Tuesday, May 15, 2012

LM INTERVIEW WITH JEROME SOLOMON

Written by: LM






I would like to begin by saying, thank you for taking the time for this interview.  I know with Free Agency and the coming NFL Draft you guys at the Houston Chronicle are busy.  I first put a voice to your writings on The Sunday Night Block Party (610) hosted  by Craig Shelton and Bobby Z.  What always stood out to me about your appearances were the "North Side v South Side" exchanges.  Will you please give the HMW readers a short bio and take the time to provide us with an open statement.

A. I’m from Acres Homes , Texas . That’s all the bio anybody needs, right?

Q. Right out the shoot, Craig Shelton (1430) is constantly touting you as a personality that should be on the radio.  I really never heard you on radio in a full time capacity therefore  I have to ask, are you interested in radio in addition to what you are doing with the Chronicle?

A. Yes, I’m interested in working in radio. Sports talk radio is something that I am well-suited for, but I haven’t had any full-time opportunities presented to me in a few years. I am asked to guest host on occasion and believe I do quite well with those, but as with anything, you get better with practice. I have no doubt that any show I’d be involved with would be one of the better rated shows in Houston .

Q. How do you feel about local radio stations using your work as a source to drive an hour or more of discussion?   I will be honest, I think, if they are constantly using your work they should hire you or make some type of accommodations to have you on regularly.


Over the last couple of years, I have witnessed you take subtle jabs at the information disseminated by on-air host (and I agree with some) but are you at an advantage as a writer in the way you present information?  In other words, radio is "hot" with live bullets flying, the guys on radio have to think on the spot whereas writers have the liberty of collecting their thoughts and presenting them.  Do you feel writers have an advantage?

A. That’s the business. Radio guys are supposed to talk about hot topics and since I am a columnist with the local paper, a lot of sports discussion will come from what I write on a given day. That doesn’t bother me. It’s my job to make people think and give ‘em something to talk about. On your second point … that’s ridiculous. If you haven’t put in the work on a subject, then you shouldn’t speak on it. If they don’t know what the hell they are talking about, then they should shut the hell up. The live mic is not an excuse for being stupid. I can’t even listen to much local radio because so many hosts are ill-informed and put out so much inaccurate information. So, yeah, I’ll mention on Twitter a stupid statement every now and then, but I don’t call a guy out directly or by name, because that isn’t my job. If they respond, that’s different. If I wanted to, I could write a column or blog entry everyday off the stupid statements made on-air. I’m not talking about flubs, those happen, I’m talking about flat-out wrong information. It’s funny sometimes. One day recently, I listened for 10 minutes and had to switch stations three times to get away from crazy talk. Two guys were so far off base on the Rooney Rule that it was laughable. If they did 30 minutes of research they wouldn’t have said the stupid things they said. Then another one just flat went off on the LPGA Hall of Fame and his information was completely inaccurate. He and I had a laugh about it on Twitter. That stuff isn’t serious, but I believe listeners deserve better. But had he taken 30 seconds to look it up, he wouldn’t have had his classic rant. The rant was more important than the facts to him, but that’s radio. If I wrote inaccurate stories all the time and the Chronicle had to regularly print corrections on my columns, how long do you think I would have a job? Do I have an advantage in print that I can hit the delete button and I have a copy editor to check what I write? Of course. But everyone makes mistakes. I’m not saying radio guys shouldn’t make mistakes. I’m saying they will often have an entire take based on bad information, and it is because they haven’t done their homework. You don’t hear Charlie Pallilo and Matt Thomas throwing out a whole bunch of inaccurate information do you? They don’t make stuff up as they go.

Q. I will admit, I do not know the organizational structure of Sports Print Media but from the outside looking in; it appears you have the freedom to write about all things sports.  With that said, I have noticed plenty of your work is geared towards the Texans.  Of course we are in a town where if the Texans belch, people will react.  We all know John McClain is getting old, could you see yourself as a Texan Beat Writer in the future?  Would you be interested in a Beat Writer position for any organization?

A. No, I’m a columnist. You haven’t seen that big ass picture of me on the sports page? I have been a beat writer and I loved it, but I enjoy being able to share my opinion with readers.

Q. Over the years, I have read your articles and noticed they typically go against popular opinion.  I cannot tell you how many times I have read your articles and felt you were trying to be "the smartest guy in the room".  I will not label you as a Richard Justice who's developed a reputation for “flip flopping” by some but you have received somewhat of a reputation for purposely being controversial.  Do you agree with anything I just said or am I way off base?  Please tell the HMW readers how you approach a topic.  For the record after getting to know you a little, I receive your articles better than in the past.

A. Yes, you are way off base and I don’t agree with anything you said. Are those controversial statements? Let me start with your “smartest guy in the room” remark. I could take that as an insult, because perhaps you are saying I’m not that smart. Or are you saying I am too smart and should dial it down because people don’t like it that I sound like I am always right. Please. That’s like a teacher telling a student to stop answering all the questions right because he is messing up the curve. Sorry. I liked making 100s on tests in school. If you read what I write and come away thinking that I believe I am right, that’s a good thing. I’d be a weak columnist if you read my “opinion” piece and came away not knowing what my opinion was. Am I supposed to dial it down because others might disagree with what I have to say? Hell no. If I am attempting to sway your opinion on a matter or present another way of looking at an issue, I am going to do it intelligently and forcefully. Otherwise, why should I even bother?

I don’t make up opinions on the fly. That is why I don’t waffle or flip-flop and I don’t hedge. I only make strong statements about something when I have strong feelings about it. Think about how much time and energy you have put into sports – talking about them, reading about them, thinking about them, listening to others talk about them. Well, as a journalist, I would hope I have put in more time. If not, then I need to be in another profession. How could a person my age not have strong opinions about things? I’d be a dumb ass if I had to wait for popular opinion to give my take on an issue.

I don’t care what the popular opinion is, hell I don’t care what my boss thinks about an issue, because that has nothing to do with my opinion. I love a good debate. I have always stood my ground in sports discussions. This didn’t start when I became a columnist. If I disagree with someone, I have no problem discussing a topic with them. I love sharing what I think and like changing minds because I believe there are times I see things that others might not see. I also learn things from a good back-and-forth, because a person could see something that I might not see. I am open-minded, but it is hard to get me off an opinion, because I don’t come to an opinion lightly. Readers don’t have the time to invest into reporting, researching and interviewing. Newspaper reporters are supposed to do it for them. I get to put my opinions on top of it. I have plenty of them. I tell the truth as I see it. That irritates some people, you included at times, but that’s their problem, not mine. If I went out of my way to hurt people that would be different, I don’t.

Believe me, I don’t come to what I think about something to make noise. I talk to coaches, players, general managers, friends, family and even crazy people in bars. I have always thought I knew a lot about sports. I know more today than I knew yesterday. If I didn’t, I would find another job.


Q. Jerome, you are known for being a "hot head", I remember a while back, I thought you called me a "twidiot" but you said it was directed at someone else.  I know as a member of the local member, you receive your fair share of left field opinions but as a professional should you rise above that?

A. How am I known for being a hothead? That’s funny. I’m a laidback guy. Since you went there, if you recall, you freaked out that day over some perceived slight. I was fine. You and your boy were going off. I told you both then like I’m telling you now, I’m easy to find. You have my number. Call me if you have a problem with me. Left field opinions are one thing, but I don’t suffer fools lightly. Sorry. Now you’re going to say I called you a fool, right? I didn’t.

None of this is life or death, so I don’t take most sports debates that seriously. And I certainly don’t get mad at people for things they say about me. But I respond to every e-mail I receive and most shots thrown at me on Twitter, because interaction is part of the territory. I’ve had players, coaches, athletic directors and general managers all get upset about something I have written, so it doesn’t bother me when a reader is upset about something I wrote. As long as they understand what I wrote and what I meant, they have a right to be as ticked off as they want to be. I got half-cussed out by a couple of coaches this past weekend over the same column. They were funny conversations because they were pissed off when they called me and less ticked off after we talked. I even changed some of a blog entry because one of them made a good point. We disagreed about the central point, but the way I said it may have led some to a wrong conclusion, so I changed it to avoid the confusion. I write a lot of words. Not everything I write is received with the flavor I intend. Sometimes I don’t say it well, and other times people don’t read it well. If you’re sensitive and do what I do, you’re going to be miserable. I’m very happy.

Q. RANDOM:  You know this is my soapbox, but how do stories like former New York Times writer Jayson Blair effect guys in your industry.  For those who do not know, Jayson Blair is the writer who fabricated stories during the DC Sniper tragedy and was caught telling lies. One of my biggest pet peeves is to read a sports column usually when a story is hot and see the word "sources".  Granted, I have never seen you utilize that tactic but with as many inaccurate stories we have seen in this social media era, am I wrong for assuming a large amount of "sources" is complete bullshit?  The media has a perceive immunity which allow them not to reveal their sources and I feel some have taken advantage of it and it's only getting worse in the social media age with everyone trying to get the scoop first. In 2012, does BREAKING A STORY have the same pop as it did in the pre information era?


A. There is a lot there, and too much to get into here, but you’re right, I rarely do sources said stuff, but that doesn’t invalidate the work of those who do. If you are a journalist and don’t have sources, you’re not very good. Journalists don’t need a Blair story to know that making up stuff isn’t journalism. There is a lot less of that than you think. I think you do have a misunderstanding of what we do and how we do it. Anytime you see a sourced story in the Chronicle, it must be approved by an editor and the people up the food chain must know who your source is. So, if someone writes “someone with knowledge of the situation said” his boss knows who that person is and has to approve the use of that person as the course for the story. If your “source” is somebody’s ex-girlfriend’s cousin’s next door neighbor, it won’t be approved.

You are probably confusing bloggers with newspaper reporters. Some bloggers are excellent, but there are plenty who do not have credible sources and that can lead to significant mistakes. On occasion, that ex-girlfriend’s cousin’s neighbor could be dead right about a story. Some teenager had the Ryan Braun story before any of the MLB reporters because some guy who works out with somebody who used to play college ball with Braun told him Braun had told his former teammate the deal. Now, we couldn’t have run that in the paper. If that is wrong, you’d be laughed out of the business. You could take that information and use it to get a better source, but you couldn’t run with it as a breaking story. We don’t cut corners.

Good journalists are rarely wrong, so I don’t know why you think they are just making stuff up. Perhaps you are following a lot of bad journalists? Guys that work at Yahoo, ESPN, CBS, etc., are some of the best in the business. There is no immunity to being wrong. When they are wrong they will be called on it. They aren’t wrong nearly as much as you seem to think. Keep in mind, opinion is far different from fact. Being wrong about an opinion doesn’t mean somebody made up a source. You’d have to show me these inaccurate stories you allude to, because I don’t see them.

Q. In a town where the majority is Hispanic followed by African Americans and Caucasian, can you explain the inverse relationship in sports media?  I would think minorities and females by sheer math would be in more visible positions.  I do not believe in affirmative action, I believe my knowledge should afford me an equal chance of securing a job but when I see the make up Sports Media in Houston it almost make me wonder if we need a "Rooney Rule" in local sports media.

A. The decision-makers all look alike.

Q. Give me your top three sports writers (local or national) and tell me why.  If given the chance to work in radio full time, give me three personalities you wouldn't mind working with in Houston.

A. I don’t have a list of the top three sports writers. There are too many good ones for me to narrow it down. That isn’t a copout. I read dozens of people regularly – some for great writing, some for humor, some for insight – and that list changes depending on the sport. The people I read on college sports are completely different than those I rely on for the NBA. I have go-to people depending on the subject and the mood. There are a lot of different ways to kill this cat, and I appreciate and applaud them all.

As for local radio personalities, there aren’t any I wouldn’t mind working with (until I got to know them better), because each one brings something different to the table. There are those who I’d have hardcore debates with, others I’d roll with like we are best friends, and some I would rip to shreds because most of the time they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Q. Currently, which local sports personalities you are feeling?

A. That is similar to the previous question, and I have a wide range of tastes. I prefer people with a combative nature, but knowledge and humor rank well above the new school of guys who are just talking to hear themselves talk. Ralph Cooper, the legend, is a great listen. I grew up on what he does and how he does it, so he can never do wrong in my book. Barry Warner is in a similar category. Unlike so many of the kids in the business, he and Ralph actually talk to people, cultivate sources and know what the hell they are talking about. Similarly, I’ve known Fred Faour for a long time and there isn’t a sports debate he and I haven’t had, so when he is on-air I can relate to everything he says, even when I disagree. He is one of the best in town. Josh Innes is a complete fool, which makes him a hell of a radio guy and downright fun to listen to. The boy doesn’t know much, but he is damn funny. I am a huge fan of Pallilo. As I’ve said, I value accuracy and he is always on-point. Lance Zierlein has a good mix of knowledge, humor and sources that makes him a good listen, though his new show on 790 doesn’t really do it for me. Travis Rodgers is smart, funny, and unlike any other guy in town. Dave Tepper makes you want to yell or laugh, which tells me he is doing something right. Individually, N.D. Kalu and Greg Koch were surprisingly strong, with as sharp a wit as anyone on the air, minus the fear that most have for saying something that might cost them their job. I’d listen to them on the weekends when they were on with complete idiots because each had such a strong presence. I hope they work well together. I’ve heard only one of their shows thus far.

Q. Top 3 most memorable events you've covered.

A. It is impossible for me to narrow it down to three. I mean, I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I have great memories from spectacular girls high school softball games to Olympics, Super Bowls and major golf tournaments. I’ll give you three that are in my top 20, but wouldn’t say they’re the top three.

Usain Bolt’s record-breaking 200-meter run in Beijing , when he looked at me in my Jamaica-colored shirt and slapped his chest as he crossed the finish line. Thrilling.
Michael Phelps’s gold medal chase in China, with Jason Lezak’s amazing come-from-behind swim to win a relay by a fingernail. Amazing.
Texas A&M’s win over Texas at Kyle Field after the bonfire tragedy. Emotional.


Q. You may have to massage your words delicately here but of the four sports talk stations, which station represents a sports philosophy in talk you respect.

A. I don’t have to massage my words. I don’t work for any of them. None of them are doing it they way I would if I were in charge or in a way that garners my full respect. All of them have aspects that I like; points that I don’t. I’m sure the people that run them don’t give a darn what I think.

Q. Are the criticisms towards Clyde Drexler fair? Is he really as bad some make him out to be?  Should the Rockets look in to replacing Clyde perhaps by making Matt Bullard a full time color analyst?

A. Clyde and I are friends, so certainly I am biased on this, but I think he brings something to the telecast. I don’t really listen to him much. He doesn’t do road games and when games are here, I am usually at Toyota Center or working so I skim through the recording the next day and don’t pay attention to the announcing. I know Clyde is very knowledgeable and understands the game better than most. I don’t even know that people criticize him as you say. Not in my circle. My mama likes him, and she knows more about the Rockets than 99 percent of the fans out there. People used to criticize Calvin Murphy to no end, and I thought he was fun on the broadcasts. People love to complain. I don’t care who the announcers are for any of the teams, and I have never complained about any of them that I can recall. I might poke fun when one sounds too homerish, but theirs is not an easy job.

Q. If you have read some of my complaints about Sports Radio 610, you know I come down hard on them for not hiring from the Houston talent pool.  I believe there is more than enough of talent in Houston who actually know the city Gavin Spittle can choose from.  With that being said, are you at all interested in the position vacated by Marc Vandermeer?

A. I am probably not qualified for that position. Of course, I would love to do a local radio show, and think the local program directors have done a terrible job in hiring talent that reflects the community and the listeners. I don’t know why they are reluctant to hire people of color, but since listeners keep listening, they must feel they are doing fine. It is shameful. I don’t think where you are from matters as much as what you know, but 610 seems to hire people who aren’t from here and don’t know much. The station should be called out for not making a legitimate attempt at diversity in its hiring and for putting people on the air who are clueless on a variety of issues, particularly local ones, and worse, aren’t even entertaining. That said, I’m not an announcer, or at least that isn’t my strength. Unless there is some reshuffling, I wouldn’t expect 610 to contact me for that spot. But if the program director doesn’t talk to any other black hosts, he needs to be slapped. Figuratively, of course.



RAPID FIRE
Best Movie? The Godfather
Best Drama series? The Wire/House
Favorite comedian? Richard Pryor
Favorite Hip Hop artist? Public Enemy, but I wouldn’t call them a hip hop group. I don’t have a favorite hip hop artist.
Favorite all time Houston Athlete? Too many to name one.
George Foreman, Ali or Mike Tyson? The baddest, the greatest, the most fun to watch.
Tear down the Astrodome? Yes

Q. You and I had a discussion about the Oilers/Buffalo playoff game.  From what I recall, you were advocating the loss was not as bad some of us make it out to be.  Can you please elaborate on how you feel about 35-3 2nd round playoff game?

A. I don’t think I said it wasn’t bad. I said it wasn’t so bad that Mario Williams shouldn’t have signed with the Bills because of it, which was the crazy point you tried to make. But, while it was embarrassing, it wasn’t like the loss kept the Oilers out of the Super Bowl. It was a wild card game that became epic only because of the collapse. It wasn’t nearly as meaningful a game as the losses to the Steelers in the AFC title games. I laugh every time I think about that game, because my little brother and best friend called at halftime and early in the third quarter and said they had a feeling a collapse was coming. Geniuses, both.

Q. As with all HMW interviews, I would like to extend the opportunity for you to be critical towards HMW.  What are your thoughts about HMW?  Some try to define HMW as everything from bullies to playing the “race card”, do you see any elements of that in our presentation?  Please take this time to be completely open on your thoughts about HMW.

A. I think it is good that you guys have found a way to make some noise in an area that is important to you. So I support that, and would love to see HMW affect change in the market. I don’t get the bully thing, but I do find it funny that you say I sometimes sound like I think I am the smartest guy in the room, when 90 percent of the HMW posts I read sound not only like y’all think y’all are the smartest people in the room, but the only ones in the room. I don’t visit here often enough to give a fair assessment other than to say if people are paying attention to what you’re doing, you must be doing something right.

Jerome, thanks again for your time.  Like I said in my opening passage, I know you guy are extremely busy this time of the year and it means a lot to me you afforded HMW this opportunity to grab some of your thoughts.  Although I may not agree with all of your columns, I can completely get down with a person who don’t feel compel to go with the status qou.  In closing, if we can have the likes of Craig Shemon, Brad Davies and Dylan Gwinn on the air, I think it’s a complete travesty a single station in this town does not have a mic with your name on it.

OUT






LM
hmw_lm@yahoo.com

1 comment:

jaminwesley said...

LM,

Quality post here. I like Jerome, his work makes me think and on occasion so does this blog. Good job. -jamin