Journalism dilemma: Notre Dame beat writer, Chicago Tribune make decision about Heisman vote

Rule of journalism: Reporters don’t make news. Reporters cover the news.

The line gets blurred when sportswriters participate in things like college football polls, Major League Baseball awards, and Hall of Fame elections. Their votes become the news that they later have to cover and critique. Conflicts are inherent in such a process.

Brian Hamilton, the Notre Dame beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, felt uneasy about having a Heisman Trophy ballot this year. The question of possible bias because of Irish linebacker Manti Te’o resulted in the Tribune using an internal staff poll to determine Hamilton’s vote.

The section revealed the quandary in a story in Sunday’s paper. He wrote:

We’re in the business of creating as little question as possible — preferably none — about how we conduct our business as journalists. And the Notre Dame beat writer

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Saturday flashback: My memories of Bo Jackson’s Major League debut

Below is the preview for tonight’s new 30 for 30, You Don’t Know Bo (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

I was there for Bo Jackson’s Major League debut, and it ranks among my favorite and most memorable sporting events in 30-plus years on the beat.

Special bonus question: What pitcher gave up Jackson’s first big league hit? Hint: He was a 300-game winner.

I was the White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune. The team just happened to be the opponent on Sept. 2, 1986 when the Kansas City Royals called up a minor leaguer named Vincent Edward Jackson.

The hype was considerable for Jackson. When he stepped into the batting cage for the first time, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Players from both teams stopped to watch. White Sox players, who were done with BP, actually hung … Continue Reading

A Sportswriters Life: Beat writer for Cubs during long road trip to nowhere

This is the first of an occasional series on the life and times of sportswriters.

My first installment is going to be on my old friend, Paul Sullivan, the Cubs beat writer for the Chicago Tribune.

I talked to Sullivan the other day from the lobby of his hotel in Washington. He was in the middle of what only can be described as the road trip from hell: A 10-game trek to Washington, Pittsburgh and Houston in September.

“I’ve been dreading this trip all season,” Sullivan said.

I know exactly how Sullivan feels. I covered a series of bad White Sox teams in the late 80s for the Tribune. There’s nothing worse than being on a long road trip in September to cover meaningless games for a team going nowhere.

Unfortunately for Sullivan, he has experienced this drill before. He’s … Continue Reading

Payton book in paperback: Author hopes for a second chance in Chicago

Jeff Pearlman hopes release of his Walter Payton biography in paperback this week will help right a wrong, especially in Chicago.

When excerpts of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton ran in Sports Illustrated last fall, Pearlman was vilified. It couldn’t have been worse if he dressed in green and gold and staged a Green Bay Packers rally on Michigan Ave.

The excerpt detailed Payton’s troubled life after football; addiction to painkillers, issues with depression, affairs and a non-existent marriage. It hardly was the picture Bears fans saw of the valiant warrior during a spectacular 13-year career.

Reaction was harsh in Chicago. Mike Ditka said he would “spit” on the book. Everyone follows “Da Coach” here and you could have filled Lake Michigan with all the saliva. Not a pretty image.

“To me, it was crushing,” Pearlman said.… Continue Reading

Newspaper Olympics coverage varies: Philly papers cut back; LA Times, USA Today all-in

Special Report:

Staffing the Olympics used to be a no-brainer for major newspapers. The Games are a major worldwide event and you air-mail as many reporters as possible.

I was among 15 staffers for the Chicago Tribune during the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Obviously, times, priorities, and most importantly, economics have changed. It’s no longer automatic to send an army of staffers to cover an Olympics.

In fact, the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer initially decided skip the trip to London. They returned the five credentials issued to the papers. However, at the last minute, the editors decided to send Phil Sheridan.

Said Josh Barnett, executive sports editor for the Philadelphia Daily News on the overall decision: “It’s exclusively a financial decision. It’s a significant commitment (to staff an Olympics). With dwindling resources, you have to make decision of … Continue Reading

Pressure to fill Ebersol’s shoes: NBC’s Larazus now squarely in Olympics spotlight

It’s finally here.

After all the countdowns, hype and preparation, the opening ceremonies are set for Friday.

Few people will be feeling the pressure more in London than Mark Lazarus. All the NBC Sports chairman has to do is step into the huge Olympics TV legacy left by Dick Ebersol.

Here’s my look at Lazarus and NBC in a story that also ran Sunday in the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune:


Mark Lazarus is an affable man, but he seems to prefer to be in the background.

The Olympics, though, will thrust him squarely in the intense spotlight created, in part, by his predecessor, Dick Ebersol.

Lazarus, 48, takes control when NBC begins its massive coverage of the Summer Olympics next week. When Ebersol resigned suddenly in a contract dispute in May, 2011, Lazarus stepped in as chairman … Continue Reading