Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

You Don’t Know Joe

We’ve known Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Cowley for almost 25 years, going back to our days together at Kent State working in the sports department of the school newspaper, The Daily Kent Stater.

Those were fun times as we busted our asses for three-plus years, working to figure out where our careers were going to take us and how we could break into the sports writing business. Along the way we also worked hard to change the way The Stater handled its sports coverage.

We shared the football and mens’ basketball team beats and, not content to settle for adding a basic quote from the Sports Information Director to wire copy, we traveled to every away game, something that previous staff members rarely, if ever, had done. We toured all the exotic locations the Mid-American Conference had to offer, from Muncie, Ind., to Mount Pleasant, Mich., and all points in between. There were also trips to Morgantown, W.Va., Raleigh and St. Louis.

Some of the best times were covering the MAC mens’ basketball tournament, which was held at that time in Cobo Arena in Detroit.

We also pushed each other to be better writers and picked up writing awards along the way. Joe, admittedly, racked up a few more, most prominently winning the William Randolph Hearst Award for sports writing in 1990.

It was during those car trips, crisscrossing Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, that we really got to know Joe. Funny, opinionated and passionate about sports, we never doubted that somehow, someway, Joe would make it as a sports writer.

The thing is, even then, not everyone got Joe’s sense of humor, mainly because not everyone took the time to really get to know him.

So it didn’t surprise us over the weekend when we saw Joe Tweet some sarcastic – and obviously tongue-in-cheek – comments over his frustrations during a flight delay.While we took them in the spirit that they were intended, not everyone did – as Deadspin was so eager to point out. Which opened the flood gates and gave everyone else permission to pile on.
Should Joe have Tweeted those comments? Probably not. Should he have read this? Probably. Is it as bad as calling the owner of the professional sports team you cover “a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world”? Obviously not.Jim Kirk, Sun-Times editor-in-chief, addressed the situation.
“Recently, a reporter in our newsroom, Joe Cowley, made offensive comments on his Twitter account,” Kirk said Tuesday. “The Chicago Sun-Times is an institution with important social responsibilities, and we expect those who represent our paper to act with the respect and sensitivity that our readers deserve. Mr. Cowley’s remarks were offensive and he has been reprimanded appropriately.”
That should be the end of it, but in this day and age it probably isn’t. The jackals are out, as are the jealous types with an imaginary axe to grind.
The jackals don’t want to admit that Joe is talented and has paid his dues along the way. He wasn’t handed a cushy job right out of Kent State, but worked his way up the traditional newspaper way, moving from the Lorain Morning Journal to the Lake County News Herald before heading to Chicago, where he worked for the suburban Daily Southtown covering the White Sox. He also covered the Sox for the Sun Times before being named a columnist in 2010.
He’s a devoted husband and father who beat cancer a few years ago. But none of that matters to the haters.
Because they don’t know Joe.
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4 thoughts on “You Don’t Know Joe

  1. Former Kent Stater staffer on said:

    If you really knew Joe Cowley, you'd remember the offensive stuff he published in the Daily Kent Stater and the resulting fallout

  2. I remember him writing some things that went right up to the line and some overly sensitive types reacting to it.

    I didn't realize he was the publisher and had the power to put something into print without going through the editorial chain, however.

    Also, figuring out the boundaries and pushing people to think and react is what college is all about.

  3. Anonymous on said:

    If he is too stupid to realize how his Twitter remarks would be perceived, he deserves everything he gets. The first lesson someone with average intelligence learns about the Internet is that sarcasm doesn't work and should be avoided. That lesson has become even more true in the 140-character Twitter era. It's nice that you're his friend and can testify that he's not a colossal dick 100 percent of the time, but that is a pretty low standard.

  4. True that humor doesn't really translate to Twitter. It's interesting – and hard to understand – why so many media members struggle to understand how Twitter works (you should read the article I linked to about Twitter and the media).

    Having said that, Joe didn't post anything on Twitter that was directed at someone or involved anyone he covers. He also didn't put it in print. He was frustrated and used Twitter to let off some steam.

    If someone wants to use this as an opportunity to crucify him, I don't know what to tell you.

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