What about Mariotti?

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The defection of Rick Morrissey to the Sun-Times leaves the Tribune needing a sports columnist. The obvious question — what about Jay Mariotti?

The fiery scrivener quit the Sun-Times in a huff in August of last year, and the rumor spread that he was headed for the competition. The Tribune felt obliged to post a story on its homepage announcing that it wasn't true — at least not in the short run. The noncompete clause in Mariotti's Sun-Times contract made it impossible for the Tribune to pick him up for another year. I detected a palpable level of gratitude for that noncompete clause among the Tribune rank-and-file, and a wish that it were longer. Mariotti then wrote me to say that the Tribune contacted him the night he resigned and "we had several productive discussions." As for the people I'd quoted happy not to share a newsroom with him, "they need to get a grip."

That noncompete clause expired this August. What now for Mariotti and the Tribune?

While inquiring about Morrissey for this earlier post, I got word that Marriotti remains on the Tribune's horizon, so to speak. Mariotti is now an online sports columnist for AOL, and on September 29 he posted a column about President Obama's impending trip to Copenhagen to try to help win the Olympics for Chicago. Mariotti quoted International Olympic Committee member Ottavio Cinquanta of Italy saying that the impact of Obama's presence with the Chicago delegation "is not multiplied by double. This impact can be multiplied by 25." He also quoted IOC voter Richard Pound of Canada and Peter Tallberg of Finland.

But I am told that these quotes were originally unattributed. That is, the Cinquanta quote was not attributed to the reporter who actually spoke to him, Philip HirshHersh of the Tribune. Nor was the Tallberg quote attributed to the Tribune. Nor the Pound quote to USA Today.

The Tribune story, which Hersh wrote with Katherine Skiba, had appeared earlier September 29. Hersh noticed Mariotti's story and reported it to the Tribune's sports editor, Mike Kellams. Kellams wrote a letter of protest to Mariotti's boss at AOL, Scott Ridge. Hersh says USA Today also wrote a letter. "Scott was great, he was really responsive," Kellams tells me. Mariotti's story was promptly changed online to include the attribution.

Mariotti has nothing to say about the matter on the record.

So, I said to Kellams, it sounds as if the Tribune might not be in the market for Mariotti.

"You'd be correct," Kellams told me.

No interest at all?

"No sir."

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