Saturday, January 26, 2008

ALL-STAR EMAIL Q& A: Greg Logan of Newsday

Newsday did not send a reporter to Atlanta. Blame Tom Coughlin for that - not Greg Logan. Newsday has always had good beat writers on the NYI, but I don't think it's an insult to the other gentlemen or their talents to say there's never been one who fights for the true essense of what a "beat" is than Logan.

I could go on and on with anecdotes about Greg and his professionalism. However, it might say it all that I sent him a half-dozen questions yesterday and, like Richard Park, he refused to just mail it in. As you can tell, Logan took his time, provided thoughtful answers and opened a window to his world you don't often see from ink-stained wretches. He's such a decent guy that even when he rips the Islanders, Garth and I can't bring ourselves to carve him up. I hate that.

I know this is a very open-ended question, but you have been a beat reporter on several major league franchises over three decades. How does covering the Islanders compare?

This is a unique situation in my experience in that it's the first time I've ever been on a beat in which no competing publications travel with the team other than Newsday. There's less pressure in terms of worrying about what story a competitor might develop, but I still try to approach the coverage as I would on any team by writing the timely story and by trying to anticipate breaking news and working to get it to the readers before they find it at a different hockey site on the Internet. As the primary news reporting source on the Islanders, I feel an even stronger obligation to the fans to provide as much information as possible because I sense how much they are relying on Newsday for insight.

On a personal level, my experience on this beat has been one of the most enjoyable times of my career. As a group, hockey players probably are the most accommodating and least pretentious athletes at the professional level. They usually display great understanding of and respect for a reporter's job and how it connects them to the fans. Having come from a situation covering the Knicks that often was highly adversarial, covering the Islanders has come as a breath of fresh air.

To be perfectly honest, the NHL inhabits a smaller universe of interest than the NFL, NBA and MLB. But the Isles occupy a special place on Long Island, and the real fun for me has come in terms of the challenge of trying to rebuild interest in this beat. Over the past two seasons, the Islanders have kept it entertaining on and off the ice, which obviously helps tremendously, and I've taken great satisfaction in watching the readership numbers for the Islanders at Newsday rise dramatically in that time.

Have you ever covered a team where you heard so much from the fans like you do the Islanders diehards?

Nothing in my experience compares to the fan reaction to Islanders coverage. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that all sports reporting is becoming more interactive with the fans via blogs and e-mail. But from Day 1 on this beat, I recognized how much passion was out there waiting to be tapped. I checked the fan Web sites to get a sense of what issues concerned Islanders fans not only in relation to the team but to the coverage of the team as well. If you go back and check the first two blogs I ever wrote on Islanders Beat, I let everyone know my experience with the Islanders dynasty of the past to assure them of my appreciation for the history of this franchise, and then, I promised in the second blog to do what I could to expand coverage of the Islanders. I followed through by taking a different approach with the blog to supplement coverage in the paper with what amounted to full-length articles on a variety of subjects on the blog.

The feedback I've received from the fans has been overwhelmingly positive, and 90 percent of the criticism has been constructive. I consider my relationship with Islanders fans to be a vital part of the job. We're not always going to agree on the issues, but we're going to keep the conversation going and I believe the coverage has responded, in many cases, by attempting to answer the fans' most pressing questions.

Who is the most underrated quote on the Islanders?

This team is full of good quotes, starting from coach Ted Nolan and going to backup goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, whose self-deprecating sense of humor often produces the most lively quotes. There are a lot of players I go to for insight, but if "underrated" means a source of surprisingly good quotes, then I'd have to say Miroslav Satan. I don't go to him enough. Miro has a sly sense of humor, and the game excites him. I'll never forget how animated he was after scoring in the shootout at the end of last season against the Devils.

Marc-Andre Bergeron is another player whose honesty I've appreciated, and the same goes for Chris Campoli. The mainstays who speak for the team, captain Bill Guerin, alternate captains Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt and goaltender Rick DiPietro all have gone out of their way to help as the regular go-to guys, and Richard Park is another who belongs in that category.

Your five favorite athletes, for whatever reasons - talent, charisma, accessibility - that you have covered.

This always is a hard question to answer because I've spent the past 31 years on the East Coast and had the opportunity to meet and cover a lot of the greats in several sports, so I can't limit my list to five names. In terms of the elite athletes I most looked forward to watching, my list in the order I first covered them includes Mike Bossy, Julius Erving, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Montana and Michael Jordan. I've taken part in small group interviews or one-on-ones with all of them. I would include Tiger Woods on the list, but I've only been in large press conference settings with him.

Two of my most memorable interviews were the one I spent with Dr. J at his home in Philadelphia and the one-on-one I had with Ali at his Deer Lake, Pa. training camp when he was getting ready to fight heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, who is another boxer I spent considerable time covering. Although I didn't cover the late tennis player Arthur Ashe during his playing career, I would have to say the two-hour interview I had with him after he underwent his first heart bypass surgery was one of the true highlights of my career. What a tremendous intellect and a great gentleman. He had my highest admiration.

On the beats I've covered for Newsday, my all-time favorite Jet was wide receiver Al Toon, who actually invited me to his retirement party in Wisconsin (I couldn't go to my regret). No one on the Rangers was better to me than John Vanbiesbrouck (I still attend the charity golf tournament he serves as the title celebrity) and Brian Leetch, who called me individually when I covered his retirement announcement last summer. Though they were wildly different personalities, my favorite Knicks to cover were Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. Both were very honest with me off the record, and both took the initiative to introduce themselves to my daughters once when I brought them to practice.

How does the Giants making the Super Bowl affect the Islanders' coverage in Newsday?

The same way it affects Newsday's coverage of everything else. Everything takes a backseat to the Giants. Space in the newspaper shrinks for every other beat unless there's a major story that must be accommodated. Because of the extra space for Super Bowl coverage in the two-week period before the game, the effects actually will result in less space for the sports section in general in succeeding weeks to meet budget demands. In a practical sense, all it really does is eliminate the notebook that often accompanies Islanders game stories.

It appears the paper is driving a lot of hockey coverage to the web, which is sort of good news/bad news. Can you explain the paper's vision?

As new Chicago Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell explained in a recent visit to Newsday, the key to the future of every newspaper in the chain lies in developing the best possible product for the Internet. So, it's not only hockey coverage that is being driven to the web. Soon, the circulation of the newspaper that lands in your driveway every morning won't matter as much as whether the product on the web is driving revenue. Having said that, in the short term, some hockey coverage is going to be online only.

Newspaper space isn't there for a weekly full-page Insider on the Islanders and Rangers comparable to what the Giants, Jets, Yankees and Mets receive. But it's no problem to put just over 1,700 words of content on the Internet, as I did in my Islanders Insider at the All-Star break. Readers just have to know where to look, and Newsday has to make sure it's easy to find on our web site. In the meantime, I can assure Islanders fans that I push for back-page display in the newspaper whenever the opportunity presents itself.

1 comment:

NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Good work as always Mr Botta,

Perhaps Mr Logan would care to explain how come Steve Zipay has at least four all-star blogs on the Rangers and while the Islanders franchise goalie is part of all-star weekend it he's been AWOL while Mr Zipay has the keyboard out for all things Rangers.

Seems to be a contradiction of what he claims about expanding Islander coverage.

Especially when the city papers are providing Ranger centric coverage only today with no Islander blogs.

Thanks again,