Sunday, June 05, 2005

Writing the tough one

Normally the more people you interview when your working on a story, the more clear the subject/topic becomes. At least that's what they teach you in journalism school. Sometimes that simply isn't the case.

I just completed a very complex story on a man name William "Wes" Wesley. The roots of this story started more than a year ago when I started noticing Wes around the Cavaliers and especially LeBron James.

Well, I was very late in picking this up, he'd been around LeBron for years and the Cavs, too. Recently, though, I have been hearing lots and lots of things about Wes. Especially when I was learning about why LeBron dropped his agent, Aaron Goodwin. Then I learned that he helped Cavs owner Dan Gilbert get in touch with Larry Brown, a story we all know very, very well by now.

Last week, the Detroit News did an interesting piece on Wes, groundbreaking really, and I felt compelled to follow it up. It has become clear to me that he's an important figure in the Cavaliers realm and someone that fans should know about. Though I'll bet he and the team disagrees.

It was hard to know how to go about it. There have not been many stories written about men like Wes, dealmakers and connectors, the guys who work deep in a word of famous faces and millions of dollars. Most of my colleagues have never written a story about a guy like Wes. My editors didn't even know how to define the story, they were trusting me

So I started talking to people and making calls, the ones who returned them. I talked and talked and wrote and wrote. For days I talked to people about Wes and listened crazy and amazing stories, too many rumors to count, and lots of opinions. I mean lots. To give you an example, I was told he was everything from a "broke-ass street hustler" to a person who "when he goes to heaven, he'll be called to the front of the line by St. Peter because he knows him." See what I mean by complex?

I struggled to decided what to write, what I could prove, what I should throw out, what I should ignore. Mostly, it was hard to define him because when I asked people to do that, I got dozens of different answers.

The thing is, most of the people I talked to didn't want to go on the record about it. I learned very quickly that he's a powerful person, at least when it comes to influence and connections. Some people wanted me to rip him in the story, some wanted me to praise him. In the end, neither side was probably happy with how it turned out.

My guess is that Gilbert didn't like what he saw or Wes or others mentioned in the story. I think there will probably some fallout for me for delving into this area, which has been ignored by the media for some time. I expect to take lots of heat from some and perhaps even some praise from others. But that is the journalism business.

In the end, my opinion is that Wes is probably a very dynamic person. He is excellent at what he does and he is respected as a trusted friend by many people, many high-profile people, many smart people. He probably helps people make tough decisions but also is there to help them in tough times.

But like all of us, he needs and wants money, too. People told me he has a big heart, but he isn't doing his out of the goodness of his heart. He knows people, he gets them together. If those people make a deal, he probably gets a cut. This happens in every industry, it just sometimes happens more out in the open. In the NBA, where there are billions to be split up, everyone looks for their share.

Those of us that cover the NBA worry about more than what is on the court, we try to report on everything we can that affects what happens on the court. That means free agents, coaching searches and people that determine major decisions. In my research, I've learned Wes' has influence so I tried to tell the story of why and how.

With so many murky details, some reporters might've steered clear of this story, perhaps I'll wish I had. This was far from a complete piece, I know. But it won't be the last words or the most important written about Wes, I am sure of that.

Take care,
Brian
bwindhor@thebeaconjournal.com