11.28.07

The Bummer That Is The NY Knicks Beat

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism at 6:12 pm by

Though the New York Times’ Howard Beck nicely summed up the career travails of Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury since the pair parted ways 8 years ago, the New York Observer’s John Koblin paints a rather grim picture of what it’s like to cover the 2007-08 New York Knicks (link courtesy Jason Cohen).


œIt™s Madison Square Garden, it™s New York City, it should be one of the top beats in New York, said Newsday beat reporter Alan Hahn.

Instead: œIt™s maddening. What it should be and what it is”it™s a shame.

Frank Isola, the 12-year Knicks-beat veteran for the Daily News, said, œIt used to be fun here. Now, there are some nights when you™re trying to talk your boss out of sending you here and maybe lie and tell him you™re sick or something.

œI™ll admit, said Howard Beck, the New York Times Knicks reporter, œthat the beat makes me miserable.

What really separates the complaints of Knicks writers from those of every other browbeaten city reporter”and reporters are definitely a whiny lot”are their unironic, and apparently accurate, tales of systematic repression.

œIt™s the gulag, said Mike Vaccaro, a columnist for the New York Post.

œWe all know what it™s like to cover a normal team, said Mr. Beck, who previously reported on the Lakers for the L.A. Daily News. œCovering the Knicks is so much worse.

œSome of the things they practice here are completely against what you™d expect a normal team to do, said Mr. Hahn, a second-year reporter on the beat who said that he now misses his old job as a hockey reporter covering the provincial New York Islanders. œThey come up with things all the time. There™s zero access to players. They would rather you don™t even write.

The stories from the reporters are endless: layers of institutional paranoia; public relations officials who openly eavesdrop on private conversations with executives and players; the threat”and implementation”of cutting off reporters who are perceived to be critical of the team.

œEveryone is so worried about upsetting Jim Dolan, or getting fired, and as a result people aren™t themselves, said Mr. Beck. œIf you transplanted the same individuals and put them in another city, then they™d be far more interesting. They™d be themselves.

When I spoke with Mr. Isola, the News reporter, on Saturday afternoon on the Garden floor, he pointed to a media relations official watching us. œHe™s taking note that I™m talking to you, he said.

There are very, very successful teams out there that treat the media with dignity and respect and recognize that 90 percent of the time it™s a mutually beneficial relationship, said David Waldstein, the former Knicks beat reporter for The Star-Ledger. œEvery writer who covers the Knicks gets the impression that we are treated as the enemy.

(Starting this season, The Star-Ledger eliminated the Knicks beat, opting instead to run wire copy.)

œWe have three people here tonight, said Mr. Vaccaro of the New York Post on Monday night. œThat™s 16 inches of copy and 16 inches of free space for the Knicks to sell their product, for better or for worse. To make those three stories as difficult as possible to write seems counterproductive to me.

Later in the piece, Isola claims that since he asked the Knicks to stop having him tailed around MSG by security, he’s essentially been cut off from all communication. When Isiah Thomas’ contract extension was announced last spring, Isola had to find out elsewhere.

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