Roger Ebert to Jay Marriotti
August 29, 2008 9:02 PM   Subscribe

An open letter to sports columnist Jay Mariotti, who resigned from the Sun-Times and lashed out during a TV interview announcing that newspapers were dead. (via Sports Filter)
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys (25 comments total)

 
When I moved from Chicago to L.A. eight years ago, I remember thinking that there were exactly two things I wouldn't miss: the long winters, and the vile and spiteful Jay Mariotti, who is the personification of petulance, pettiness, and preening self-regard rolled up in one little beady-eyed, gaseous cluster of mediocrity, with a lump of shit where his heart should have been. His departure is long overdue, and I hope it's been received universally with the contempt it deserves.
posted by scody at 9:20 PM on August 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke said it best.

''We wish Jay well and will miss him -- not personally, of course -- but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days..."
posted by lee at 9:21 PM on August 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


"Not once in the last eight years can I recall seeing Mariotti in the Cubs' or Sox' clubhouse. With a press credential that allowed him access to every major sporting event and every major figure, he hasn't broken a single story in that time."

Chris De Luca, Sun Times sports writer.
posted by lee at 9:26 PM on August 29, 2008


I get the definite sense that it has been, scody. You need not fear on that count.
posted by Naberius at 9:28 PM on August 29, 2008


We wish Jay well and will miss him -- not personally, of course -- but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days...

That, my friends, is how it is done. Bravo, sir.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:31 PM on August 29, 2008


Ah, excellent. And GO WHITE SOX!
posted by scody at 9:32 PM on August 29, 2008


I'm not a sports fan and rarely read the Sun-Times, and never Mariotti, so I don't really understand what the fuss is about. But I have read some commentary on him from time to time, and I've always been impressed by the consistency with which almost everyone in Chicago seems to loathe him. It must take real effort to inspire that kind of hatred.

It looks like his resignation may save a bunch of people at the Sun-Times their jobs:
Bad times have been followed by worse times at the Sun-Times, and Cooke had to meet Tuesday afternoon with leaders of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, giving them the bad news that the paper needed to cut salaries to the tune of three columnists, a reporter, a photographer, and five editorial assistants. Going by guild scale, the combined yearly salaries of those positions comes to about $580,000.

...

Says CNG's executive director, Gerald Minkkinen, after the guild-management meeting "things happened that could change the picture."

What?

"Jay Mariotti resigned."
(from Michael Miner's blog)
posted by enn at 9:32 PM on August 29, 2008


Newspapers are not dead, Jay, because there are still readers who want the whole story, not a sound bite.

I lol'd. Cause, you know, it's totally much better when the newspapers write down the sound bite for you.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:35 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was thinking the same thing, especially when the suntimes is barely above the level of a tabloid. Why should we be forced to choose sides? Cant we all agree all these people suck pretty badly?
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:43 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a Chicago ex-pat who left before Mariotti came on the scene, I often wondered what the big deal about him was. And when I'm back home I only read the Sun Times when the local box is sold out of the Trib.

But reading Mariotti, gawd what a waste of column inches. As much as any columnist in the Bob Greene mold, every story was ultimately about Mariotti, or so it seemed to me. Good riddance.

But, as much as I appreciate Ebert, I gotta wonder if he's picked up a Times or a Trib lately. Oh, sure they're still a damn sight better than what passes for newspapers in Detroit, but if newspapers aren't dead, they're in desperate need of life support.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:05 PM on August 29, 2008


Whatever else, Ebert is a great writer.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:36 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was thinking the same thing, especially when the suntimes is barely above the level of a tabloid. Why should we be forced to choose sides? Cant we all agree all these people suck pretty badly?

I wouldn't even say it's above, anymore. My brother and I picked one up a few days ago, just for something to read/ do the crossword.. it was horrifying. And not the Sun Times I remember. There was an ad in the masthead, designed to look like news, only it featured the price of the item. Ads are fine. Making them look like news, in the masthead, is not. And have you read Michael Sneed? Is there a reason they let her publish rumors as news?

This current askme is what's causing it all (not the question but the situation being discussed).
posted by ninjew at 11:56 PM on August 29, 2008


Wait a minute -- maybe the guy was an asshole. What does that have to do with the fact that print newspapers have become horribly unreliable and easily-manipulated sources of what passes for information these days?

Ebert is not an impulsive writer -- even if he didn't like the guy, why would he write this?
posted by Clave at 12:52 AM on August 30, 2008


Mariotti is a smarmy gasbag and will not be missed. He is taking full advantage of the cult of the sportswriter created by ESPN, a cult which saps any actual drive and creative worth the writer has left and leaves him a bloviating talking head. The columnists regularly appearing on Pardon the Interruption and its imitator Around the Horn have nearly all demonstrated a precipitous decline in the quality of their actual written sports columns. And as sports develops its own twenty-four hour news cycle, the writers which rose to prominence by offering fresh takes and honest perspectives have become shrill voices in an echo chamber. As the sportswriters devolve into personalities, the only metric left to measure them by is size of their egos and the volume of their voices.

Though I know nothing of his personal life and cannot comment on his value on a man, the only professional praise I can give to Jay Mariotti is that at least he's not Mitch Albom.
posted by kyleg at 12:53 AM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


The columnists regularly appearing on Pardon the Interruption and its imitator Around the Horn have nearly all demonstrated a precipitous decline in the quality of their actual written sports columns.

I don't think Woody Paige had anything to decline from by the time he'd signed up with ESPN. Honestly, you should have read his stuff with the Denver Post back in the day. Just downright awful stuff.

Kornheiser and Wilbon are great writers, but I sense that they're both stretched too thin now to be able to actually turn out quality columns. I don't see their problem as being part of this Showtime attitude at ESPN (though they definitely are part of that) but as part of them trying to be journalists and celebrities and their own unease with it. Well, at least in Kornheiser's case.

Mariotti is a jerk, but Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times? Worst sports columnist in America. And I don't think it's close.
posted by dw at 1:20 AM on August 30, 2008


Whatever else, Ebert is a great writer.

That may be, but there's no evidence of it here.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:07 AM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, sure they're still a damn sight better than what passes for newspapers in Detroit, but if newspapers aren't dead, they're in desperate need of life support.

You are so right. And the only thing more soul-crushing than, say, reading the Detroit Free Press on a regular basis (don't even get me started on our daily Gordon-Gecko-grousy rag wannabe) would be perusing their online comment threads. It's like there's an electronic carnie stationed at the end of each article bearing a sign that warns: "You must be at least this dumb" to chime in. All of the petty city-suburban tension(s), with a broad range of racist, sexist, brainless drivel sprinkled throughout.

Makes your average youtube comment look like a friggin' doctoral thesis.

Sorry, rant and (arguable) tangent over: I'll let someone far brighter draw some larger conclusions from the fact that print media has a reputation -- fair or no -- for botching the transition to the web so very thoroughly. But I'm no expert. Or Ebert, for that matter. Off to read the news. Online. Sigh.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:57 AM on August 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll let someone far brighter draw some larger conclusions from the fact that print media has a reputation -- fair or no -- for botching the transition to the web so very thoroughly.

I put the blame squarely on the business managers, bean-counters, and large investors who were already hard at work slashing costs and eliminating everything that makes a paper relevant and vital. They're the ones who kept papers from making the leap, because they had to protect profits at all costs. They couldn't see past the quarterly statements in order to see how to make a smooth, successful move online. So, they wasted valuable time with subscription plans and "pay to get the rest of the story" schemes.

The story of so many newspapers over the past 20-30 years has been one of "chiropractors performing brain surgery".
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 AM on August 30, 2008


I was long hoping that the newspapers would view the web as their conduit for fast-breaking urgent news, and use the print medium for longer, investigative work to fill in the gaps on soundbite news and provide the room to analyze matters of complexity and depth.

Instead the papers still don't have a decent idea what to do with themselves, New York Times aside. It's the print magazines like New Yorker, Harper's, and Atlantic Monthly which are filling the breach, and slowly breaking away from a weekly or monthly update cycle to deliver what they can, when it's ready.

Comics, puzzles, classified ads, weather maps, and neanderthalic editorial commentary have long been newspapers' primary leverage with subscribers, but these are now available online for free from a million sources. They no longer justify a newspaper's existence, and even die-hard crossword fans can get their fix online. The mobile web, via iPhone and its competitors, mean that even train and subway riders won't have to depend on print any more.

Newspapers are not being the best they can be, and the only things they've unilaterally cut back on are also the only things they're better able to provide than anybody else. It sucks that they're dying, but it's by their own knives.
posted by ardgedee at 6:19 AM on August 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is fun to read, and all, but the Sun-Times has been paying Mariotti an obscene amount of money to not break stories while becoming a quasi-celebrity on ESPN2.

Ebert's right that newspapers aren't dying. But the fact that Mariotti's been a star reporter at that paper for years sure indicates that Ebert, and the above-mentioned Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke and sports writer Chris De Luca, have to look in the mirror. Mariotti argues that newspapers are dying; his rise to the top of the profession is a pretty powerful example in his favor.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:31 AM on August 30, 2008


Now that I realize who Michael Cooke is, I have to wonder: It's one thing for Marriotti to be publicly dissed by his former peers, but why did his own editor offer him a contract renewal if he clearly knew that Marriotti was a bad journalist?

This reflects worse on the Sun-Times than on Marriotti, since the Sun-Times management could easily have cut short a hack's career.
posted by ardgedee at 7:01 AM on August 30, 2008


Now that I realize who Michael Cooke is, I have to wonder: It's one thing for Marriotti to be publicly dissed by his former peers, but why did his own editor offer him a contract renewal if he clearly knew that Marriotti was a bad journalist?

This reflects worse on the Sun-Times than on Marriotti, since the Sun-Times management could easily have cut short a hack's career.


This doesn't make it right, but Mariotti has a history of suing and going to his union when he doesn't get his way. Perhaps it's just cheaper to pay Mariotti directly, knowing he will eventually self-destruct.
posted by gjc at 7:46 AM on August 30, 2008


From the open letter
If you go to work for television, viewers may get a little weary of you shouting at them. You were a great shouter in print, that's for sure, stomping your feet when owners, coaches and players didn't agree with you. It was an entertaining show. Good luck getting one of your 1,000-word rants on the air.

This is about how I feel about him on the four-letter network. I didn't realize that sucking on Around the Horn actually paid the bills...
posted by recoveringsophist at 8:14 AM on August 30, 2008


Mariotti argues that newspapers are dying; his rise to the top of the profession is a pretty powerful example in his favor.

You're right, but of course, TV isn't much better.
posted by louie at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2008


Mariotti is like the lady who lets her poodle crap on your lawn every day and doesn't bother to clean it up.

You hear that she's moving to another neighborhood.

Today is a very good day.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 12:09 PM on August 31, 2008


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