Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti resigns
By Jim Kirk
Tribune staff reporter
9:39 PM CDT, August 26, 2008
Jay Mariotti, the opinionated and polarizing sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, told the Chicago Tribune he resigned on Tuesday after 17 years with the paper.
Just back from Beijing where he wrote about the Summer Olympics, Mariotti said in a phone interview Tuesday night that he decided to quit after it became clear while in China that sports journalism had become "entirely a Web site business. There were not many newspapers there.'' He added that most of the journalists covering the Games were "there writing for Web sites.''
Mariotti, whose public battles with fellow staffers, team owners, and rival columnists are legendary, didn't disclose any specific plans except to say he will continue doing his regular stint on ESPN's "Around the Horn.''
He said that he "is talking with a lot of Web sites'' and added that the future of his business "sadly is not in newspapers.''
Mariotti said that he sent a resignation letter to Cyrus Freidheim, Sun-Times Media Group Chief Executive and Sun-Times Publisher. When asked via email by the Tribune whether Mariotti had resigned, Sun-Times Editor Michael Cooke responded, "You're kidding?''
Cooke didn't reply to further requests for comment.
"They accepted it,'' Mariotti said of his resignation. "It was my call entirely.''
In a city with a strong sports journalism tradition, Mariotti is thought of as one of its premier columnists. With a style that relied on being contrarian no matter the topic, readers turned to him as much to disagree with what he had to say than agree. He added to his reputation with the scrapes he got in with the subjects he covered.
The highly-paid Mariotti quits after just signing a three-year contract extension in June. At that time, Cooke said that Mariotti was a "focal point'' of the Sun-Times sports section, praising his "pull no punches'' approach.
Commenting on his 17 years at the paper, Mariotti said he loved every minute of it. But he said that with the troubled times newspapers face, it was time to consider a new future.
"I'm a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn't compete,'' he said. "Everyone is hanging on for dear life at both papers. I think probably the days of high stakes competition in Chicago are over.
"To see what's happened in this business...I don't want to go down with it.''