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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Tribune Mediocrity

by George Bova

"I apologized because I should know better now than to answer direct questions with direct answers. I have to change the way that I'm doing this job."
-- Sox GM Kenny Williams speaking about handling local reporters' questions on January 26, 2007

This story isn't about bias. If it were only about bias you could scoff and dismiss the evidence, no matter how convincing it might be.

No, this story is about something far more fundamental. It's a story about journalistic mediocrity, and perhaps even incompetence, too. What the Chicago Tribune sports department is serving up is just plain bad.

It's misleading. It's confusing. It's poorly written and poorly presented. It's the antithesis of what good journalism is supposed aspire to.

In a word, it's crap.

And the best you can say in defense of Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath is that the mediocre sports reporters and editors he employs are still a cut above the ones working across the street. You might know the Tribune's local competition is employing a windsock feature columnist currently taking a vacation till May. Even incompetent mediocrity is superior to producing nothing at all. Why don't the Sun-Times editors just lock the door and turn off the lights? And who seriously doubts this will be the ultimate fate awaiting the Sun-Times anyway?

Sox Fans, this is the Hopkins' Choice we're offered for coverage of our team. Don't worry. It's no disgrace or poor reflection on us to complain about it. The disgrace is strictly to be borne by Dan McGrath. This is his mess to clean up, not ours.

No newspaper that holds itself up as the penultimate voice of the American Midwest can possibly defend the journalistic mess their sports department has made of a local story: coverage of the 2007 White Sox.

Give Kenny Williams a teaspoon's worth of credit. The man delivered on what he told us he set to do back on January 26 (see quote above). He knew the outrageous misrepresentation of what he said about Mark Buehrle's contract status was caused by his own naivete dealing with local reporters. Early this winter the Tribune's Dave van Dyck created a paraphrase out of thin air and attributed the words as though they dropped out of Williams' mouth, not van Dyck's. "In other words, Buehrle's $9.5 million this year will be his last salary from the Sox." That's van Dyck talking, not Williams!

The rest of McGrath's boobs went along for the ride. They hanged themselves with their own words... Phil "Despicable" Rogers... Mark "Whose sorry now?" Gonzales... witty comments by Downey, Morrissey, and even McGrath himself... the humor in their comments only laughable if we Sox Fans know the joke is strictly on them...

Whose job is it to clarify what Kenny Williams actually said, not what Dave van Dyck said? The silence is deafening from Dan McGrath and the entire Tribune sports department.

We Sox Fans are laughing at you, Dan McGrath, not with you.

And then there is the story from February 19 where the reporters and editors at the Tribune sports department manage to confuse and mislead their readers reporting the comments made by Kenny Williams at spring training camp in Tucson. Kenny Williams delivers on his promise back on January 26. He speaks about pushing forward into the season with winning, not contracts, as the primary focus. Read it for yourself:

"There comes a time where you just have to take a step back before taking two steps forward. And we're at that point right now with all of these contracts."
"The best thing we can do is stop all the talk about it and focus on '07. Everyone wins if we have a good '07."

It's not as though Kenny Williams doesn't have any street cred on the subject. He is the only general manager from Chicago to build a world championship team in over 89 years. He delivered the trophy while free agent player Paul Konerko remained without a new contract from Opening Day right through to the victory parade down LaSalle Street. Sox Fans might also remember Williams seriously shopped Konerko to the Anaheim Angels (and other clubs) the winter before the world championship 2005 season, too. But if Williams' own opinion about the subject wasn't enough convincing evidence, Mark Buehrle's agent, Jeff Berry, offered an opinion AGREEING with Williams the very same day:

"I think Kenny's right."
"The most prudent action is to wait until the end of the season and for Mark to help the White Sox win a World Series. Mark is not going to talk contract. He's in great shape and looking forward to this season."

Eureka! How does this revelation about the true nature of what the White Sox and Mark Buehrle agree about the upcoming season -- and agree how to approach contract negotiations -- get covered by beat reporter Mark Gonzales in the Tribune?

Gonzales buries the quotes from Williams in the very last two paragraphs of his 16-paragraph report.

And how does Dan McGrath's editor present the news to the Tribune's readers? They bury Berry's and Williams's quotes -- the most significant part of the entire story -- on the bottom of page 9. And what about their bottom of the flap headline on page 1? "Extensions Unlikely for 3 Sox Standouts", sub-headline "Free agency best for Buehrle, Dye, Iguchi and club, GM says"

Unlikely Extensions? What exactly did Williams say about extensions? He kept the door open! Read it for yourself:

"It doesn't preclude us from bringing any or all of them back. But the smartest thing to do for both player and club is to wait until the end of the season."

And exactly what can be cited by Gonzales to justify the term used in McGrath's headline to characterize Sox extensions as unlikely? Nothing, except what Gonzales himself writes here:

"But Williams is inclined to stick with shorter contracts, particularly with pitchers."

Are either Jermaine Dye or Tadahito Iguchi pitchers? And as for the one future free agent cited who is a pitcher, Mark Buehrle, what news about unlikely extensions can be reported by the Tribune? That both Buehrle's agent and Sox GM Kenny Williams AGREE about how to proceed!

This is just plain sloppy reporting. And plain sloppy editorial work, too. It's crap.

And calling it crap doesn't make me or any other Sox Fan delusional. To the contrary, excusing it makes Dan McGrath delusional.

Mediocre at best or plain incompetent at worst. Tribune Sports, take your pick.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

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