The Rumor: Jay Mariotti's death wish/dream to return to the Chicagoland newspaper universe is almost complete — he's finally heading to the Chicago Tribune. It's just unfortunate that neither he nor anyone at the paper will talk about it.
Mariotti's flirtation with hopping over to the Tribune side began last August. On the way out of the Sun-Times, no one was spared. He torched the newspaper industry as a whole. His former employer. His former colleagues. This was expected because, as you may have noticed, Mariotti's created a cottage industry for insufferable prickdom.
In January, he stuck firm to his down-with-newspapers crusade when he joined AOL's Fanhouse as a regular columnist. The new digs gave him more real estate to spew Mariotti crappage and the clout to piss all over the print industry whenever he got ornery. Yesterday's column was particularly galling because he seemed to forget that he was writing for a blog altogether when he belatedly opined on the Jerod Morris-Ibanez ordeal with laughable ignorance and extreme prejudice toward the "reckless idiots" who spread unfounded rumors and speculation from the safety of a blood relative's cellar or what have you. Of course, many of Fanhouse's writers weren't happy about this, since the column pretty much bashed them too (two weeks late). But Mariotti is a professional. He's trained in libel law. He drives a Dodge Stratus. So he says. Mariotti was so off in his criticism and approach he even managed to briefly turn long-time Emeritus basher Gerard Cosloy of Can't Stop The Bleeding-infamy into a Will Leitch sympathizer. Brilliant.
Now, onto the Tribune rumor. According to sources at that paper and other Chicago newspaperland employees, Mariotti's going to jump over to the Trib-owned "Chicago Now" blog operation as soon as that pesky Sun-Times non-compete clause ends in August. Chicago Now is overseen by Bill Adee, a former Sun-Times sports editor, and the man who was heavily lobbying the Zell-owned paper to snap up Mariotti last year. He hearts Jay.
Once this is finalized (they apparently already have mock-ups of Mariotti's page prepared), what will become of the Fanhouse column? This is still shrouded in mystery, sadly. Fanhouse ed's won't talk about it. And even a well-intended email to Jay Mariotti himself (at his personal AOL email address — what a company man) was not returned. Bill Adee over at the Tribune also wouldn't respond to an email inquiry either so unfortunately this post will most likely fall into the Reckless Idiot category even though its intentions were good. Alas, I was forced to solicit comment from the Chicago Tribune's communications coordinator, Kate Mersman, about the Mariotti move. She responded via email with a very polite "no comment."
But as Mariotti knows, being a long-time professional and all that, "no comment" responses to direct, succinct queries generally mean that the underlying stories are true. At least, in my unprofessional opinion.