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.