SBD/April 26, 2012/People and Pop Culture
Catching Up With Longtime Sports Journalist Jackie MacMullan
Published April 26, 2012
Q: What has been the biggest change in sports journalism since you entered it?
MacMullan: Obviously the advent of the Internet has changed everything. It used to be that you would sit on a story and hope no one else had it and run to the store at 6 o'clock in the morning to see if the other newspaper had the same story you did. Now, of course, we post things online five minutes after we discover them. So it's very much an instant gratification business now, a lot different from when I first started. When I first started, I was 21 years old in 1982, I was usually the only female in the press box pretty consistently. I can't remember the last time I've been the only female in a press box. That hasn't happened in over 25 years I bet, or 20 years. It's a very different place now, it's a much more diverse group of people and that's one of the good things.
Q: How has social media affected the industry?
MacMullan: That part of it I don't always like. The blogging, for instance, people can never have to go into the clubhouse or the locker room or onto the field to interview players or coaches or to have any accountability for their opinions. And then they get put out in the internet and too many people mistake that as fact and I think that's a big problem in our business. It's okay to get it quickly, but you got to get it right still.
Q: Overall, has Twitter helped sports media or hurt it?
MacMullan: For the athletes, it's given them a chance to express themselves, which I think is very entertaining at times. But I think it's too easy to pretend you're somebody else when you're not and to put out false information that gets attributed to them. I think that kind of stuff is hard to erase or hard to reverse. That's the part of it I don't like.
Q: You must be asked this often by young people looking to get involved in the sports business...Where specifically are the opportunities for women in sports business?
MacMullan: I think they are everywhere. I think they are absolutely everywhere. ... I always tell young women who are starting in the business: Just do your work. Don't worry about all the extracurricular stuff. If you're knowledgeable about something, stick to the facts, be professional and you'll have a great opportunity.
Q: "Around The Horn" has been successful for so long. What's the secret in your mind?
MacMullan: I have no idea. I'm astonished that we are still on the air and that people like it so much. ... Hopefully people will understand we don't take ourselves too seriously. It's a great group of guys. When I first started doing it I didn't really like it that much. I thought it was kind of silly. I was worried 'is this something I really want to do with my life, my career, my credibility.' But I think over time it's just evolved into a show that's a lot of fun. ... I always figure that each year is our last year and am happy and surprised it keeps on going.
Q: You collaborated with Shaq on his autobiography. What do you think of him now as an analyst?
MacMullan: He is a little bit of a work in progress as an analyst. ... He's very witty, very quick guy. Very funny. And for some reason it just hasn't quite translated on the TNT broadcasts, although I think you can see it starting to come through. I'd like to see them have a segment "Shaq At Large" or something and have him interviewing some of the current athletes that are playing now and do some sit downs with them. I think that would be really funny. He's a very intelligent guy and works very hard at what it is that he's doing. So I know he's going to get better. I don't think he's just quite found his rhythm yet.
Q: What current athlete would make a smooth transition to media analyst?
MacMullan: [Former MLBer] MIKE LOWELL ... DEREK JETER would be great if he ever wants to retire and do some baseball. DREW BREES. ... In the NBA, think that's a little bit harder. You have to be a little edgy, a little irreverent. I think RAY ALLEN would be terrific if he's interested.
Q: DAVID STERN and NBA execs last week reportedly met with media members to try and increase coverage of the WNBA. ... What can be done about the lack of coverage of women sports?
MacMullan: The problem the WNBA has is they are playing in the summer. People just aren't thinking about basketball in the summer time, it's just the timeframe as much as anything. I think the NBA has done its best to try to keep it afloat and I hope they'll stick with it a little longer.
Q: After writing a book on LARRY BIRD and MAGIC JOHNSON, did you get to see the Broadway play "Magic/Bird?" Thoughts?
MacMullan: We did. We went down to the premiere. They were nice enough to hire me as a consultant for that project. So I was involved a little bit with it. ... It was fabulous, I thought they did a great job. TUG COKER, the actor who plays Larry Bird, was just fantastic.
Q: How do you feel about Augusta National's men-only policy and what do you think will be the end result with the IBM CEO?
MacMullan: I was hoping the IBM CEO would have done a little bit more about it, frankly. I would have liked to have seen her push the issue a little bit more.
Q: What's the biggest sports business story you are watching?
MacMullan: I'm watching the New Orleans Saints and the continuous bad publicity that seems to kind of pass over everything that franchise has accomplished. At one time I think everybody thought it was one of the best owners in sports -- TOM BENSON -- and one of the best quarterbacks in sports -- Drew Brees -- who I happen to like quite a bit. SEAN PAYTON was a well respected coach and it seems like that thing has fallen apart and the bounty was just the tip of the iceberg. I think there's more to come. So I'm interested to see how that all plays out for the New Orleans Saints which at one time, post-Katrina having won the Super Bowl, was one of the best stories in sports and now it's turned out to be one of the worst stories in sports.