Closed Clubhouse, Zoom Interviews Among New Guidelines for Cubs Media Coverage

The Cubs released their annual media and credential information email Tuesday morning, just slightly later than would have been the case in a normal season. There were some obvious changes due to MLB’s restrictions on total number of media members, but it’s the details on how the team can and can’t be covered that will really make this a different animal for beat writers.

The primary differentiator between a beat writer and a blogger, aside from accountability and not living in their parents’ basements, is access. That doesn’t just mean being there at the ballpark, it’s about becoming fixtures in the clubhouse and establishing rapport with players and staff members. Even little remarks made off the record can help to inform a story months later or reinforce a level of trust that allows a player to open up.

I don’t have that and never will because Cubs Insider can’t be credentialed, hence our reliance on information from pre- and post-game media scrums or live feeds from press conferences, etc. While the beat and national writers will continue to have a much higher level of access this season, it won’t be nearly as frequent or as private.

MLB policy states that media are allowed in the ballpark no earlier than four hours prior to first pitch, and must leave no later than 90 minutes after post-game interviews. But since the clubhouse will be closed to the media, all interviews will be conducted via Zoom video conference calls. That means no exclusive comments or stories, unless a reporter picks up on something unique in a quote and manages to find a way to follow that thread before everyone else gets wind of it.

We’ll get our first sense of how this new type of coverage is going to work when the Cubs hold their first workout on Friday, July 3 at Wrigley Field. Workouts are planned to be held at the ballpark on a daily basis until the start of the regular season, but the schedule is subject to change. The second unit won’t be getting much coverage, if any at all, since their workouts at the club’s minor league facility in South Bend will be closed to the media.

It had previously been noted that MLB was not allowing in-person scouting of taxi squad workouts and that all live scouting might be suspended at the highest level as well, even in the postseason. So basically, information is going to be at a real premium and we’re going to see clubs, publications, and individuals finding unique ways to conduct whatever form of reconnaissance fits their role.

Meanwhile, we’ll just remain back here in the corner trying to cull whatever we can from wherever we can.

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