Context is all: Ian Kinsler and ESPN The Magazine

March 7, 2014

It should come as no surprise that the ESPN The Magazine article about Ian Kinsler referred to earlier this week on my other blog, has generated some buzz.

In the grand scale of things, it won’t matter, but for now, with a routinely dull spring training under way, with A-Rod out of the picture, the media is looking for something to carp on. So when Kinsler says his comments were taken out of context, that he thought he was off the record, it’s no surprise that he’s getting guff from detractors and support from, well, supporters. Others are neither-nor, just trying to keep things honest with no agenda. One person said Kinsler is self-absorbed? What s shocker, for an athlete to be concerned about how he’s doing. Please.

Hint to interviewees: never assume anything is “off the record” or that you’re just having a casual chat with a reporter. If you’re actually sitting down face-to-face and you see a recording device, duh, that should be a clue (even if the writer says they can edit out later, that might not actually happen). If you’re talking on the phone, the reporter is obligated to ask if it’s all right to record the conversation or tell you s/he is doing so.

The context part is another matter. It’s interpretation. Could be something in the inflection of a voice or a smirk that means the differences between a misunderstood (or poor) joke and a beating by the press.

According to one of the piece’s linked to above: “Chad Millman, ESPN The Magazine’s Editor in Chief, said the magazine stands by the context in which Kinsler’s statements were presented.”

As someone in the industry, I have to say that doesn’t mean much. Unless the reporter is an out-and-out fraud or plagiarist, management will “stand by” the work. To do otherwise would be a mark against the publication for having less that quality people on staff.

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