Jay Mariotti has decided to say nothing to me on the record defending himself in the Matter of the Unattributed Quotes, described on this blog a few hours ago. But he did open up to Ed Sherman of Crain's Chicago Business.
Sherman originally contacted the mercurial Mariotti to ask him his thoughts on the idea of replacing Rick Morrissey as a sports columnist at the Tribune. Morrissey has jumped to the Sun-Times.
Mariotti told Sherman by email Monday that he liked the jobs he had, performing on TV for ESPN and writing a column for AOL. But "that said, I think this city needs a potent sports columnist. I don't see one. I've enjoyed my meetings with Trib executives."
Later Monday, the Matter of the Unattributed Quotes came to light. Trib sports editor Mike Kellams made it clear to both Sherman and myself that he had no interest in adding Mariotti to his roster. Mariotti emailed Sherman again.
"Don't think I want to work for these creeps," he said.
Mariotti said his failure to attribute was unintentional. "In the very piece you referred to," he wrote Sherman, "I credited the Tribune for its reporting. Kellams knows this and obviously neglected to tell you. The quote you refer to also should have been credited to the Trib; I was under the false assumption it was a pool quote. But the very fact I credited the Tribune within that piece — and other publications for their original reporting — should tell you there was no intent on my part to take without credit."
There were actually three unattributed quotes in Mariotti's piece, from three separate members of the International Olympic Committee. Mariotti must have been under the impression that IOC members were routinely holding news conferences to reflect on the IOC to pools of reporters.
Mariotti told Sherman the incident reminded him that back in 2001, the Tribune committed an "ethical lapse" when it failed to give him or the Sun-Times (for which he then wrote) credit for breaking the story that Michael Jordan was returning to basketball. "I'm still waiting." Mariotti didn't say whether he raised the touchy subject during his recent enjoyable meetings with Tribune executives.
Though Mariotti didn't defend himself to me on the record, he didn't bother going off the record when he gave me his marching orders. "You owe it to me to run my immediate explanation on this quote thing -- with a separate blog head," he instructed. "You may use Sherman's quote, along with the Jordan thing. Of course, I am getting killed already — you didn't call AOL, which thinks the whole thing is bogus.
"I got screwed. As usual. Tired of it and happy to be away from it."
I've called Mariotti's AOL boss, Scott Ridge. When he gets back to me I'll let you know here.