Journalism free agency news of Bulls fans interest today: K.C. Johnson, longtime beat reporter covering the team, is leaving the Chicago Tribune after 29 years (the last 19 full-time on the Bulls beat) to go work for NBC Sports Chicago.
NBC Sports Chicago is the sole TV provider for Bulls games this season, and is 50% owned by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf (technically will be soon, after the Chicago Cubs divest from the network after this baseball season).
So we can all retire the jokes about KC being in the pocket of the team!
KC is a friend of the site, but I don’t care about his well-being relative to how this affects overall coverage of the team. Sam Smith went from the Trib to Bulls.com going on ten years now, and though there is a giant disclaimer on every piece about editorial influence and whatnot it’s inescapable that he’s no longer providing independent coverage.
Previous “Insiders” for the network were Vincent Goodwill and Aggrey Sam. Whether KC will still provide breaking news and inside information working for a Bulls partner remains to be seen, and if it happens there won’t be some kind of embargo, more that I suppose we’ll just have to interpret it through a more skeptical lens. Or Johnson will stick to analysis and game coverage - something he’s adequate at but no Stephen Noh! - on NBCSChi’s various platforms (including daily “SLEEPING ON US” memes from their Twitter account?). It was announced earlier this summer that Mark Schanowski would see reduced duties at the network, though unclear if KC is not only stepping in for Schanowski’s website content but also driving the pre/post show (which, all things considered as team-funded coverage, was pretty good!)?
[AND WHERE IS THE NEIL FUNK RETIREMENT ANNOUNCEMENT ALREADY!?!??]
I haven’t seen any rumor on what the Tribune plans to do with Bulls coverage this season. They encountered something similar recently with both the White Sox and Blackhawks and were slow to fill those roles but eventually did.
So I think the only full-time independent beat writer for the team is Darnell Mayberry at The Athletic? Mike McGraw (Daily Herald) doesn’t go on the road. Malika Andrews (ESPN.com) is what Zach Lowe accurately calls “The Bulls suck beat” meaning she covers the Milwaukee Bucks more often as a regional assignment (Update: reports are that there will be a new person for this job, but it’s the same beat). Joe Cowley (Sun-Times) is a punchline.
We can debate the existential purpose of “full-time independent beat reporter” in the year of our GarPax 2019, but put simply: I believe less is worse.