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New Editor, Controversial Sports Writer -- What More Could You Want (To Be Outraged By)? 

Wednesday, Mar 25 2015
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I've told this story before, so stop me if you've heard it. It was 1996 and I was sitting in my office at Rolling Stone. Hunter S. Thompson was in town celebrating the 25th anniversary of his wild and lysergic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I was busy trying to wrap up the latest issue. He was partying with staffers and others in a nearby conference room. I opted out.

At some point, a loud pounding rattled the glass window of my office. I looked up. It was Thompson, plastic baseball bat in hand, yelling for me to come to the party. That was the moment I realized the implications of being at the storied Rolling Stone. I also realized that the Rolling Stone of 1996 was very different from the Rolling Stone of 1971. It was safer — a plastic bat instead of a solid Louisville Slugger. It was more politically correct. In some ways, it was better, nicer, more thoughtful, more considerate. But it wasn't as gonzo.

Gonzo was important. It could validate your worldview; make you wanna holler, throw up both your hands; make you squirm, shudder, be totally and completely outraged. All in one article. Maybe even in one paragraph or sentence.

Let me back up and introduce myself: I'm the new editor of SF Weekly. I've been here a couple of months already, but I wanted to take this time to say hello and offer some of my thoughts on journalism and writers and papers and websites. We're going to be doing bold things here. We're going to be doing things you may like, things you may hate, and things you may be neutral about. Frankly, we'd rather you like them or hate them.

I told the story about Thompson not because we plan to return to some old ideas about gonzo journalism, but because we're going to try to dust off the spirit of gonzo now and then and do things that haven't been done in a while — maybe never. Because if there was one thing about gonzo journalism in its prime, it's that it was never boring. Thompson was a mess, but he was never dull.

Which leads me to the guy on the cover of this issue: sports writer Jay Mariotti. He's a friggin' lightning rod, hated by some, loved by others. He's become a pariah in some quarters, and a cause célèbre to those who think he's been treated unfairly.

Beginning this week, Mariotti will be bringing his own special kind of sports gonzo to SF Weekly occasionally, and to our sister publication, the Examiner, more than occasionally.

We think you're going to read him, whether you like him or not.

Here's the deal: Of course we know about Mariotti's troubled legal history. We know he was accused of domestic violence and that he pleaded "no contest" and got probation for it. But we didn't bring Mariotti here to write about domestic violence. We brought him here to write about sports. And he's a terrific sports writer.

SF Weekly's mission in this city is to uncover heinous crimes and corrupt leaders; to write about food, arts, music, and cultural issues in ways that hopefully give you different perspectives. No holds barred. Mariotti's sports writing will give you a different perspective. His story in this particular issue will give you a different perspective — on him.

I have no idea what happened between Mariotti and his former girlfriend, and neither do you, unless you are him or her. No web story has given me any more insight on what happened than what court documents already say (although lots of stories have given me great insight on the writers of the stories). It's no secret that in the digital age we try and convict people online and not in the legal system. Mariotti says he's not guilty. He'll tell you why.

Is it bold to bring Mariotti to this company because he was accused of some shitty crimes? No, that's not what's bold about it. That was a decision higher-ups in the company made after lots of conversations with him, and they trusted what they heard. What's bold is that, in spite of this, we decided to bring to the Bay Area's sports scene an excellent writer with a voice that's singular in ways not unlike maverick voices from the past, such as Hunter S. Thompson's.

As for you: Read Mariotti's story this issue. Tell us what you think. Fire away. Seriously. We can take it. We'll likely be lobbing more lightning bolts your way.


About The Author

Mark Segal Kemp

Mark Segal Kemp

Mark Segal Kemp is SF Weekly's former Editor and the author of a book called Dixie Lullaby, as his tinge of a southern accent will attest.

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