The New York Daily News fired longtime Jets beat reporter Manish Mehta Thursday evening. I can feel your eyes glazing over. Yes, this is a media story, about a beat reporter covering a team you and I should’ve long ago resolved to pretend does not exist. I am going to ask you to hang in there for four minutes. Give me four minutes of your attention and then you are free to go.
The Daily News Jets beat has been screwy for some time, in no small part because Mehta is notoriously a confrontational, grandstanding jackass. The Jets made the rare decision to yank Mehta’s credentials in late summer, depriving a longtime noisy fixture at Jets pressers of direct access to the team. The Daily News assigned Mehta’s reporting duties to senior NFL writer Charles McDonald but otherwise kept Mehta on the beat, for reasons passing understanding. This unconventional solution went spectacularly poorly and culminated in McDonald’s earth-scorching resignation last month.
Following his departure, McDonald described in a series of tweets a setup where he attended practices, recorded quotes, and made observations, and then those notes would turn up without attribution in stories published under Mehta’s byline.
The avatarization of McDonald appears to have included Mehta attempting to script confrontational, self-referential questions for McDonald to ask during pressers and interview sessions, in order to ensure that his exact conflicts with the organization continue to be waged even in his absence.
You can’t chuck a stick anywhere within a half-mile of the Jets without it striking a reporter, player, or coach who hates Mehta. The man makes enemies. He once got chewed out on the radio by Muhammad Wilkerson’s mother after Mehta alleged her son had alcohol problems that would be exacerbated by playing in New Orleans. He was credibly accused of running a sock-puppet Twitter account as part of a queasily personal beef with Adam Gase. He is not above sending random taunting messages to people in media who he views as beneath him:
The Daily News announced Thursday that Mehta had been removed from the beat, but that their coverage of the Jets would otherwise go uninterrupted. For a brief time this begged the question of what the hell someone who’d made his name hectoring anyone in the Jets’ orbit for a decade would do for the paper, but Defector was able to confirm that Mehta has, in fact, been fired. His Twitter account has also been deactivated. He will not be missed.