Continuing the interview with former News columnist Jim Carty. In Part I we talked about his decision to leave the News, on his new blog, the day Lloyd Carr canceled his subscription and his feud with Bill ‘Huge’ Simonson.
In Part II we talk about some of his critics and its affect on his personal life, on his access to the team at the Capital One Bowl, on the accusations the News misled some student athletes during the athademics series, and finally, on dubbing Michigan athletic director Bill Martin ‘Barnacle Bill’ during the coaching search:
MVictors: How big of a concern was some of the criticism of your work at the News reaching your family?
Jim Carty: My kids I think are too little at this point, my oldest daughter is eight and I don’t think she’s ever been aware of the controversy I create. She just sort of thinks it’s cool that I worked for the newspaper and didn’t understand why I would go back to school.
At one point during the Bernard Robinson thing, when I was writing that he should be kicked out of U-M, there were some phone calls to the house that really freaked my wife out. And in general, during the backlash from the project [academic series] I think that was very disturbing to my wife. But you know, those are minimal things. I don’t want make it seem like in any way, shape or form being a columnist for the Ann Arbor News was a negative experience for my family. It was overwhelmingly positive.
MVictors: Has “cartyhater” extended the virtual olive branch like Huge?
Jim Carty: I wonder what he’s doing these days? He did not. But one of my really crazed stalkers sent me an email. This is guy that the people I worked with were really afraid was dangerous. He sent me an email talking about how much he was going to miss me, and our “relationship”.
MVictors: Oh boy.
Jim Carty: And yet, he almost immediately began writing to Pete Bigelow and John Heuser, so I guess I really wasn’t that much of a part of his life after all.
One of the most surprising things about my exit for the News is that I got more than 300 emails for readers, and to me at least, they were stunningly positive. Probably 15 or 20 to 1 positive. Many, many people praised the academics project, which I never would have expected. A lot of them do follow the blog, some send email from time to time. What’s interesting though, there were people who were readers who emailed me if not on a daily basis, a couple times a week who have completely dropped out. They were in it for the U-M football, I was just a conduit to that.
MVictors: The scuttlebutt on the message boards insisted they knew you were frozen out of the football program by Lloyd Carr, I heard you laugh off the suggestion on WTKA.
Jim Carty: It’s a fascinating thing because I had one emailer just relentlessly pound me on the idea that John and I were frozen out of the end Lloyd’s era, and he knew it because someone from one of the Detroit papers had told him. He wouldn’t give it up. It’s very odd, how do you convince someone of a different reality?
I will say this. There seems to be this idea the John and I were not allowed in the post game locker room at Lloyd’s last game. Maybe that’s true. All I can say is we didn’t ask. [laughs]. I went to the post-game press conference, John talked to players as they were boarding the bus. There were two reporters I think, Larry Lage, who set it up in advance who did a very ‘inside the Wolverines’ thing the whole bowl trip, and I think Mark was in the locker room after the game. We just hadn’t asked. If I had asked, would we be allowed in? I don’t know. Nobody told me I couldn’t.
MVictors: So it’s not like there were 50 media members in the locker room?
Jim Carty: No. I can say this. Probably two days after that last game I got a call from someone really close to Lloyd saying they were calling for Lloyd to tell me how much he really appreciated my last column and something else we did that month that was rather private, that I’d rather not say. But I haven’t seen Lloyd seen the academics project ran, and if he’s not really pissed off at me I’d be surprised.
If he is pissed off at me, I’m not happy about that. He’s think he’s a good man, he’s been very good to me, very good to me, much better than people realize. I certainly don’t want him mad at me, but I understand if he is.
MVictors: You know Lloyd Carr pretty well, you know his personality.
Jim Carty: I don’t know. I think reporters often overstate how well they know the public figures they cover.
MVictors: What do you think he’d say about Jim Carty right now?
Jim Carty: I don’t know. That’s a really good question. I think he’d say that he really enjoyed a lot of my work but probably he thinks I was overaggressive, maybe even irresponsible. But that’s a guess on my part.
MVictors: Dave Shand’s firing from WTKA (allegedly at Bill Martin’s request) got about as much attention in the News as a Detroit Shock WBNA title. Why hasn’t the News really picked up the story, is it because Bill Martin’s involved?
Jim Carty: I don’t think it’s to protect Bill, since as far as I know he’s not speaking to the paper [laughs]. On the whole, I think if you looked back at how the News has treated news out of TKA, it would probably be in line with that. When Dennis [Fithian] quit we ran a paragraph, when Jeff Defran quit we ran a paragraph. [Note: Fithian and Defran were actually fired from the station, Jim knew this, just misspoke.]
MVictors: Shand didn’t quit.
Jim Carty: That’s true, but we also have run full articles on the lawsuit. We have. [I gesture that the Shand articles were eency, weency]. Yeah, but I think if it gets to a trial I think it’ll get significant coverage. And if they don’t cover it, I’ll go down and cover it on my blog.
MVictors: After the academics/athletics series was released Chad Kolarik claimed he was misled by John Heuser in his interview for the series. Sam Webb peppered you on the radio and you defended the News be didn’t give many specifics. Now that you’re gone from News, anything you want to say to set the record straight on that?
Jim Carty: I should say that it wasn’t just Chad. I believe Greg Mathews also claimed he was misquoted. I believe they both claimed they were led to believe it was somewhat of a more positive story about Professor Hagen.
When I was working for the News, I was in a position where I was limited by policies to the News. Quite frankly, there were times I would go on ‘TKA and people at the paper would not be happy. What I was saying in relation to that was being very, very closely monitored.
If I had a regret about the project, I think the paper’s management did an extremely poor job of defending John Heuser who did both those interviews. I think they acted very corporately. I think that they let John hang out there in an unfortunate way. It would have been extremely easy to run the run the transcripts of those interviews, and prove that no such thing like that ever occurred. No such thing like that ever occurred.
I will say this. In 20 years of doing this, I have never worked with a more ethical person than John Heuser. He is a former Naval officer. A tremendous family man. A University of Michigan journalism graduate, when they had a journalism program. I would bet my life on it that he didn’t mislead those kids even if I didn’t hear the transcripts. But since I did, I know it was mishandled. I guess the bottom line on this is that John right now has more ongoing relationships with former Michigan players than any reporter that I’ve ever seen cover Michigan. It’s because they know he’s a really good guy and he’s always treated them fairly.
There are times you are forced to be things in a business sense that you wish you didn’t have to do. Would I like my own kid to be put in the position that those kids were in? No. Would I like my kid to have their own transcript run in the News the way Perry Dorrestein’s did? No. But yet I would defend those decisions as the right thing to do for the next kid. Whatever we did or didn’t do with Perry Dorrestein’s transcript was much less damaging than what Michigan’s done with him. To basically just put him in a clown class to keep him eligible. I don’t understand why no one took a step back and said, ‘Why wouldn’t it have been better with this kid with a 1.8 to just sit that year out and work on his grades?’. Long term that would have been the best decision for the kid. Not doing that is ultimately going to be more damaging to him than what the News did. [laughs] But that’s a self serving position, I recognize that.
MVictors: You called Bill Martin ‘Barnacle Bill’ during the whole Les Miles thing during the coaching search. Martin doesn’t come off as a man that likes to be teased, perhaps especially in the newspaper. Did he ever confront you?
Jim Carty: I’ll say this–Bill throughout my tenure was very, very good to me. I think Bill always recognized that we could agree to disagree about certain things. But the academic series snapped it. There’s no doubt about that–it snapped it. After the coaching search at Rich’s introductory press conference in front of a couple other reporters he made a point of saying, “You know, you really didn’t understand some things and some day I’ll sit down to explain it to you.” And I said, “Why don’t you explain it right here?” And he said, “I’m not going to embarrass you in front of your colleagues.” I said, “That’s fine! Go ahead.”
That fact is that there is no explanation. He was on the boat when he shouldn’t have been on the boat and he intentionally didn’t return Les Miles’ call because he didn’t want to hire him.
MVictors: I think you crossed the line there, when called him ‘Barnacle Bill’. It struck me as disrespectful. Do you regret that?
Jim Carty: Not at all. I guess I’d say this–I respect your position. I like disagreement. I think disagreement is what drives the conversations that ultimately move us forward. I love it when somebody says what you just said, rather than when someone thinks what you just thought, and doesn’t say it. I will leave here thinking about what you just said and reexamining that position, maybe next time I’ll do something different, maybe I won’t, but at least I thought about it. That was one of the things about the job, disagreement is good, ultimately.
MVictors: A lot of people see Drew Sharp as a guy who simply looks for the controversial topic, spins it up, whether he believes it or not, just to get some attention. I think there’s many out there that lump you into that Drew Sharp bucket.
Jim Carty: Probably the most fascinating swing in my career was from the Barnacle Bill column to about a month later when I said in back-to-back columns that Rich was wrong in his positioning and needed to pay the buy-out. And if you had looked at my email the day of the Barnacle Bill column, it was hundreds of emails, it was like “You get him Jim, this is fantastic!”. Then a month later, the same exact people were like, “You’re the devil!”.
It’s part of the job. When I was writing columns about Sue Guevara’s mom dying of cancer, and Marlin Jackson growing up in poverty in Sharon, Pennsylvania and how far he had come. I don’t want to look like I’m blowing my horn but when I’m writing those columns, nobody felt like I was Drew Sharp. When I’m writing negative columns there’s an obvious correlation. I thought I was portrayed much more negatively that those final emails reflected, I was happy about that, maybe that’s just because people that like me wrote. I would be surprised if someone who read everyday, if that’s how they felt.
Coming up in Part III: We’ll talk about radio, good and evil in the world of sports journalism, bloggers and their place in the media and wrap up with a little Bruce Springsteen.