There was never an official proclamation that the Jets banned New York Daily News reporter Manish Mehta from their facilities, just the word of ESPN Radio host Chris Carlin that it happened, with a follow-up two months later that, “There were clearly reasons not related to negative coverage.” A story in Jets Confidential in October explicitly said Mehta is “not allowed at One Jets Drive.”
Today, the apparent reason for his ban surfaced. (Disclosure: My time at the Daily News overlapped with Mehta’s, but we did not know one another.)
Erika Esola-Imburgio, a producer at EA Sports who formerly was a sports journalist for the Seminole Chronicle and Florida Today, shared the story, which was repeated independently Wednesday afternoon by Craig Carton on WFAN, that Mehta crossed a line by tailing Jets general manager Joe Douglas’ family.
When that story was repeated on WFAN, Esola-Imburgio cheered it as “confirming everything,” It would be of a piece with the speculation last year that Mehta created an Adam Gase burner account on Twitter, using Gase’s son’s name.
Charles McDonald, who has been covering the Jets for the Daily News, is leaving the paper for USA Today’s For The Win. On his way out the door, he tweeted that he’s looking forward to “getting back into more national coverage now that i’m not being used to hold up the facade that a certain jets writer still has access to the team.”
And then the floodgates opened with others in the industry sharing their issues with Mehta over the years.
McDonald told Deadspin he was happy to let his tweets speak for themselves and did not want to comment further. Meanwhile, Rich Cimini, who preceded Mehta on the Daily News’ Jets beat before leaving for ESPN, voiced his support for McDonald and called it “an illuminating day.”
It’s illuminating not only for Mehta’s conduct, but for the Daily News’ operation under sports editor Kyle Wagner.
Mehta sending an email to McDonald with questions to ask at a press conference isn’t, by itself, an out-of-line thing. Reporters often collaborate on their questions to coordinate coverage, especially if one of those reporters won’t be at a press availability for whatever reason. Mehta’s email is absurd in the regard that such communications are usually, “hey, can you ask about Sam Darnold?” and not scripting follow-ups, but maybe that’s just how Mehta rolls — again, in line with the abrasive personality being depicted by colleagues.
What’s inexcusable from the Daily News is taking a story with McDonald’s reporting, even if Mehta is the one writing it, and putting Mehta’s name and face on it with no notice of McDonald’s contribution. Standard practice would be to add a “— With Charles McDonald” tag at the end of the piece, as might happen if one reporter had a byline on a piece, but had another reporter feed them a quote. The fact that Mehta wasn’t even there, and the paper made it appear that he was, is a much bigger breach of ethics, and one that’s not on Mehta, but the paper’s editors who make those calls.
Mehta declined Deadspin’s request for comment. The Daily News has not yet responded.
It’s all a rare let-off for the Jets in 2020, a huge story about them where they’re not the most embarrassing part of it, by a longshot. Alas, Sunday is just a few days away.