MEDIA WATCH: Nothing on the ETSU coaching search for two days

Marky Billson
4 min readMay 4, 2020

This really isn’t a good look for local Tri-Cities newspapers. Or ETSU, for that matter.

On Saturday, Jon Rothstein, a college basketball reporter for, reported ETSU interim head men’s basketball coach Jason Shay had interviewed for the position full-time.

But you wouldn’t know that from the local newspapers.

For the second straight day, the Johnson City Press and the Bristol Herald-Courier’s website have ignored the ETSU men’s basketball coaching search.

Not even a blurb that “Jon Rothstein of reports Shay interviewed.”

Frankly, there are few stories that will occur in the Tri-Cities that are bigger than the ETSU men’s basketball coaching search. The future of the only local team that could possibly have any sort of a national interest is at stake.

Instead, the Press’ ETSU beat writer is penning features about his dog.

Above the fold, the headline piece is on the history of Science Hill basketball.

Frankly, this content digs up old wounds for ETSU fans. Seeing historical pieces on Hilltoppers basketball- in May no less- and ignoring one of the few local stories that will ever have a national interest recalls difficult days when local high school basketball coverage dwarfed that of ETSU hoops.

For instance, in the mid-1990s, an era without internet broadcasting, it wasn’t uncommon for then-flagship WJCW to pre-empt radio broadcasts of the Buccaneers to air high school games. It took ETSU athletic director Keener Fry to changed flagship stations for a year in retaliation for the practice to be halted.

Even Sports Talk, a bi-weekly sports newspaper then-published by longtime ETSU play-by-play broadcaster Chip Kessler, chose Science Hill basketball coach George Pitts instead of ETSU legend Keith “Mister” Jennings as their Local Sports Person of the 1990s.

Seeing the Hilltoppers of old romanticized while ignoring the local sports story of the year just makes the Tri-Cities seem so townie.

Admittedly historical pieces or human interest stories are almost always written ahead of time for Sunday or Monday’s publication.

But should that trump analysis and coverage of what is going on now?