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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   October 2001  issue

Bayward Bayless   

Outspoken sports columnist Skip Bayless resigns from the Chicago Tribune after nearly three-and-a-half years, citing frustration with format changes at the paper, and sets up shop at the San Jose Mercury News.


By Shannon Canton
     

Outspoken sports columnist Skip Bayless resigns from the Chicago Tribune after nearly three-and-a-half years, citing frustration with format changes at the paper, and sets up shop at the San Jose Mercury News.

"He will definitely be the most talked-about person in the Bay Area," predicts John Cherwa, Bayless' former boss at the Tribune.

Cherwa says Bayless, notorious for making fun of Mark Hatley, the Chicago Bears' former vice president of player personnel, became the most talked-about person in Chicago before he left his job in July. Former Boston Globe columnist Michael Holley steps in as Bayless' replacement.

Bayless, 49, has worked for the Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times and two Dallas papers. At age 25, he became the lead sports columnist at the Dallas Morning News.

He's also written three books on the Dallas Cowboys and articles for Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, and he has appeared regularly on ESPN and national radio shows.

"And none of it will occupy a bigger, warmer spot in my heart than having written [the Tribune column] 'In the Wake of the News,' " Bayless wrote in his July 16 farewell to Tribune readers. "This has been an honor and a privilege. But things change. Paths split."

Bayless says his disaffection dates to changes Editor Ann Marie Lipinski made to the paper's format in September 1999. To make the front page of each section consistent, Lipinski decided the sports section would no longer have two columns on the first page. Instead there would be one column down the left-hand side of the page ending at the bottom with no jumps. "Skip is so passionate about what he does," Cherwa says, "he felt he couldn't do his best work in 780 words."

And, if he chose to write a column on his off days, as he frequently did, it would run with the jump of a related story without a refer from the sports front. He says his requests for a compromise were ignored. "It was maddening," Bayless says. "It took away all my bullets to fire at the Chicago Sun-Times." Lipinski did not return AJR's phone calls.

After his resignation, Bayless had planned to sit back for a while, clear his head and see what else was out there. But it didn't work out that way. While cleaning out his Tribune e-mail account on his last day, Bayless found this one-line message from David Tepps, deputy managing editor of the San Jose Mercury News: "Ever consider living in the Bay Area?"

He hadn't, but flew west for a visit and clicked instantly with the editors. Though he had considered switching to radio or television, Bayless decided the Merc would be a great platform. Not only does he now get to cover two football and two baseball teams, he's been told he can write as frequently as he wants and at varying lengths, Bayless says.

Tepps says he is looking forward to the readership he hopes Bayless' strong opinions will attract. "When I read the Chicago Tribune, I said to myself, 'I wonder what Skip Bayless had to say.' Now he'll give people another reason to read our paper."