As the Knicks wound down their season, Tracy McGrady opined that he didn't think LeBron James would come to New York because he'd have to deal with media looking to carve him up. Perhaps that's why Cablevision has decided to whitewash their sports pages in advance of this summer's free agent bonanza.
That's the accusation they're facing in a New York Observer piece this week that features quotes from several current writers for Newsday. There's also some tasty dish from Wallace Matthews, a columnist who recently left Newsday to join the launch of ESPNNewYork.com. Matthews and others say that their work is being scrubbed of criticism, sarcasm, negative characterizations and anything that goes beyond the bare facts while the paper says it only wants facts about games and people whether it is good or bad.
"These are the people who fired Marv Albert for being too critical of the Knicks," said Matthews. "They have tarnished the paper. They’re running it into the ground the way they did with the Garden and the Wiz. They’ve turned it into s--t."
Write it off as the rantings of a disgruntled former employee if you like, but aren't we all familiar with Cablevision's distaste for demanding the best work of their employees? This sounds like the work of the men who have propped up the likes of Glen Sather and Isiah Thomas because it is a policy of extreme anti-accountability.
The edicts don't just pertain to the Knicks and Rangers, but it was exactly what many people feared would happen when the notoriously press-averse James Dolan got involved in the newspaper business. Newsday's own Knicks beat writer Alan Hahn called trying to work in the Garden environment created by Dolan "maddening."
"Just the facts ma'am reporting" is at the core of any newspaper or media outlet. Any paper worth its salt balances that out with analysis, interpretation and, yes, criticism because those are other avenues for journalists to express what they've learned through reporting and investigating stories. That benefits readers and Newsday writers like Hahn, Bob Glauber and David Lennon have done a fantastic job of bringing New York sports home over the years.
That they've become harder to follow thanks to Newsday's paywall is a complaint for another time, but it would be a shame to lose their voices altogether because they work for a man who'd rather publish filler than anything enlightening.