In the wake of painful lay-offs and general belt-tightening [Inquirer editor Bill] Marimow has been taking a hard look at columnists. Gail Shister™s TV News column was the first casualty of this re-think. (FYI, Shister has a fine front page piece in today™s paper that has nothing to do with television news and not a single quote from a network anchorman.)
Sources believe Smith™s column has been in the cross-hairs for some time. œThere was a time when the powers that be were just happy to have somebody that™s on ESPN on the masthead, says a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. œBut I think the new leadership has been asking itself for a while now whether or not the columns [he] was turning in were justifying his [reportedly generous] salary. And I think they decided he wasn™t bringing his A-game.
As per his commitments to ESPN, Smith spends two hours a day in a New York studio do a live call-in show for ESPN Radio, and he is concurrently on-assignment for ESPN TV which often requires him to be in the sports network™s Connecticut studios.
Of course you don’t have to be distracted by the WWL to be a GA columnist who doesn’t do enough reporting and can’t cover certain sports. Smith has always been miscast as much as overstretched – an effective screaming panel guest does not a show host make, and a (once?) excellent reporter shouldn’t necessarily write columns.
While I’m all for comparing Roger Clemens to T.O. and A.I. (and Smith’s access to Owens and Iverson made him a must-read whenever they were in the news) Stephen A. was never, shall we say, much of a prose stylist, and it probably goes without saying that the same rhetorical approach that got him on TV and radio did not wear well in print (as Truman Capote might have said, that’s not writing, that’s yelling). And that hardly makes him unique in today’s sports world either.