Bradford: The importance of the Kevin Cullen story

Rob Bradford
June 16, 2018 - 11:42 pm

USA Today Sports

Ten years ago Kirk Minihane could be found at the Upper Deck Card Company.

Friday night the guy who was toiling over the "Gretzky Set" at the same time Kevin Cullen was regularly clinking glasses with the Fourth Estate’s upper-crust made us remember why many of us get in this business of journalism. Ironically, it was why Cullen probably initially got into his line of work.

The story Minihane wrote (and told) involving Kevin Cullen was important. The lesson we should learn after the fact should have greater significance.

The Boston Globe officially acknowledged that Minihane’s reporting on the journalistic transgressions by Cullen — many of which involved the horrific tragedy that was the Boston Marathon bombing — had merit. The fingernails were undoubtedly bleeding with every keystroke detailing the Globe’s two-pronged investigation.

But, for me, this isn’t about the Boston Globe. They have their good moments and bad. This isn’t about WEEI. Same goes for us. Newspapers vs. sports talk radio? Not the issue.

This is owning up to the wrong and right, and finally an acknowledgment that both can come from anywhere. Minihane’s work should slap every self-proclaimed journalist in the face with that fact.

When the Globe decided to drop their news that Cullen was receiving a three-month, unpaid suspension early Friday evening I was just getting on the radio and had to pick through it on the fly. It wasn’t difficult, starting with the mere fact that they still think that the strategy of dropping important news just before the start of the weekend (and, in this case, about 59 hours before the Kirk & Callahan Show went back on) was a good idea.

This isn’t 2001.

When outlets publish such things at such times, it might as well have a disclaimer attached. Full disclosure, we had such an instance this year when trying to publish Alex Reimer’s apology. As happens with these sort of things, the timeline got slowed down exponentially by the vetting system, leaving us to unintentionally drop it at 5 p.m. Friday. But even though that was not the plan, the timestamp being what it is, I understood we would have to own the “news dump” label.

There were plenty of other elements of the Globe explanation that made for uneasiness. Relatively early in the post they took the time to cite how many people interviewed praised Cullen. Eleven paragraphs later they dropped the fact he had grossly misrepresented facts about his Boston Marathon due to alcohol consumption. The priorities in that respect seemed out of whack. We could go on.

That story is what it is. It will continue to be put under the microscope in the coming days.

The point I want to make is this: Everyone needs to get off their high-horse and realize there is a right and there is a wrong, and it's time to take ownership of one or the other. What Cullen did was wrong. Really wrong. And if it wasn’t for the work of a former English teacher, aspiring screenwriter, one-time fantasy sports writer and now successful radio host, one of the largest newspaper's marquee columnists would still be doing business as usual, living in a bubble that shouldn’t exist.

There have been some who didn’t want to acknowledge Minihane’s reporting on this because he is a host on sports radio. That is his, and our, cross to bear. Sports talk radio is built on opinion and entertainment, with facts not necessarily being the priority. That’s just how it is. (Kirk can miss the mark, such as when he attempts to evaluate my talents. It happens.) When players complain about what is said on the radio I explain to them that radio talkers are not going to be judged on the information delivered as much as how engaging they are when delivering it. That’s just a reality.

So when a radio host does break news, it is often times looked at with a wary eye, or certainly not in the same light as if the identical report was published in print. That’s our lot in life. Radio has lived in much more of an “Oh well” world than print journalism, and that’s why it was so easy for some to discredit Minihane. 

Ironically, that “Oh well” world has extended across all platforms. Radio. TV. And newspapers. Want proof? Didn’t Cullen and the Globe give you a pretty big dose of it?

In some cases, such as when David Portnoy of Barstool Sports tweets out that Gronk might get traded, but not to blame him if he's wrong, it is part of the deal. We shouldn't blame Portnoy for taking such a fail-safe tact. This is the world his organization lives in, and we should accept that. They don't pretend to be something else. The Globe, it does pretend to be something different. It takes great pains to make sure that they aren't viewed as another of the "Oh well" crew.

But despite the investigations and suspensions, that's exactly what the Globe is. And Minihane proved it by not falling into the prevailing attitude and approach. He did his due diligence.

This should have been a wake-up call. These days, important journalism can, and should, come from anywhere. Sorry Boston Globe.

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