It’s been a few weeks since we’ve interviewed a sports media member, but we’ve got a special treat for you on this sleepy Friday: intrepid New York Post reporter Andrew Marchand. He’s the king of the Harold Reynolds beat (he broke the story), and media members fear him (well, at least Al Michaels does). Read. Learn. And then when you get a phone call from him, quickly hang up and go into hiding.
Q: Your ‘Memo of the Week’ can be biting and brutal. Have you heard from any of the journalists that have been on the receiving end of your barbs? While we’re on the topic, ever been threatened by a journalist and/or athlete, either by phone, email, or in person?
All of the above. Well, not really threatened, but people don’t like it when you criticize them so I have heard from a lot of the big names.
I’d like to clarify something. I usually don’t criticize journalists, I criticize broadcasters, who, in many cases, are not journalists.
Also, I make a point to stand in front of or talk on the phone with everyone I criticize. I think it is easy for people who write about people on radio and TV to forget that they are people and that is unfair.
It also preserves relationships. I believe I have spoken with almost everyone I have ever criticized.
Last year, Al Michaels got very mad at me because I wrote several news stories about him and a couple of Memos. He wanted a private plane in his original negotiations with NBC. He also skipped out on the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, even though ABC was paying him $2 million to work a limited schedule. And then when he was backing out of his ESPN Monday Night Football contract, I wrote it months before it happened.
Every time I wrote a story, I left a message on his home phone. He never called. He only wanted to answer questions through either e-mail or through a spokesman. When you are dealing with news, I don’t think you can let the subject dictate how questions are asked so I refused. Why did he deserve special treatment?
So after he ditched ESPN for NBC, I made it a point to go into the city to meet up with him for an NBC function. He didn’t really want to speak to me, but we did. He told me at one point during my stories he sent me an e-mail It apparently was pretty nasty. I never received it. I asked him to send it again, but he declined.
Anyway, we talked, he got pretty mad and red-faced, but I was told later that he was happy that I came in. I’m still pretty sure I’m not going to get a holiday card from him, but that is not the goal anyway.
As the editor of our TV Sports section, Kevin Kenney, says, “Aim the guns up.”
Q: Since you’re dealing with the media, clearly you’re dealing with a lot of flacks. How difficult it is to sift through all the lying publicists trying to protect their clients?
I actually have very good relationships with most of the PR people. The ones who are honest about their network- both good and bad – earn your trust so when they tell you that you have something wrong, you believe them. In turn, I’m very honest about what I’m going to say about them, even when I am calling them out. I’d rather argue before it is in the paper than after.
The biggest incident I had with a PR person was with ABC Sports/ESPN’s Mark Mandel. When Lisa Guerrero struggled on Monday Night Football, I wanted to talk to her to see how she thought it was going.
I had her cell phone number so I called her up. When I got her, she said all her interviews had to go through Mandel. So I rung him and he said she was “unavailable.” I told him I had just spoken to her so she wasn’t “unavailable.”
This made him mad. So he said, she is unavailable you can look it up in the dictionary. I asked if I could quote him saying that, he said I could. In my story, I wrote what unavailable means in the dictionary. It means “not available, accessible, or at hand.” She was available, Mark just didn’t want her to be interviewed by me so my lead was something about how Guerrero is paid to talk, but ABC won’t let her speak.
By the way, Mark and I are on good terms again. Well, until this interview, anyway.
Q: Describe the nature of the competition between the Post and News. It’s pretty cutthroat. Do the writers get along? Are you guys snubbing each other at sporting events?
I’ve only been shot at once by a Daily News person.
Seriously, it is pretty cutthroat. My goal is always to beat the Daily News to stories. I want every story to be exclusive, but if someone else is going to have it I don’t want it to be the News. From my viewpoint, we care about what they do and, to a much lesser degree, everyone else.
Do we get along? Some of us do. Some of us don’t. It depends on the people. For the most part, people are civil, but if you are out socially you don’t give away trade secrets.
I have friends at the News. I was on the Met beat with T.J. Quinn so we developed a friendship. Still, we wanted to beat each other.
Q: You been out ahead of the curve with all-things Harold Reynolds … but what’s up with him hiring a private detective? Do you think our latest Sean Salisbury revelations will have any impact on the situation?
Well, I think he wants dirt on other ESPN employees so he can say that he hasn’t done anything different than anyone else. I’m sure your Salisbury story will help Harold’s case, but I really don’t see Harold’s end game.
If his case goes to trial, ESPN is surely going to bring up all the history it probably has. The more things fall into the public domain, the harder it will be for Reynolds to be employed again.
Ultimately, I think Harold is trying to get his millions back. As we all know, it is almost always about the money.
Q: Surely you’ve seen plenty of athlete tirades, covering the pampered yet pugnacious New York babies. Any eruptions in particular that you’ve enjoyed?
I don’t know if I enjoyed it, but Rickey Henderson once threatened to beat me up. The AP ended up writing about it and, ultimately, the Mets released him that same day. The funny thing is Rickey didn’t mean any harm.
What happened was Rickey wasn’t a big fan of hustling. So on a Friday night game against the Padres, Rickey led off with one of his vintage off-the-left-field wall singles. After the game, I asked him about it and he said he would do it again.
I wrote a sidebar saying how Rickey decided to trot instead of hustle and he said he would do it again. The headline was something like: “Rickey: I’ll loaf again.”
On Saturday, Rickey wanted to talk to me. He said that he was playing when I was in diapers, which was pretty much true. He added that if he wasn’t a good guy he would put me on my butt.
The AP described it as a shouting match, which made me sound very tough, but I just stood there and listened. I find the best thing to do is to listen when someone is mad, let them get their side out and if they make good points acknowledge them.
Q: Sports journalism is changing, seemingly by the day. As a print journalist, anything scare you? Can you see yourself ever writing exclusively for a website? Along the same lines … if you get breaking news that may or may not be exclusive at 2 p.m., would you go to the Post website with it, or hold it for the next day?
The web is the present and the future, in my opinion. Newspapers are starting to grasp that, which is good. To me, newspapers aren’t going anywhere because content will always be king. They need to evolve quicker and think much younger.
As far as breaking news, we have started to do that on the web, but right now the paper is still the priority for exclusive news. I think it is wise to go to the web if you feel others have the story. Better to scoop the paper edition by yourself than have someone else do it to you.
As far as writing exclusively for the web, I think someone would be crazy not to think that is an option. There are number of great writers who have already made the jump. Jon Heyman is now at SI.com, while Adrian Wojnarowski is at Yahoo.
I think the growth of the Internet is great for people who provide content because it should create more jobs.
Q: What’s your background? Schooling, previous jobs, etc.
I went to Ithaca College, graduated in ’96. I did about six internships. The two most notable ones were at WFAN and WCBS in New York. After college I worked at a 5,000 circulation twice-weekly paper in a small Texas town called Liberty (near Houston, but not really that near). Then I moved to a 10,000 circulation daily before landing an entry level position at the Post a year-and-a-half out of college.
Q: Can blogs have an impact on the sports media? Do they already?
Definitely, they do. I think blogs will help separate the phonies from the people who are being honest. I wish there were more people critiquing newspapers like we dissect TV & radio. It would make us better and challenge our decision-makers.
Yes, sites like yours have an impact already. People check them out. Deadspin has an impact. I like Can’t Stop the Bleeding. He calls me mini-Mushnick, which considering he seems to strongly dislike Phil’s point of view doesn’t seem like a compliment. He does a good job of finding stories, though, and is funny.