Newspaper editor on website that scooped it: don't trust them, we're the pros!

It's bloggers vs. newspapers time again! And on this occasion, we have the special soupçons of access-dependent local sportswriters, deranged editors, and Gawker's well-tuned nose for drama.

On February 12, Deadspin broke the details of an incredible scandal: Toledo running coach Kevin Hadsell had a bad habit of bullying, threatening and banging his students. The site reported that university and government officials were uncooperative, and insinuated that the coach was trying to get a more sympathetic story placed in The Toledo Blade.

Dated February 13 (but published online only 5 hours after Deadspin's item), the Toledo Blade runs its own story, clearly written with the voluble cooperation of officials that Deadspin could not get on the record. The first two paragraphs offer praise for the coach; the rest fades to a relatively short detour through some, but not all, of the dirty details exposed by Deadspin.

Perhaps that should have been it, a quiet illustration of the ties that bind sports programs and local media. Roused by the sleepless vanguard of his own frustrations, though, the Toledo Blade's managing editor, Dave Murray, could not resist lashing out.

As she is quoted as saying in the story Ms. Kertesz [a victim named by the Blade but not Deadspin] felt it was important for her to expose Hadsell's improper behavior to protect other UT athletes. The difference between the coverage of this story by The Blade and Deadspin is that Autullo is a professional journalist who has named sources and you can believe what he reports.
Deadspin's reporter, Doug Brown, said they kept Kertesz's anonymity at her request, and opined on Twitter that "it’s kind of fucked up what they did, didn’t challenge the coach at all or talk to more people; just used his side w/o question". The Blade's reporter, Ryan Autillo, punched back:
If Deadspin reporter on Hadsell was as inaccurate in his reporting as in his Twitter insults of me/Blade, you shouldn't believe a word. ... Also, based on his timeline he desperately wants everyone to know he wrote this piece. #youarentthestory

Tim Mullin, writing at Romenesko, seeks to explain Autillo's defensiveness, Brown's knife-twisting, and Murray's witless spite.

Deadspin really breaks the unspoken, but long-standing tradition that sports reporters only cover what goes on between the lines. ... Sports reporters are totally dependent on those institutions for credentials and access. Unlike government and public safety, there’s really no pressing claim on the public’s right to know. So, sports reporters and editors are willing to put up with rules and restrictions that no other journalists would tolerate….and a lot of those rules are unwritten.


  1. I don’t really have anything to add here.  But since you used the word, soupçons, I just have to send some love. 

      1. I still have the capacity to feel for the people around me. But I am running out of capacity to feel outrage over high-school and college jocks and their coaches getting away with rape and assault. Since no prosecutor will prosecute, and those prosecutors keep getting re-elected; since no jury convicts on the rare occasions that cases are so egregious that they do make it into a courtroom? I have concluded that only a cranky handful of us aren’t okay with this, that we as a society have decided that sufficiently successful athletes get a window in life, from around age 15 to age 25, when they can commit as much rape and other mayhem as they want; by extension, we grant the same right to their coaches. I can’t change the culture, and I’m exhausted from chronic outrage, so, yeah … yawn.

        1. It’s been quite the week for dysfunctional institutions: the LAPD, the Roman Catholic Church, college sports programmes. I can understand the despair over their ever changing or being changed by a society that seems to give them free passes. Even the whistle-blowers seem exhausted.

  2. “So, sports reporters and editors are willing to put up with rules and restrictions that no other journalists would tolerate….and a lot of those rules are unwritten”

    In Scottish Football, this is called “succulent lamb journalism” after a famously   obsequious article, fulsome in its praise of a club’s plans and the meal the club gave to the writer.

    Despite that article being 14 years old now the phrase and the scandal lives on, with the same journalist in the spotlight this week for passing articles to club owners for prior approval.

  3. No, it’s worse.   They’re complicit in covering up the worst of the crap and making dirtbags into ‘heroes.’   You look at Eddie DeBartolo’s history.  Not the BS the bought-and-paid-for press will tell you, but his history of assulting fans of other teams, the attempted rape of Regina Baross (covered up with help of Carmen ‘Attorney for Mobsters’ Policy, Dwight Clarke and Tom Rathman), his alcoholism, his other stupidity…

    And yet read the press, and he’s a Saint because Walsh, not DeBartolo, built the 49ers into a great organization.

  4. “The difference between the coverage of this story by The Blade and Deadspin is that The Blade does not cover sports stories, it simply regurgitates the PR that it is generously given.”


  5. So, the way I read this, ‘sports reporters’ aren’t actually journalists, but are instead outside PR writers for the sports-entertainment industry. Good to know.

  6. Mullin’s article doesn’t exactly line up with my recollection of how sports reporters worked: very often they didn’t give a damn about biting the hand the fed them, more so that reporters on other beats. Every reporter was dependent on credentials and access, but I found the sports guys to be more willing to risk them and take an aggressive stance I wished other beat reporters did.

    That said, their criticisms had more to do with idiotic decisions by team managers and coaches, sub-par performance by the athletes, and the avarice and arrogant incompetence of team owners than it did about higher-stakes issues like sexual harassment and criminal-level corruption. And maybe it was just the reporters I worked with, who were older established guys working in a large market. I do remember there was one sports reporter at a rival outlet they never tired of mocking for the sloppy wet kisses and softball questions he gave to anyone whose team gave him access, but I figured he was an exception.

    In any case, Brown is correct: a professional journalist (which Autullo and Brown both are, being paid to write) not only respects the wishes of his sources regarding anonymity when possible but also attempts to get all sides of the story, not just the side of those that your access gatekeepers who will go on record want to present. I understand the defensiveness of those working in a distressed industry like newspapers, but in 2013 the idea that putting one’s story on newsprint instead of pixels makes it more valid journalism is a bit silly.

    1. Mullin’s article doesn’t exactly line up with my recollection of how sports reporters worked

      It would likely be very different if you lived in NYC/ LA/ SF or anywhere that had something going on besides sports. In places like Ohio, local teams are often a central defining factor in civic and personal identity. If all that you have besides your shitty factory job or your unemployment check is a very successful high school football team, your priorities can get pretty bent.

    1. My problem with the Manti Te’o story was that they DIDN’T get Manti’s side, and presented it like he was complicit with the girlfriend hoax.  Since the story broke, absolutely no evidence has surfaced to support that.

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