees also decided that they could not trust radio announcers of the day because they were paid by the teams although some of the announcers were selected by advertisers.
The major problem though is a conflict of interest. Journalists should never be asked to vote on an award. You cannot have someone writing about a subject and then turn around and have that journalist vote for an award that subject could win.
Some newspapers have barred baseball writers from voting. The New York Times will not allow Times writers to participate because it is a conflict of interest.
It is understandable why the Hall of Fame leaned on the writers decades ago when the newspaper industry was vibrant and the sportswriter’s job was to write about the game and help a sport gain popularity. The writers should be out of the voting and promotion of the Hall of Fame. The writers voting on players compromises journalism ethics although for the Hall of Fame the writers create interest in furthering the Baseball Hall of Fame’s business. Writers should be reporting not making news.
This article was republished with permission from the author, Evan Weiner.