QUESTION (from FairGame): Do you approach non-baseball-related injuries/illness differently when it comes to reporting? I feel like Carlos Martinez's respiratory illness is separate from "his elbow is structurally unable to throw a baseball" and also strays into the personal. Is there a different set of guidelines you need to follow, or think you should follow?
GOOLD: A physical reason that keeps the player from performing on the field in front of a paid crowd is news, and all should be reported the same way. There are times when the player refuses to reveal the reason -- and that is his right. There is privacy protection, after all, and this has been something that baseball and other professional sports have dealt with in the past decade or so. I'm sure I told the story before about the pitcher who got so tired of talking about his injury with the media he asked for the organization to let him sign something, anything so that the trainer could be allowed to discuss. He was willing to, on paper, waive his right to privacy in this regard just so he could offer the media clarity.
In the past two years, I can think of a few times when a player has declined to disclose the reason for the injury -- and it is at that time that we have to determine after additional reporting if the the newsworthiness of the injury is worth the breach of the player's right to privacy. Sometimes you read about an injury and the team hasn't revealed it at all, reporting has. I don't think the distinctions are as cut and dry as you suggest because each player is going to have a different preference -- but the motive for the reporting is this: An ailment that keeps them from performing or appearing in front of the paid crowd is news, and should the player express some reluctance about the details of his injury/ailment/issue then it's up to the report to determine the greater good of reporting those details.
My rule of thumb: I'm human first.
Follow-up (from Ryan): Re: injury disclosure. When O’Neill last year was out with a curious groin injury when the Cards were in a playoff push, what was the real injury? Fans surely paid the same amount for tickets those 10 days.
GOOLD: Tyler O'Neill declined to disclose why he missed time, and he explained that it was for a personal reason. He also said that his family had decided to keep it private, as is his right. The team was the one that assigned the "groin" label to the injury. At which point there is a question on what is newsworthy? Is it that he's going to miss time and how long he's going to miss time -- or is it a detailed examination of the precise injury a player had, who asked to keep the matter private? The answer in the scenario you present is actually to respect the player's privacy as long is does not give off the impression that he will be back sooner than he actually will be or that he is covering up for the severity of the injury in a pennant race or when tickets are sold. That's the discussion that happens more often than you probably know, and there is definitely room for debate on the topic.
Which brings me to the biggest most important part.
This is essential: I will add, too, that to write about an injury that a player has withheld from the public, from the media, you better have rock-solid sources on what that injury is or else the report is wrong, and that's trouble. I have had times when I have sources confirming an injury that the player refutes. Absolutely denies. I better be right. I better be accurate.