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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Yet another Media Feud!
by Hal Vickery

The media war between Jay Mariotti and “Hawk” Harrelson took an odd twist this week, and the fallout was a couple of extra days of vacation time for Mariotti from his radio gig at WMVP, but also for WMVP’s Dan McNeil. 

It all began a couple of weeks ago when, six days after the incident, the Sun-Times, Mariotti’s newspaper, published an account of an altercation between an off-duty Burbank police officer and a two brothers at The Cell.  Mariotti, who apparently had not heard of the incident until that day, even though it had been reported as a minor story the day after the incident occurred, took the occasion to use his morning radio program to call U.S. Cellular Field a “hell hole” and warned parents not to take their children to such an unsafe environment. 

McNeil, a lifelong Sox fan took exception to Mariotti’s comments and lambasted his irresponsible comments.  The on-air sniping escalated after Mariotti got into a shouting match with Harrelson with McNeil criticizing Mariotti’s behavior and Mariotti complaining about McNeil daring to criticize him on the air.   

By last Tuesday, McNeil’s comments had upset Mariotti so much that he complained to WMVP’s program director Len Weiner.  A directive came from Weiner for McNeil and his on-air partner John Jurkovich to refrain from making any commentary or taking fans comments on Mariotti during the show’s “Critics at Extra Large” segment. 

After a couple of callers side-stepped the impromptu rule, McNeil killed the segment after less than ten minutes, prompting further criticism of Mariotti by Jurkovich. 

The next day McNeil commented several times that station management was in the process of holding closed door meetings to decide his and Mariotti’s fate.  The result of those meetings came out after the show when Weiner, who hired Mariotti, announced that both McNeil and Mariotti would be taking two extra days of vacation. 

According to the Chicago Tribune Weiner announced, “I’m treating them to a couple of vacation days.  Every once in a while we need to step back and take a breather.  I can’t wait for them to get back on the air.” 

McNeil acknowledged the vacation time, time that in effect is a two-day paid suspension.  Mariotti denied that he was asked to take the vacation time, stating that he had been planning on taking those two days off all along because of the time he had spent following the Cubs all the way to Milwaukee for their series against the Brewers. 

However, Mariotti reportedly did not state on the air during Wednesday’s program that he would be taking a couple of days off or that anyone would be sitting in for him on Thursday or Friday.   

On the other hand McNeil had been announcing for several days that he would  taking vacation time this week, and the week before last had discussed with his other co-host Harry Teinowitz, that Teinowitz would be taking last week off.  This is how most radio personalities handle vacation time, by letting listeners know in advance that they would not be on the air. 

Harrelson inserted himself back into the fray Thursday night by an on-air compliment to the “Mac, Jurko, and Harry” show and a slap in the fact to Mariotti when he stated, “They’ve forgotten more baseball than their station’s mid-morning guy will ever know.” 

Some of the more vocal critics of Mariotti on the WSI message boards have been calling for Mariotti’s resignation.  Weiner was asked if there would be any change in the station as a result of this on-air feuding, Weiner said, “No.” 

If it would ever come to such a showdown however, McNeil would appear to be sitting in the catbird seat.  As McNeil noted on the air, his show is the top rated show on the station, and “We’ve nearly doubled the revenue coming in since we’ve been here.”  On the other hand, McNeil noted that Mariotti hosts the station’s second lowest rated program. 

This had to sting Weiner who was responsible for hiring Mariotti, but he was able to to cite a station policy that prohibits on-air sniping among the station’s hosts as his reason for the “vacations.”.   

One would think that this would be the end of it, but McNeil has a history of being suspended at both WMVP and his previous employer WSCR while Mariotti has been beating the dead horse that is his feud with Jerry Reinsdorf for a decade. 

For those people who listen to Mariotti’s program, it will be interesting to find out not just if he drops the sniping with McNeil but if he tones down his trashing of all things White Sox when he returns Monday. 

If he doesn’t, it’s a sure thing that Sox fans will be up in arms, especially if McNeil appears to have been silenced about the issue when he returns to the air on July 19. 


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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