The end of Sun Herald sports as we know it

This old newspaper box is outside the Chevron Mart at the corner of Railroad Street and Kelly Avenue in Gulfport. JOHN E. BIALAS

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

Newsroom reinvention means the end of Sun Herald sports as we know it.

I say we and maybe I just mean me, because I’m connected to the newspaper in my hometown of Gulfport, Miss.

I retired from the Sun Herald last year after a long career in which I was a sports writer, weekend sports editor, sports page designer, slot editor, copy editor and headline writer, and since March 3, 2017, I have stayed in touch with people who work there or used to work there.

Now the sports department is down to just one man, and you, dear reader, may not be aware of that.

Sports/features editor Scott Hawkins and James Jones, the paper’s longest-tenured sports writer, were laid off two weeks ago and sports writer Patrick Ochs was moved back to the news side, where he started at the Sun Herald.

That leaves Patrick Magee as the last sports writer standing.

These moves are part of McClatchy’s newsroom reinvention, McClatchy being the company that owns the Sun Herald and 30 other newspapers.

The reinvention includes a change made after I retired. Sun Herald page designers were assigned to the three regional hubs that serve all the McClatchy newspapers. The former Sun Herald designers work on pages for other papers and do it from the Gulfport office or at home.

The pressroom became history last month, with the newspaper being printed in Jackson instead of at the Gulfport plant. That change means earlier deadlines because Jackson is three hours away.

The emphasis is on digital and I like digital. I just wish I could remember the password for my sunherald.com subscription.

I don’t know if Magee has to take calls or read emails from digital subscribers needing password help, but I’m sure he will continue to do a fine job covering sports and I wish him all the best.

Actually, he does a fantastic job. Hell, he wrote all three stories for Wednesday’s sports front.

The picture running with this quality piece of blogging was taken outside the Chevron Mart at the corner of Railroad Street and Kelly Avenue in Gulfport on Wednesday afternoon. It must have been a good day for the Sun Herald because there were no copies inside the Chevron Mart.

I also wish Scott, James and Ochs all the best. Ochs just needs to work on improving his taste in music (Huey Lewis? Really?) and pizza (Imo’s? Yuck! ).

I’m not sure what James and Scott will do next. I have an idea for them.

They can both create the newsroom version of “Barney Miller” for Netflix.

They have years of comedic newspaper material. I can’t wait to see who might play Fish and Wojo.

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Striving to win Sir Paul vs. Phil Collins debate

The Phil Collins memoir 'Not Dead Yet' was published in 2016 and comes out in paperback in September 2017.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

GULPORT, Miss.  It all started on Oct. 18, 2016, with a Facebook message from Sun Herald sportswriter and longtime colleague James Jones.

“Sir Paul took a shot at my boy Phil,” James said.

James’ message included a link to a story in which Phil Collins, promoting his memoir, “Not Dead Yet,” revealed he still resents Paul McCartney after the Beatle allegedly mocked an autograph request at a Buckingham Palace party during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in 2002.

In an interview with the Sunday Times in 2016, Collins said that “McCartney came up with Heather Mills and I had a first edition of ‘The Beatles’ by Hunter Davies and I said, ‘Hey Paul, do you mind signing this for me?’ And he said, ‘Oh Heather, our little Phil’s a bit of a Beatles fan.’ And I thought, ‘You f**k, you f**k.’ Never forgot it.”

Phil Collins requested an autograph like this one. Sir Paul mocked him.
Phil Collins requested an autograph like this one. Sir Paul mocked him.
This 1997 photo of musical luminaries appears in the 2016 Phil Collins memoir 'Not Dead Yet,' which comes out in paperback in September 2017. Phil, right, is next to Paul McCartney. Looks like a perfect autograph opportunity for Phil.
This 1997 photo of musical luminaries appears in the 2016 Phil Collins memoir ‘Not Dead Yet,’ which comes out in paperback in September 2017. Phil, right, is next to Paul McCartney. Looks like a perfect autograph opportunity for Phil.

 

I got the feeling I was supposed to side with Phil and James.

This sarcastic thought raced through my mind: “Oh, I feel sorry for Phil Collins.”

James and I agree on a lot of things. We think actor William Devane is cool. We like old TV shows like “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley.” We like the classic Rat Pack movies like “Ocean’s 11” and “Robin and the 7 Hoods.”

I’m entertained when James talks about Frank DeFazio, Carmine “The Big Ragoo” Ragusa, Lenny, Squiggy, Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio. He says we have worked with Laverne-like women in the Sun Herald newsroom, ones without the nasal Bronx accent but with the attitude.

James always mentions Doug Barber, our longtime Hall of Fame sportswriter colleague, when he talks about the Newsroom Lavernes.

The Newsroom Lavernes pushed Doug around. Doug is usually fearless about women, but the Newsroom Lavernes always intimidated him. Maybe that’s why he retired a couple of years ago.

James and I imagine Doug would shiver just seeing this Laverne DeFazio line.

Touch my “L,” sweetie, and your teeth go to Peoria!

James and I don’t agree on Phil Collins. James is a fan. I’m not a fan. I’m a Paul McCartney fan.

I told James “Phil Collins is a hack. His songs are terrible and he’s not even a good drummer. Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil Collins.”

Yeah, I’m quite aware drumming isn’t Sir Paul’s day job. Phil has played drums more often, and I have to admit, far better. I just wanted to antagonize James.

James seems to think “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” is a great song and I think it is sappy and syrupy stuff. 

I couldn’t believe we got caught up in this. James is in his 40s and I’m in my 60s, but the more I got into it, the more I enjoyed it. It was good-natured.

I told James that Phil was a 13-year-old extra in the Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 and perhaps that would have been a good time for Little Phil to ask for Paul’s autograph.

“U cold-blooded,” James said.

Our Facebook exchanges, all from his home to mine, carried over to the newsroom, where James sought sympathy for Phil from anyone.

He found it from the Page One designer, who was told the autograph sob story and then called Sir Paul “a big old douchebag.”

When I heard that, I thought, “Oh, brother.”

James, with someone finally on his side, told me, “Take that, you hater.”

Roy Rolison, my sports editor from back in the day, chimed in on my Facebook page with an old photo of Paul playing the drums. Roy was on my side.

“Paul has created an online instructional site to tutor, show the ropes to Phil Collins,” Roy said.

I have no idea if James saw the snarky post. Maybe he was listening to “Take a Look at Me Now.” If not that, maybe “Higher Love,” the only Steve Winwood song he likes. 

I retired from the Sun Herald on March 3, 2017, and I brought up our Phil-Paul exchanges during my little farewell speech to the newsroom on March 2.

Much of my prepared speech, which I worked on up to the last minute after a couple of weeks, was about parting shots and inside jokes. James said many nice things about me, but I had to poke him one more time.

“James, I’m ready to bury the drumsticks, though I still think Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil,” I said.

The line got some laughs, but I doubt that’s the last word.

Not dead yet, you know.

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