Sports Columns

The Royal Question: Analyzing the Journalistic Ethics of the Edinson Volquez Situation

Shawn McFarland
Staff Editor

Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.
Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.

I wish there was a lighter way to put this, but death is a part of life. It’s something that we as a society face every day. It’s something that no one can escape.

The baseball world witnessed this just last week, as Kansas City Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez lost his father, Danio Volquez, prior to game one of the World Series, a game in which he was slated to start.

Danio Volquez, 63, lost his battle against heart disease that day. A report surfaced on social media hours before first pitch courtesy of a reporter close to the Voquez family. Within minutes, the whole world knew of the tragedy the family was facing.

Edinson Volquez did not.

Another report surfaced right around the start of the game – the biggest game of Volquez’ career, mind you – that the 32-yard-old right hander had yet to be informed of his father’s passing, per the request of his family.

This is understandable given the magnitude of the game Volquez was about to participate in. The last thing he needed weighing him down was the news of his father’s passing.

That’s not the problem here. The problem is the fact that every baseball fan tuned into social media, or just browsing the internet that day knew of this personal, non-baseball related information. In my eyes, this begs the question; are sports reporters releasing too much information to the public?

The original report came from Hector Gomez, a sports reporter with a direct audience of over 39,000 followers on Twitter. His tweet was then retweeted, reposted and re-shared across the quick-spreading forest fire of social media.

Maybe I’m just naïve, or I’m not abiding with the unwritten code of conduct for 21st century journalists: once you’ve got a scoop on a story, tweet first and ask questions later. But I fail to understand the dire need to spread personal and tragic information to the public before those affected by the news are all aware.

I don’t want to put any fault or blame on Gomez, either. After all, he was following the guideline for journalists, ‘seek the truth and report it’. Someone close to the Volquez family disclosed this information to him and he did what he felt was the correct thing.

But maybe, that’s the problem with modern day journalism. There’s an ethical boundary line which reporters toe everyday it seems. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to what needs to be reported and what doesn’t, and to some degree that’s what makes journalism unique. This is something we see often, and it spans beyond the world of sports as well.

Maybe the “easy answer” (and I put that in quotes because I firmly believe that there is no easy answer in this scenario) is to ask whether or not this information benefits the public to a strong degree? Yes, Danio Volquez’ passing was certainly newsworthy, especially under the circumstances his son was in. But what purpose did it serve in letting the public know, even before Edinson Volquez did?

I’m not here to attack Gomez or any of the other reporters for what they did – the reports were done in a respectful manner, for the most part. But I do question the ethics of this brand of journalism as a whole, the ‘first to the story is the winner’ mantra.

I understand the need to report the news when it happens, but maybe we need to be more sensitive to some of the stories we come across. This idea may be a lost cause, however, because as a society we’re too deep entrenched in the fast-paced world of social media where the news breaks at your fingertips.

Ten years ago, when news had to go through an editing process to be a published as a story, who knows if the Volquez story would have reached the public before the game. Modern journalism allows reporters to bypass that process, and it’s surely a double-edged sword, and where a grey area exists with no road map to help reporters navigate.

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