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Volume 24 No. 159
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          The state of sportswriting is examined by Bob Drury of
     MEN'S JOURNAL, who writes that it "has become a dead-end
     job, the buggy-whip profession of the twenty-first century. 
     Fiber optics are killing it."  Boston Globe Sports Editor
     Don Skwar, on today's athletes: "They don't need us as much
     as they need ESPN or Nike.  Their time is not our time." 
     N.Y. Times sports columnist Harvey Araton: "Sportswriters
     today are like whiskey.  We get blamed for a lot of things
     we didn't do."  Araton, on the inaccessibility of players:
     "Now you're never allowed into practice with them.  They've
     all got charters, so you're not on the plane.  You're left
     with a choice: gangbang press conferences or grabbing
     whatever tidbits you can as athletes flee the locker room
     toward the team bus. ... Today, there's just such a
     difference between us and them that the only way to pierce
     the veil is to, essentially, be a TV partner.  Ahmad Rashad
     wants to do a puff piece on Michael Jordan?  Fine.  Ahmad
     won't hurt him.  Hell, he's the host of Jordan's off-season
     sales tour.  Otherwise, [NBA Commissioner David] Stern
     doesn't want reporters around" (MEN'S JOURNAL, 2/98 issue). 
          CIRCUS CIRCUS: The Globe's Skwar, on the depth and
     breadth of coverage: "It's true, we're not driving the
     beast, the beast is already driven.  It's driven by
     Entertainment Tonight and Hard Copy and talk radio and a
     coverage of gossip that sometimes, I admit, I find
     absolutely ridiculous.  I shudder when I look back and see
     some of the unsavory things we did during the Tonya Harding-
     Nancy Kerrigan affair.  Making a reporter stand all night in
     Kerrigan's driveway.  Jeez."  In a sidebar, MEN's JOURNAL
     takes an informal poll to determine the top sportswriters in
     the U.S.  Twenty-one are named (MEN'S JOURNAL, 2/98 issue).
          ON THE BEAT: WASHINGTONIAN magazine reports that
     Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon was offered
     more than $300,000 and a signing bonus to go to the Chicago
     Tribune.  He remained at the Post, and in doing so may "have
     topped $200,000" in his annual salary (WASHINGTONIAN, 2/98).