Don Van Natta, ESPN investigative reporter

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For the second-straight week, the MTTS welcomes a multi-time Pulitzer Prize winner. This time, we have ESPN.com’s Don Van Natta, who’s won three (!) of those awards. In our chat, we talk about how Van Natta could take notes in the midst of a 165-mph hurricane and then churn out a 1,400-word story that helped his newspaper win the Pulitzer, why he turned to sports writing after so many years as an investigative newshound at the NY Times, how over-reporting can help and hurt his stories, and how an investigative reporter spends his days.

Plus, we recount our experiences trying to report and write separate biographies of Sid Gillman at about the same time, and we talk about how tough the book-writing world can be.

My favorite quote from the podcast on how Van Natta operates: “You have to report with insecurity, and you have to write with overconfidence.”

Interviewed on 12-1-14

Here’s the Comfort Inn/Hurricane Andrew story from the Miami Herald we referenced early in the podcast.

And here’s where to sign up for Van Natta’a weekly Sunday Long Read choices.

Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial cartoonist

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The first Pulitzer Prize winner joins the MTTS, and it’s an honor to have him — particularly since I grew up looking at his fantastic editorial cartoons. In our discussion, we talk about how Luckovich’s brilliance is, in some ways, inspired by fear and procrastination; his daily work schedule (hint: he doesn’t get in to the office until noon (!)); and how long it takes him to get from the genesis of his idea until the last cartoon is colored.

Plus, we discuss why Luckovich likes the image of the pearly gates when he’s drawing a cartoon on a celebrity who’s just died; why people feel comfortable asking him for free drawings; how he deals with cartooning controversy; and how he came up with a cartoon the day of 9/11.

Luckovich’s quote on his job: “I friggin’ still love it.”

Check out some of his work here, including the Lewis Grizzard obit, the 9/11 firefighters reaching the top, and the 2000th soldier dying in Iraq.

Interviewed on 10-10-14

Here’s something similar:

In Episode 17, I talked to Mack Williams, one of the original animators on FX’s Archer. Like my conversation with Luckovich, Williams and I talked about the inspiration that was Mad magazine and we discussed the problems of plagiarism in the cartooning world.

Our Favorite Stories, part 3

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I must say that I love conducting these Our Favorite Stories, and version No. 3 — featuring Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins, MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince and USA Today NFL writer Lindsay Jones — might be the best one so far.

For those who haven’t seen the first two editions of Our Favorite Stories, here’s No. 1 with Scott Michaux, C. Trent Rosecrans, Travis Haney and Marc Lancaster and No. 2 with Paul Dehner, Dan Wetzel and Candace Buckner.

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A quick reminder: I asked the three guests the same five questions.

1) Who is your favorite player/coach to have covered?

2) Who is your least favorite?

3) What’s your favorite story/moment from the road/from the beat?

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4) Who’s your favorite current writer, sports or otherwise?

5) Who’s your all-time favorite writer, sports or otherwise?

You’ve got to hear Calkins’ immense problems covering legendary basketball coach John Calipari (awesome stories contained within), you get to hear about my legendary night in Pittsburgh with Anthony Castrovince in the mid-2000s (and why Castrovince once got the evil eye from Roger Clemens), and why Lindsay Jones draws inspiration from reading the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins and ESPN.com’s Liz Merrill.

Dana Jacobson, CBS Sports TV/radio host

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Dana Jacobson is a star broadcaster. She worked for ESPN for a decade, anchoring SportsCenter and helping transition Cold Pizza into First Take, before leaving a contract on the table and moving over to the CBS property. During our chat, we talk about the CBS Sports Network’s new all-female sports talk show “We Need To Talk” and how she thinks it’ll play to a national audience, how much Jacobson has to fight the perception from some that women don’t know sports, and why anchoring SportsCenter was such a huge deal (“Wow,” Jacobson remembers saying. “I got here.”).

Plus, we talk about how she survived on making $15,000 per year earlier in her career, and what it’s like for her to be a woman on Twitter on a daily basis.

Interviewed on 9-26-14

Here’s something similar:

Jacobson and I talked plenty about women-in-sports-media issues, and in Episode 22, I had a wonderful time talking to pioneering female sports writer Claire Smith. Plus, I asked Jacobson if she senses a rape culture in sports media, a topic first broached by feminist writer Jessica Luther in Episode 45.

My favorite photo of Vince Dooley dressed as a Shakespearean character

The old Red & Black offices at the University of Georgia were wonderful. They certainly weren’t state of the art — no, you had to climb up squeaky stairs just above the coffee shop that chimneyed up wonderful fumes on Sunday mornings, and there were times you felt like the floors below you could collapse at any moment, which totally would have screwed us for deadline — but they were the perfect offices for a bunch of cocky, green college newspapermen and newspaperwomen.

I remember the dusty old couch in the room where the daily story budget meetings were held. I remember looking across the street at Toppers, one of the two local strip clubs in Athens. I remember the concert flyers, the stickers, the inside jokes that were plastered on all the walls. This was a college bar without the booze, a shrine to the Athens of yesterday made by the journalists of today so that when they took their future jobs they could remember the past and smile.

And there was the best wall art of all. It was a photo of Georgia’s legendary coach Vince Dooley, wearing a hat with a feather in it, posing like a stage actor eager to tackle hours of Shakespearean iambic pentameter.

That photo hung on the wall in the sports department, next to the Mac computer that barely connected us with working e-mail in the late 1990s.

No telling how long that photo lived on that wall, but one day in April of 2000, I hatched a plan. I took the picture off that wall and drove to Dooley’s office. I must have had an appointment to interview him — we didn’t have the kind of relationship where I could just drop on by whenever I wanted to chat — and at the end our talk, I pulled out the photo that labeled him Vince “Hamlet” Dooley

He looked at it, laughed, and claimed he didn’t remember posing for it. I believed him, though I also found it hard to believe.

That, I’m sure, is the last time we spoke.

I was reminded of that photo when I read Tanya Sichynsky’s nice piece on Dooley for the R&B as he was set to be honored for the 50th anniversary of his first season in Athens.

So, I went and found it. It, of course, is still glorious.

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After I left the interview, that photo somehow never made it back to the newspaper offices. It never retook its place on the wall along with the old REM stickers and the Asa Nisi Masa concert flyers.

Because after I left Dooley’s office, with the signature of a legend and a personalization to boot, I took it home with me.

That piece of wall in the sports department of the old Red & Black would remain bare. And much like Dooley himself, that spot was never again filled by anything quite as grand.

In my mind’s eye, I think I’m OK with that.

Amber Roessner, author of Inventing Baseball Heroes/media history professor

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My former colleague at the Red & Black student newspaper, Amber Roessner is now a professor of media history at the University of Tennessee, and she’s written a fascinating book, “Inventing Baseball Heroes: Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and the Sporting Press in America”. In our chat, we talk about the future of our industry and how she as a teacher is optimistic about what’s to come, how newspapers played a role in the making of baseball heroes in the early 20th century, and why the relationship between ballplayers and sports writers back then was so chummy.

Plus, we talk about why I’m annoyed by the attitude of long-ago sports writers about protecting the athletes they covered, and we listen to Roessner squirm when I ask her whether those writers were actually any good.

Interviewed on 8-27-14

Here’s something similar:

My first-ever podcast was with Cincinnati Enquirer Reds writer C. Trent Rosecrans. We talked plenty of baseball that day.

Sandy Puc, co-founder/photographer of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

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After an interesting chat with Cheryl Haggard last week, we check in with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep co-founder and photographer Sandy Puc. We get her perspective on why the duo started the foundation, what it was like photographing Cheryl’s son before and after he died, how the thousands of NILMDTS photographers approach each session, and how they proceed through their workn. It’s yet another emotional chat, but it’s also a fantastic talk.

Plus, on a lighter note, we talk about why Sandy decided to get married via an Elvis impersonator and how and why she travels eight months a year, much of the time with her children.

Interviewed on 8-14-14