10 Questions with Jay Mariotti
5. Chicago Sun-Times
Posted On 05.17, 2013
RCS: Staying in Chicago, we have to talk about the Chicago Sun-Times. Many there, including Roger Ebert, said you left in an "ugly way." In an interview with Michigan Avenue, you described what, from your perspective, hadn't been revealed about your departure. "Not enough people understand that I resigned two months after signing a contract extension; I resigned because I don't believe the paper has a website that will carry it into the future; and whatever tension existed there, it never prevented editors from giving me contract extensions."
To remain relevant, do you think sports writers must leave situations like you left at Chicago Sun-Times, even if it means taking heat for it?
Mariotti: Excellent question. I signed an extension in July under the belief that the paper would try to upgrade its Web site, which is the only way any newspaper can survive in the future. It was a fair request -- I was devoting two more years to them -- but they completely dropped the ball in Beijing. The subsequent "heat" was silly and embarrassing to them -- I laughed at it. Can you imagine the New York Times or any other serious newspaper devoting the thrust of an entire edition to anyone who left the paper? Have some pride. Don't seem so hideously desperate that you're hung up on a sports columnist leaving and handing back about a million bucks. Don't trot out writers to disparage me when, frankly, they should have been directing that fire toward a newspaper war that was lost years ago.
It's my life, not theirs. I wrote 5,000 columns for them in 17 years. I wrote on holidays, spent massive amounts of time away from home. Roger Ebert, whom I've met once, can kiss my ass. No one gave more blood to that place than I did, and if I decide it's going to die an imminent death, it's my call. And based on events of the last four months, I couldn't have been more accurate. The place is dead.
Sadly, we're going to see numerous newspapers fold in 2009 and beyond. If a writer thinks his paper is in trouble, it probably is. And by all means, get your butt out of Dodge, because that paper certainly isn't going to care about you when it decides to pull the cord. Problem is, if several dozen writers and editors are out on the street in a few months, who's going to hire them all? At the moment, there's only a handful of quality sports Web sites -- AOL, ESPN, Yahoo, SI and Fox are a few. It's like a game of musical chairs: When the music stops, who's sitting and who's not?