When Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez took the mound for the first game of the World Series between the Royals and the New York Mets on Tuesday, serious discussions were underway at FOX Sports.
While the team of announcers went through line-ups and backgrounds on starting pitchers, what appeared to be known throughout Twitter and other social media as well as FOX Sports management remained unannounced to viewers: the young pitcher’s father had died earlier that day.
“After internal debate that reached the highest levels of FOX Sports,” The Washington Post reported (Oct. 28), “they chose not to report on Volquez’s father’s death until Volquez finished pitching and they were certain Volquez had been told by family. Ultimately, they did what they thought was the right thing to do.”
FOX Sports Reporter Ken Rosenthal said later, “The worst possible outcome in our view was for him to find out from us instead of the proper people. Maybe he knew. Maybe he didn’t. We weren’t going to take the chance…”
The FOX Sports web site reported (Oct. 27), “It was only after he left [the game], Royals manager Ned Yost said, that Volquez learned his 63-year-old father, Daniel Volquez died earlier in the day from heart failure.
“ ‘It was just, you know, it was sad, a sad situation,’ Yost told a few reporters gathered in the clubhouse. ‘You find out an hour before the game that your starting pitcher’s father passed away, and it was hard. But again, you wanted to honor the family’s wishes, and they requested, “Don’t tell Eddie. Let him go out and pitch Game 1 of the World Series.”
“Volquez had left the clubhouse with his family by the time reporters were allowed in after the game,” FOX reported, “but Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie spoke to him briefly.
“ ‘I could tell he was devastated,’ Guthrie said. ‘I had never seen him like that before. He was very subdued, very quiet. I could tell he was in a lot of emotional pain.’ ”
Surprisingly, not all journalists agreed with FOX’s decision. “Some viewers and journalists argued that FOX’s first responsibility was to tell the entire story – news is news,” The Post writes, “But the FOX broadcast is fundamentally not a journalistic enterprise – the company pays Major League Baseball a fortune for the right to broadcast the World Series, and its primary mission is to deliver a baseball game. Even if it didn’t adhere strictly to journalistic standards, some experts believe they got it right Tuesday night.”
“ ‘It comes down to, what is the importance of this information to the public?’ said Andrew Seaman, the Ethics Committee Chair of the Society of Professional Journalists. “They were concerned about the impact it might have on him. The world necessarily doesn’t stop turning because they didn’t find out that this person passed away. It saved someone, maybe, from extraordinary anguish. It comes down to weighing the costs and benefits.’ ”
While I agree with saving someone from the anguish of possibly learning on-air that a close family member had passed, I don’t agree with Seaman’s cost/benefit aspect. Compassionate acts do not fit a cost/benefit model. You choose to act compassionately because it is called for in the moment, not because of some moral calculus.
While The Post story did not name the journalists who favored reporting Volquez’s father’s death, I cannot fathom how reporting that kind of personal information to fans before a game carries any legitimate newsworthiness. Sadly, those who are focused on their own needs regardless of others, choose to act in ways that are less than honest, fair or respectful. A person concerned with doing the right thing always considers the consequences before acting.
Once he was sure Volquez had been informed, and finished his work for the night, Rosenthal reported the death in the eighth inning. “I’m convinced today it was the right move,” Rosenthal said. “I’ll always be convinced it was the right move. We have a special responsibility. We’re not Twitter.”