Year-in-review requires perspective listening to 2013 Simmons podcast with Whitlock

Jason Whitlockbill-simmonsAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:

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To gain perspective on the two biggest stories in sports journalism in 2015, you need to dial up a podcast from two years ago.

On Aug. 15, 2013, Jason Whitlock was Bill Simmons’ guest on his “BS Report” podcast for Grantland. Yes, it can be found, and in light of what happened this year, the interview sounds laughable and more than a touch ironic.

Back then, Whitlock was beaming in rejoining ESPN after leaving in 2006. “This is one of the greatest days of my life,” he said.

Whitlock discussed how he “fell in love” with ESPN president John Skipper. Skipper wanted Whitlock to oversee a new ESPN aimed at African-Americans. Whitlock called it “the black Grantland.”

“Skipper carved out a vision for me,” Whitlock said. “It was like he talked … Continue Reading

Former LA Times sports editor Bill Dwyre reflects on past, future of business

DwyreExcerpts from my latest column for Poynter.

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You will be hard pressed to find anyone with a more unique perspective on the epic shifts in sports journalism than Bill Dwyre.

After 25 years as sports editor of the Los Angeles Times, Dwyre sought a change in 2006. He wanted to spend the final years of his career writing as a columnist.

In hindsight, Dwyre says it was the right decision. The view he got during the last 9 ½ years was much different than if he stayed in “my glass office.”

“I’m happy that I did get both looks [as an editor and writer],” Dwyre said.

Even though he says he isn’t retiring from writing, Dwyre recently bid farewell to the Los Angeles Times. He didn’t necessarily want to leave, but he says if somebody “offers you a buyout … Continue Reading

Players are real losers with dwindling media access in college football

IvanExcerpts from my latest column for Poynter:

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Access, or a lack thereof, continues to be a major problem for college football reporters. And that goes for the reporters from the biggest outlets in the business.

“What I got [in terms of access] as a national guy 25 years ago for the Dallas Morning News was much better than I get now writing for the biggest website in the country,” said Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com. “I bet the guys at Sports Illustrated say the same thing.”

Billy Watkins of the Clarion-Ledger vented about his frustrations in a column about covering college football in Mississippi. In an email to me, Watkins wrote:

“I’m doing a big profile of a player at Navy. He is a senior from Mississippi. They have bent over backward getting me anything and everything I need for … Continue Reading

Dave Wannstedt: Unlikely media star; ‘I just get caught up talking about football’

WannstedtExcerpts from my latest column for the Chicago Tribune:

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Dave Wannstedt is walking down Michigan Avenue on an overcast November morning after finishing his regular Tuesday morning sports radio appearance. He ducks into a store to get a cup of coffee even though he already appears to be fully caffeinated.

Wannstedt always gets amped talking about college and pro football. Above everything else, his rapid-fire, high-energy broadcast persona makes him completely engaging. Must-listen radio. Mike Mulligan, co-host of WSCR-AM 670’s “Mully & Hanley Show,” says, “It is the best segment on our show.”

The on-air version of Wannstedt is a stark contrast to how Bears fans remember him.

“I always was protective with the media,” Wannstedt said, in explaining why he didn’t reveal that outgoing side during his days as Bears coach from 1993-99 and later as head coach … Continue Reading

Former ESPN Magazine writer worked as clubhouse attendant; other laid-off sportswriters share their stories

Jeff BradleyAn excerpt of my latest column for Poynter:

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For the bulk of his professional life, Jeff Bradley has spent his summers at a Major League ballpark. He had high-profile beats covering baseball for ESPN The Magazine and the Newark Star-Ledger.

But last summer was different. Struggling to make ends meet ever since being let go by the Star-Ledger in Jan., 2013, Bradley worked as a clubhouse attendant at a country club near his home in New Jersey. He shined shoes, vacuumed the carpet and kept the bathrooms clean.

Bradley likely is the only clubhouse attendant who also has written about Derek Jeter for national publications. A few times, Bradley was mistaken for being a member. On other occasions, he ran into people who knew him as “the sportswriter,” prompting the inevitable questions of what happened?

“Sure, it was embarrassing … Continue Reading

New public editor represents shift for ESPN; first with digital background

Brady JimAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:

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Jim Brady’s appointment marks a significant transition for ESPN. He will be the first person in the position whose background primarily is in digital. Brady helped launch and then later served as both sports editor and then executive editor of WashingtonPost.com. He also held multiple executive positions at AOL. Brady is the CEO of Spirited Media, which operates the mobile news platform Billy Penn in Philadelphia, and in the interest of full disclosure is a member of Poynter’s Board of Directors.

Brady’s resume is quite a departure from his predecessor, Robert Lipsyte, the former New York Times columnist who barely used social media. Stiegman, though, quoted Lipsyte in noting that ESPN wanted a new public editor who can address various issues on the network’s many platforms from TV to mobile.

“Bob … Continue Reading

ESPN should have pulled plug on Grantland when Simmons left

Grantland doneAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:

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In Grantland’s case, there was another factor beyond money. When ESPN parted ways with Bill Simmons earlier in the year, ESPN president John Skipper should have pulled the plug on Grantland at the same time.

While the site was named for Grantland Rice, the most influential sportswriter in the 20th Century, it really should have been called “Simmons,” arguably the most impactful sportswriter thus far in the 21st Century. Simmons conceived the site as an extension of his ground-breaking columns and podcasts that covered the Celtics in one breath and “Mad Men” in the next.

With Simmons, Grantland developed into a niche site with a faithful following. Even though it didn’t generate a profit, Grantland’s premium content allowed ESPN and Skipper to take a pleasant ride into an intellectual, … Continue Reading

Tom Verducci: Lessons from his approach to working as Fox analyst for World Series, writing for SI; Reporting common thread

Verducci and BuckAn excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:

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Tom Verducci is a busy man during the World Series.

He has a “night” job working with Joe Buck and Harold Reynolds on Fox Sports’ No. 1 announce team for the games. Then after the final pitch, he makes the transition to his “late, late night/early morning job” in writing columns for the games on SI.com.

Verducci says his game day routine usually ends around 3 a.m.

“There’s always November for sleeping,” Verducci said.

Perhaps nobody else in sports media has conquered the multi-media aspect like Verducci. He is the first non-player to work as an analyst in a World Series TV booth since Howard Cosell. He also remains a must-read with his baseball writing for Sports Illustrated.

So how does Verducci view himself these days: As a broadcaster or a … Continue Reading

Lost art of using phone is bad trend for journalism, public relations

phoneExcerpts from my latest column for Poynter:

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At the dawn of 2015, I made a New Year’s resolution. I vowed to try to rely less on email and actually use the good old-fashioned phone to reach out to public relations people on my various beats. Even if I didn’t have anything on the agenda, I planned to dial someone’s number just to see what was going on.

You know, how’s the family? What’s the latest at your place?

Of course, New Year’s resolutions never stick. So along with my vow to read more and eat less, I haven’t come close to calling PR folks as much as I had hoped.

I make that admission to show that I am just as guilty as anyone in being part of a horrible trend in media: Journalists and PR people have forgotten … Continue Reading

Author Q/A of new Carlton Fisk biography: Much more to proud catcher’s career than epic ’75 homer

Carlton FiskCarlton Fisk takes center stage every October. During baseball’s postseason, there are multiple replays of his iconic homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. It ranks near the top as one of the game’s most memorable blows and was Fisk’s defining moment. Yet there was much more  to Fisk’s Hall of Fame career.

In “Pudge: The Biography of Carlton Fisk,” author Doug Wilson details how the catcher seemed to defy age that saw him still squatting behind the plate at 46. He writes how it started with an old school New England work ethic that he brought to the Midwest when he came to Chicago in 1981, posting several exceptional seasons during his 13 years with the White Sox.

I was with Fisk during my three years as the White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune. He … Continue Reading