Monday, February 1, 2010

It Is My Subjective Opinion That Paul Sullivan is an Asshole

Today started like any other day.  I came to work, I started running down my to do list and checking some items off, which is always nice.  I had some lunch and checked out my Twitter feed to see what was going on.

Let's see, something about the NCAA letting every basketball team that exists into the final tournament, the Bears managed to find someone too arrogant to realize that the offensive coordinator position in Chicago is a death trap, some coach with an apparent anger management problem drills one of his own volleyball players in the head with a volleyball during a match (from @JerodMSF at, and Joe Mauer is about to sign a deal to stay with the Twins for the rest of his life.

Then I saw a tweet from Mr. Paul Sullivan, the Chicago Tribune's beat writer for the Cubs:

"One idiot gone, one idiot en route. Former leader of Boston's '04 "Idiots" signs minor league deal with Cubs. http//"
Obviously, the idiot that is en route is Kevin Millar, but the identity of the idiot that is gone was left to our imagination.  Of course, the most likely candidates for the identity of the idiot would seem to be departed Cubs: Kevin Gregg, Aaron Miles, Jake Fox, Neal Cotts, Reed Johnson, Rich Harden, or Milton Bradley.

I checked out his Twitter feed and looked for references to any of those players.  Milton Bradley was referred to nineteen times in the last two months with such phrases as "deadbeat," "really bad idea," and "overpriced" peppered into his descriptions.  Aaron Miles was mentioned once, two months ago.  None of the other departed players was mentioned even in passing, so it seems we have a more than likely target for Sullivan's name-calling.

Still, there was one other possibility, so I thought I should make sure Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune wasn't engaging in petty name-calling of a player that he covered as an objective sportswriter. I thought some due diligence was required before accusing him of being more of a child than my girlfriend's three-year old niece.  So, to be sure he wasn't just being self-deprecating, I tweeted back to him:

"Did you go somewhere? RT @PWSullivan: One idiot gone, one idiot en route."

Within a couple of hours, I noticed that Sullivan's tweets had disappeared from my feed.  I checked and found I had been blocked.  I guess Paul didn't like being mistaken for an idiot despite the fact that he had absolutely no problem at all in publicly calling another person an idiot.

Maybe Paul doesn't understand that there is a difference between being a columnist and a beat writer. Maybe he doesn't get that a beat writer needs to stay fairly objective.  Maybe he thought he was free to go off on a rant on one of the players if he so chooses. 

No, that's not it.  I found an interview did with Paul back in 2005 (The interviewer calls himself The Heckler, so its possible there is some copyright infringement with the real Heckler, but that is for another day):
[The Heckler]: Does being the beat writer for the team instead of a columnist affect you as far as the questions you ask the players, since you see them everyday?

[Paul Sullivan]: I don’t think people understand the difference between a columnist and a beat writer. A beat writer is supposed to be fairly objective. Obviously if I was totally objective it would be pretty boring, but I think most of it is based on the premise of objectivity. A columnist can say whatever he wants. He can go off on a rant against one of the players. I’ve got to deal with the players, so I try to get along with everyone if I can. It’s not always possible, but I think I make an effort.
That's one hell of an effort you made last year, Paul.  I'd hate to see what kind of poisonous bile would get published if you weren't making such a valiant effort to be objective.

There is one last possible scenario where Paul Sullivan has remained objective and not resorted to petty name-calling.  I looked up the definition of "idiot" and found that there are indeed two accepted definitions:

1. an utterly foolish or senseless person.
2. Psychology. a person of the lowest order in a former classification of mental retardation, having a mental age of less than three years old and an intelligence quotient under 25.

Accepting the first definition would require that the user of the word would have made some subjective conclusions about the person they are referring to. The second is an objective (though outdated) term reserved for those with extreme mental handicaps and a measured IQ under 25. Maybe Paul has some test results that show that Milton Bradley actually is a severely mentally disabled individual.

That would indeed be news. If it were true. Otherwise, it is libelous. Or he was just being a subjective dickhead and calling someone names disguised as journalism when he knows that person isn't going to read what he writes. I'll miss his classy words of wisdom.


Another fine blogger and fellow Paul Sullivan-blocked tweeter, Wrigleyville23, asked Paul Sullivan's editor, Mike Kellams about Sullivan's latest tweet.  Specifically, he asked if Kellams felt it was acceptable for a beat writer to refer to the people he covers as idiots.

Mr. Kellams did respond via an e-mail to WV23:

I believe a lot of things.
I believe Chicago is a big place with tough people – or least I thought we were – and this is pretty tame.
I also believe a guy who can’t keep track of outs, a guy who was sent home by his GM (who was then applauded for his actions by the player’s former teammates), a guy who checked out early on his rent, might well fit the description.
I also believe readers who don’t sign their names yet demand publicly accountability by others might also fit the description.
Not saying. Just saying.
Have a great day, Mr. Ville23. Is that a family name?


So, it is OK to insult people as an objective journalist as long as the insult is tame and also, Bradley really is an idiot.
It is also OK to insult people who write under a pseudonym because they are obviously not decent human beings themselves.
Well, Mr. Kellam and Mr. Sullivan, my name is Tim McGinnis and I think you are both cheap hacks who are desperately trying to hold onto jobs in a dying medium by being dicks to the players they cover and the few readers they have left.  You can find me in Aisle 424 on most game days.


Jennifer McSparin said...

Very unprofessional, both the tweet and the block. Perhaps he need look no further than the mirror to find the real idiot.

Michael Proper said...

Bravo. Paul Sullivan gives Hacks a bad name.

melissa said...

I am surprised it took Notorious Douche Bag, Paul Sullivan, this long to block you. I was blocked after his Cubs convention column. He had a list of ten things learned at the convention, of course it included an obligatory Milton slam. When he tweeted it, I then re-tweeted and added a #11: Sully still hung up on Milton. Other Cubs followers called him out on it and they were blocked as well. Pretty soon no cubs fans will be able to follow his cubs coverage, those tribsters sure know how to promote the product.

Doc Blume said...

Good job, Tim.

The state of the Chicago media is very sad right now. It's either that, or people finally have the means to call them on their B.S.

wv23 said...

It's nice we can bond like this.

Someone Who Would Know said...

I'm not writing this comment under my actual name -- so feel free to call me an idiot if you like -- due to my working relationship with Paul Sullivan and the one I had with Milton Bradley.

To be clear, Paul does not like Milton, nor does he have any problem hiding it. Let's also be clear that Milton did not like Paul, either. That was made clear on a few different occasions.

As a beat writer the goal is to remain objective, but there is still a human behind that pen/keyboard and as such, feelings will get out. In Paul's defense, he said nothing that you or your friends in Aisle 424 haven't said likely 100 times about Milton Bradley either while in attendance or on this very site.

To publicly bash him for calling Bradley an idiot is somewhat hypocritical of you in my opinion. Why is it okay for you or other bloggers or fans to do it, yet not Sullivan? This wasn't a column, but a tweet.

Sullivan's personal Twitter account.

He's not getting paid to tweet, he's doing it on his own time. Free speech dictates he can say whatever the hell he likes as long as it's under 140 characters.

Now I may think that his blocking you is a bit, shall we say, childish and somewhat lame, but I don't think what you've done here in this blog post is much different.

Feel free to call me an asshole now if it will make you feel any better, but know I don't think you're one.

Aisle 424 said...


Paul's personal twitter account says in its bio:

"covers the Chicago Cubs for the Chicago Tribune"

So, he is using his status as a beat writer covering the Cubs as his hook to get people to follow him. He also rarely links to anything but his own stories, so he obviously is using it to promote his writing as a beat writer for the Tribune.

Thus, as someone portraying themselves as an objective reporter for a major market newspaper, I don't think it is that difficult to refrain from calling someone names because they made your job a little harder. If it were easy, he wouldn't be paid for it because everyone would do it (as evidenced by the numerous people like me who do it for free).

It is also over. Bradley has been gone for over a month now and he's still getting in his little digs because he knows it will never get back to Bradley, and if it did, fuck him, he's in the AL now and he won't have to deal with him anymore unless the Cubs go to Seattle to play.... oops. If we can't have pure objectivity, can we at least have a writer that is capable of ending a grudge when the player is gone?

Meanwhile, I'll agree that what I have printed isn't much different, except that I don't pretend to be a journalist. I am biased and I freely admit it. Paul wants to have credibility as a journalist but also wants to try to build credibility amongst snarky fans and bloggers (as evidenced by his pathetic attempts to make nice with the groups of tweeters and bloggers in Kitty O' Shea's at the Cubs Convention). You can't do both.

But for the record, I will not call someone an asshole who will argue a point in a civilized manner. There is too much needless name-calling by "respected" media members. There I go again...

bbison said...

Sigh. It's just Twitter. It's not worth the aggravation. You called him out, now just move along. You can always bookmark his page if you feel compelled to read his tweets.

You usually find 10-15 better things than this to tweet about per day anyway.

wv23 said...

Someone -

That's all well and good, but at least at WV23 we have not resorted - in my memory - to calling Cubs players names. We have demonstrated that Ryan Theriot has trouble with baserunning. We have expressed frustration with Kevin Gregg. But, at least not that I recall, we have never called them "idiots" or worse.

We used to call Prince Fielder fat all the time, but that was only because it drove Brewers fans nuts.

That is our beef here. Beat writers shouldn't be calling the subjects of their stories names in a public venue. It automatically ruins the pretense of objectivity. Doesn't that damage the brand?

I would think it would.

Adam said...

Tim, excellent as always.

Someone Who Should Know Better, let's pretend for a moment that Sully put his personal feelings for Bradley aside when he was acting as a beat writer. (Can't even type that with a straight face, but whatever.)

You asked this question: "Why is it okay for you or other bloggers or fans to do it, yet not Sullivan? This wasn't a column, but a tweet." I don't speak for everyone, but as far as I'm concerned, it's perfectly acceptable for a beat writer's tweets to take a different tone than his actual beat writing. But I would hope you would agree that the expectation of professionalism would still be in play whenever Sully, you, or any journalist were speaking or writing publicly. A baseball writer publicly calling a baseball player an idiot is unprofessional, plain and simple.

We bloggers, on the other hand, are speaking as fans. Maybe some of us are well paid, I wouldn't know. Nevertheless, most bloggers (including, especially, people who name their blogs after the location of their season tickets that they have to pay for on account of not being professional journalists) reflect the voice of the fan, not the journalist. When a professional journalist can't tell the difference between fan etiquette and journalistic standards (let alone the line between beat writers and columnists) the readership pays the price.

And for an editor to be so depraved of professional integrity as to consider publicly calling a player an idiot "pretty tame" is a disgrace.

Chicago fans are pretty tough, the son of a bitch was right. But if he equates "tough" with "deserving of pathetic, petty, dishonest journalism," then he and all of his colleagues can, respectfully, suck it.

Someone Who Would Know said...

Ville - You make a valid point, but I must ask you this: One of the main criticisms of newspapers is that they've been slow to adapt to this new media we're all growing accustomed to. To put it simply, snark and opinion are the new detail and fact when it comes to a lot of blogs.

Yet, when the crotchety old man yelling at you to get off of his lawn (newspapers) decides to relax a bit and let you horse around in front of his home, people get upset with him for it an call him an asshole.

Why should newspapers be held to different standards than blogs? Because they were around first?

The world evolves, and with it, so will the media. I'm not saying I agree with it, or that I even like it, but it's the truth. We can either be trampled by it, or just get out of the way.

Also, if Ryan Theriot's baserunning is the only complaint you have about him, then you're letting him off pretty easy. (Though he's a great guy in real life. He showed up at a block party near both our homes this summer after a rather painful loss and played running bases with the neighborhood kids for hours. Ironically, he was thrown out more than anyone else there.)

Aisle - Well I'm pretty sure Paul's bio says he's a beat writer for the Cubs because that's what he is. I suppose he could have written "avid collector of eye glasses that may have been previously owned by Ben Franklin" but he didn't.

Either way, it's a pretty weak argument. My Twitter says what my job is too, and if I'm going to link to any work, it's likely mine as well. In fact, the only time I'm on Twitter IS to link my stories or read feedback from fans.

I think Paul treats it much the same way, but I don't mind the critics.

melissa said...

I really like "someone" saying that Sully is justified in calling Bradley an idiot because everyone else agrees. Most Cubs fans were more than happy to jump on Sully's "I hate Milton Bandwagon," but not all. It appears that every twitter follower that openly disagreed with Sully on Bradley was banned by him. He seems pretty thin-skinned for a guy that has no problem dishing out personal attacks on professionals he covers.

Sullivan made his distaste for Bradley known in spring training when he told Len and Bob that Milton had been rude to him and it's hard to be fair to players that aren't nice to him. Sully was on Bradley before the season even started and it set up the narrative of how he covered him the entire season. It's pathetic that a beat writer openly admits he's not going to give certain players fair coverage and then proceeds to present a slanted view the entire season.

It's bad enough Sullivan did it all season but Bradley is gone and he still can't let it go. Enough already, Bradley probably didn't like Sully either but I bet he doesn't constantly reference him. Sullivan's douche baggery in regard to Bradley has been well documented it would be nice if it ended at some point.

Here's a link to back what I've said about the Notorious Douche Bag:

Someone said...

Last comment on this as I have a deadline to meet...

AK - Yes, I know the difference between newspaper and blog. My point is that it's hypocritical for someone to hold someone else to standards they don't hold for themselves.

Paid or not.

If you were building your own home on your dime would you not want to build it to the same standard as a paid contractor? I'd think you would. Why doesn't money matter there?

Also, completely lost in all of this is that truth be known, the only thing Paul did wrong here IS call Bradley an idiot. Idiot is far from the correct word. He's not stupid. Instead there are about 15 different words I can think of to describe the personality of one Milton Bradley, and none of them portray him in a positive light.

So, honestly, I think Paul did take it easy on him.

Though I do agree that at this point he should let it go. He's gone now. There will be other (bad word of your choice)s and when they're gone, they'll be replaced by more.

It's a vicious cycle, but one hell of a ride.

wv23 said...

Someone - if that indeed is where journalism is going, so be it. but is it there? is it the trib's standard that it's ok for its beat reporters to call the subjects of their stories "idiots" or other names?

take this to other beats.

can the white house beat reporter refer to the rahm emanuel as an idiot in a tweet - and expect not to hear about it, either from bloggers, the white house or the editor?

can the health care reporter refer to the head of united health care as an idiot in a tweet?

is this really ok at the trib now? if so, it's good to know. but i'm guessing this isn't how the trib would choose to make that pivot from purveyors of news to inartful disseminators of snark.

Aisle 424 said...


The thing that newspapers need to understand about blogs as they try to compete with them is that blogs, by and large, have no credibility.

Seriously, most bloggers are writing about things they care deeply about, but actually have little to no expertise or superior knowledge. The appeal of blogs is the unique perspectives that authors can bring to the subject matter.

Newspapers should have credibility. They are the places where people who don't want half-assed, unverified, assumptions and conjecture can go for actual facts. Reporters should be delivering those verifiable reliable facts.

Columnists are the members of the newspaper community who people look to for opinions on the facts reported by the beat writers. Paul Sullivan is not a columnist.

I find it ironic that the interview with Sullivan I linked to mentioned that he worked for Royko when he got started because if Royko read what Sullivan is passing off as beat reporting, I have to believe Royko would punch Sullivan in the head.

Meanwhile, there are employees of newspapers who snidely insult people who blog because we are ruining the good name of journalism through our crazy statements. So the answer to that is to join in on making crazy statements and destroying any semblance of decent journalism in the country because everyone is doing it?

I understand it must be frustrating to be a journalist at a brick & mortar newspaper right now, but while you're getting paid to be journalists, you should be journalists and not bloggers. Bloggers mostly do it for free. I would gladly give up the snark to be paid to write objectively about the Cubs.

Adam said...

"Yes, I know the difference between newspaper and blog. My point is that it's hypocritical for someone to hold someone else to standards they don't hold for themselves."

Ah, Someone, come on. The difference between newspaper and blog is not paid and unpaid. They are completely different roles. I would expect a blogger to stand up and cheer if the Cubs score a run. I would expect a journalist to sit down and watch. The fact that we both write words doesn't mean we're doing the same thing. Of course professional journalists are held to a higher standard of objectivity and professionalism. They're journalists! I'd expect professional ballplayers to show a modicum of professionalism to each other and to the media that cover them as well. And I would expect fans and bloggers to call out players and press alike who fail to do that. Even as bloggers, we are customers of the Cubs and the Chicago Tribune, NOT contemporaries! Should we show respect, yeah, whatever human decency demands, I guess. But the criteria are very different. Professions demand a higher standard, at least the ones with honor.

If I did the same job a journalist does, or tried to, your argument would hold water. But bloggers rarely operate under the guise of objectivity. Journalists do, and to fail to offer it in good faith is disrespectful to every reader.

That said, I do my best to avoid making personal attacks on people. Paul Sullivan tests my limits.

Someone said...

Aisle -

"Newspapers should have credibility. They are the places where people who don't want half-assed, unverified, assumptions and conjecture can go for actual facts. Reporters should be delivering those verifiable reliable facts.

Columnists are the members of the newspaper community who people look to for opinions on the facts reported by the beat writers. Paul Sullivan is not a columnist."

All true, but again, Paul Sullivan was neither writing a column or a story in the Tribune. He was Tweeting.

Melissa - You should have heard the things Bradley said to Sullivan and about Sullivan.

If somebody said the same things to you I'm guessing it would be hard for you to remain objective about that person as well. Beat reporters are humans, not automatons.

Ville - I can't speak for the Tribune, so I'm not sure. But judging by Mike Kellams' response I think he stands on the same side as I do in that Paul is free to say what ever he wants on his Twitter, but that if it does cross a line, he will be held accountable for it. I don't think someone calling someone an idiot is over that line.

As for the White House, of course they would. If politicians and reporters covering Washington D.C. stopped arguing over meaningless topics then they might actually have to get some work done.

And trust me, "beat reporters" at the White House and in Washington have called Rahm worse things in print, and on television. Not just Twitter.

For my final statement, I'll say this. Objectivity in the media, much like the concept of time, is nothing more than an allusion. If you truly feel that newspapers have never had agendas in their reporting, than you're extremely naive.

For many years, before television came around, newspapers swayed public opinion and law in this country. Now television has taken those reins for the most part.

Is television objective? Well, turn on MSNBC or Fox News and tell me what you think.

I bid you all a good night now. I've enjoyed the debate that there is no answer to, no matter how badly any of us would like to think we're right.

And I can assure you that the next time I see Paul, I will be giving him crap about this. Even if I don't mind what he did. He'll likely call me something much worse than an idiot.

Someone said...

Did I really spell illusion with an a? I really do need some sleep.

Adam said...

So Milton and Paul have accurate assessments of each other. Not sure how that complicates the debate at all, especially since Paul was the only one who publicly lied about the other.

This idiot comment is a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg.

Arnold said...

Tim's a really good writer. I think you should take him up on his "I would gladly give up the snark to be paid to write objectively about the Cubs" comment and get him a paid gig. Based on your professional demeanor throughout this discussion, you must be a stand-up guy (or gal). I bet a lot of Tim's readers would like to see him writing about the Cubs professionally.

Bad Kermit said...

Sorry, but you're completely misreading Sullivan's quotes. Sullivan specifically said that the reason a beat writer needs to be "fairly objective" is because he has to be around the players. Presumably, he's trying to foster a pleasant work environment for both of them. Milton was a total prick to Sullivan (and, seemingly, to most of the rest of the Chicago media) from day one, so there was little chance of he and Sullivan having a healthy, happy relationship. There's absolutely no hypocrisy in Sullivan said if you actually read the quote objectively. If a coworker was constantly treating me like garbage and making my work more difficult, I'd call him an idiot and worse.

For whatever reason, a lot of blogs have chosen to grind their axes against Sullivan. I'm sure I'll get accused of ass-kissery by those same blogs, but I can confidently say most of these complaints about Sullivan are way off base.

dat_cubfan_daver said...

Well, if nothing else, this has been a really interesting discussion. FWIW, I do NOT believe that "Someone..." above is Bruce Miles. For one, as far as I can tell, Bruce is not yet on Twitter (and this individual appears quite familiar with the medium). Also, Bruce had no qualms with going after Dave Kaplan this past summer when the Bradley-to-Detroit rumor surface. I have a hard time believing he'd spend this much time defending Paul Sullivan.

At first, I thought it might be Dave Kaplan. But I also can't believe Kap would have the time nor patience to engage in a back-and-forth like this.

In any case, even if Sullivan is justified in using his position (and Twitter account) to make personal attacks on Milton Bradley, his decision to block Cubs fans from his Twitter account and failure to engage in an open debate on his opinions and methods still condemns him in the eyes of most knowledgable Cubs fans. Hey, Paul, we're your audience - and we don't like you. Maybe you should reconsider your approach.

oog said...

ass kisser.

Aisle 424 said...


Nobody really knows who wronged who first in the Bradley/Sullivan saga. I know Sullivan was on Bradley's ass before Spring Training even ended, so either Bradley was the biggest insufferable prick from the get go (which is entirely possible) or Sullivan went into the whole relationship looking to poke Bradley with a stick knowing it would be good copy.

My guess is it was probably a bit of both and the whole experiment was doomed from the start. What is comical to me is that he can't let it go.

I feel stupid continuing to discuss this less than 24 hours after my run-in with Paul's little tweet. How can he possibly be grinding away on a player that hasn't even been on the team for over a month? Did he hold Paul's head in the toilet? Was there an atomic wedgie involved?

Meanwhile, he's blocking people who were actively interested in what he was tweeting because they don't agree with him.

I guess I expect more from a professional journalist in a major market, but maybe that is just silly of me to expect.

wv23 said...

Kermit, kisser of ass.

Seriously, though, we all have axes to grind. Whether it is appropriate to do so based on our position in life is a totally different matter.

Given the job he has, it seems inappropriate, which is the original point I made.

scott said...

The comments made by Sullivan on twitter are for the world to see, despite Milton being in Seattle he can see them and respond. Paul waited to write the commet until Milton was out of town and basically out of touch with the Chicago media. You can decide if that aspect is right orPaul wrong. I'm not familiar with what else Paul has said about Milton in the past but refering to him as an idiot seems harsh and something that wouldn't be said or anything remotely as harsh while Milton was intown. If I was a Chicago Cub player I'd think twice before giving him a quote or a one on one b/c if for any reason I (the player) left town I'd wonder what would he'd say about me. We don't know if Paul was upfront w/ Milton about his opinoins of him and we can safely assume he wasn't b/c that wouldn't be a good working relationship with players. I feel its talking about someone behind their back. I think the writers should have some form of professionalism whether they are a beat writer or columnist, either way calling someone an idiot or infering them to be an idiot does not seem very professional. I can't see how you can justify the comments as right or justified b/c they aren't professional and I'm shocked by people supporting or backing up the comment. I wish Paul the best but I can't say I'll read much more he posts.

Weapon X said...

Not that we should spend any more time speculating on who this is but just to be clear, 'Someone...' is NOT Bruce Miles. The commenter above specifically referenced his/her Twitter account and Miles is not on Twitter.

I actually had a short e-mail exchange with Bruce a couple weeks ago where I tried to find out what his Twitter account was or if he even had one. He confirmed that he did not have one and that he did not envision being on Twitter at any time in the near future, despite my attempts to convince him otherwise (seriously, tho, Bruce should get on Twitter, even the ancient yet lovable Sam Smith is on @SamSmithHoops).

Aisle 424 said...

New post is up, though I will warn everyone that it has little to do with Paul Sullivan.

dat_cubfan_daver said...

@Weapon X: Ha, I've asked Bruce a couple times about getting on Twitter, too. I wish he would - if only because it would remind me to check his blog more often.

Caryn said...

What happened to "No cheering in the press box"? That also goes the other way. You don't get to play it both ways, I don't think.

The one thing I will say is that at least the beat writers in Chicago follow fans. In NYC, the beat writers for the most part only follow themselves. Some will engage in conversation but most don't bother. For #FF they only ever mention each other. So, there, silver lining.

JayBandit said...

I'm sure that Sullivan didn't start the feud with Milton - clearly there isn't any type of history showing the Milton has basically pissed everyone off he's ever met, let alone worked with.

Milton is a total asshat, and Sullivan made a harmless dig at him - get over it.

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