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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Tuesday, June 25, 2002
9:09 AM

Washington City Paper's Erik Wemple comments on a June 14 Michael Leahy piece in the Washington Post about Michael Jordan, his last in a series written after the paper assigned him to cover the megastar full-time. Wemple uses it as an opportunity to bash sports reporting in general and the Post's in particular.

Although Leahy relies on a lot of blind sources to make his points, he at least raises questions on the wisdom of rebuilding a bad franchise around a 39-year-old megalomaniac with bad knees. And he punctures the tired claims that Jordan's mythic work habits will somehow filter down to his underachieving teammates. It's the sort of skepticism that drives journalism—and the sort that doesn't often make the Post sports page.

In contrast, he says, Post star columnist Michael Wilbon pulls his punches. After recounting a number of upbeat reports (Wilbon worships Jordan's achievements, which is not hard to do), Wemple writes:

When asked about the tone of his Jordan coverage, Wilbon responded that he has, in fact, printed negative material on the superstar, such as the 1999 column in which he reported that Jordan, then a Chicago Bull, had created a fake spat with Washington Bullet LaBradford Smith. Wilbon wrote that Jordan used the grudge as a means of motivating himself against Washington. What did the columnist conclude from this nasty episode? "[Jordan's] brilliance will never be fully appreciated."

Says Wilbon: "Where some people feel I should be highly critical, I don't feel the need to be highly critical....What's the point—just to satisfy some other writers?"

But the pact between writers and athletes amount to access in exchange for positive coverage--and joint projects.

If he keeps it up, Wilbon may well become the go-to guy for fluffy biographies of our sports icons. The columnist is now assisting retired NBA star Charles Barkley with his autobiography. It's a nice reward for Wilbon, who wrote that Barkley "has never, even for one second, brought dishonor to the game." For the record, Barkley once spat on a fan and tossed another through a plate-glass window.

I like Wilbon--in other words, I make it a point to read his column because he's a good writer. On another level I wonder how seriously these guys take themselves as reporters.

Item via, which I should really get around to linking, not that they're dying for it.

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