I’m a Grizzlies blogger. I write sporadically, at best, about my favorite NBA team. I have 0 credible NBA sources. There really isn’t anything that qualifies me to write about the Grizzlies, but that hasn’t stopped Geoff Calkins, so why should it stop me? (I kid, I kid.)
Ron Tillery is a professional journalist for The Commercial Appeal, assigned as the beat writer for the Memphis Grizzlies. In a one-paper town, he ends up being the de facto go-to source for much of the Grizzlies fan base. He should have a myriad of sources to rely on to provide a clear picture of what’s happening with the Grizzlies, from minor day-to-day issues, to game recaps, to larger scale ongoings of the organization. The knock on Tillery has been that he doesn’t break enough stories, and he’s also been in the Heisley/Hollins camps when it comes to where his stories lie. I’m not offering this up as truth, merely perception.
Columnists, like Calkins, are paid to offer educated opinions. Beat writers are paid to write unbiased stories, digging deeper within a team to find out what’s going on behind closed doors, to gain insight into things that a regular fan like myself can’t possibly have access to. That’s why I take such exception to this article about the Barry Hecker/Lionel Hollins/Dave Joerger situation.
For a beat writer to espouse rumors as fact without providing any sources, and to use gray areas and generalizations without specific examples to support an opinion is haphazard at best, derisive at work. Let’s break it down:
First, if Hecker was let go almost six months ago, why is the story just now surfacing through a national outlet instead of from Tillery? Why is this a reactionary piece instead of a breaking story back when it happened?
Now, in the article, Tillery says, “but many people involved in the situation will take issue with his (Hecker’s) accounts although none of them find it worthwhile to publicly respond.”
Here’s my questions:
Who are the “many people” Tillery is referring to?
Did Tillery talk to the key people in this: Hecker, Hollins, Joerger and Dave Mincberg?”
If he did talk to any or all of them, why didn’t he provide their insight? Did they ask for it to be off-the-record, or provide “no comment.” If so, which ones? Sometimes a person’s unwillingness to respond publicly is just as important as a response.
These are important details that one should know. Instead, Tillery just gives a nondescript statement that “many people involved in the situation” (which could be anybody, really) “will take issue with his accounts” (which means they disagree), “although none of them find it worthwhile to publicly respond” (because they can use Tillery as an unofficial mouthpiece).
Let’s move on.
Tillery then offers “what he knows” but doesn’t provide one source. Is this journalism?
And of course, what Tillery knows seems very much like what Lionel Hollins would say about the situation, does it not?
Tillery: “In the immediate aftermath, former Griz coach Lionel Hollins expected Hecker to return and was blindsided when Hecker went to human resources. Griz management (namely Mincberg) made the decision to terminate Hecker once he involved an attorney.”
Of course Lionel Hollins would say that he was blindsided by Hecker, rather than take responsibility for the situation. Of course Lionel Hollins would lay the blame of the firing on someone else (Mincberg) rather than say it was his own doing. I’m not saying these things are or are not true, but as a journalist, Tillery needs to provide sources, or else he runs the risk of looking like a puppet for someone else’s agenda.
Tillery: “Everyone in the organization reviewed video footage of Hecker’s encounter with that Thunder fan and was disturbed by Hecker’s actions. The fan was a big-time attorney whom Hollins eventually called to apologize for the incident. Thunder general manager Sam Presti couldn’t have been more grateful to Hollins for the gesture.”
Really, there’s footage of Hecker going off on a fan? Can someone link to this? In this day and age, if there’s footage, it’s available somewhere. Why hasn’t this been provided? Also, how are we sure that “everyone in the organization…was disturbed by Hecker’s actions.” Who consists of “everyone in the organization?” Also, how does one know that they were disturbed? Can I have one source please? Just one? Pretty please?
As a side note, I love the fact that the fan was “a bit-time attorney.” This has nothing to do with the situation whatsoever. I mean, if the fan was a medium-sized attorney, it would be the same story right?
Tillery: “Hollins and Hecker remain associates despite the incident even though Hollins repeatedly had to scold Hecker for various acts deemed unprofessional by most in the organization.”
I’m perplexed by the statement, “even though Hollins had to scold Hecker for various acts deemed unprofessional by most in the organization.” What acts? I need to know this. Was Hecker showing up to practice in pajamas with a 40 in his hand? Was he screaming at small-time lawyers to sit down as well? I need to know! Also, again, who are “most in the organization?” Tillery is acting like he has verified these details with multiple people, but hasn’t provided one source.
The last three paragraphs of Tillery’s article, at a minimum, seem fairly straightforward. Tillery validates Hecker’s claim that he didn’t’ get along with Joerger, because, surprise, it doesn’t hurt Hollins to agree with this part of Hecker’s story. Also, Hollins and Joerger don’t talk anymore. That’s pretty much common knowledge at this point.
Since I’m a blogger, and not a journalist, I can give opinions without sources (and I’m giving MY opinions, which is key). The perception that Hollins and Tillery are close is because of articles like the one above. I think that Hollins used Tillery as a sounding board for the Hecker situation but didn’t want to comment publicly since it wouldn’t help, in the slightest bit, to help him get another coaching gig. Hollins wanted his side of the story out there, or a version of a story that makes him look less culpable in the firing of Hecker.
It’s sad that our local paper and beat writer can’t get the story when it happens, or even worse, can’t get the story six months later. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tillery knew the details of the Hecker firing when it happened but kept quiet because he didn’t have sources to go on record or because Hollins didn’t want this information public, but now, basically, the cat’s out of the bag, so Tillery has to respond to save face as a credible source of Grizzlies information. The problem is, without sources, Tillery isn’t credible. It just leads regular old bloggers like myself to wonder what the difference between the beat writer and me is after all? He’s throwing out stories and rumors without sources. Anyone can do that…heck, I just did. Too bad I’m not paid for it.