Articles about "Deadspin"


Cue the outcry — more big Twitter changes on the way

mediawiremorningFriday. Good morning (or good evening, if you’re reading this at night). Andrew Beaujon is back next week.

  1. Let’s freak out about Twitter changes: Sayeth Twitter: “in many cases, the best Tweets come from people you already know, or know of. But there are times when you might miss out on Tweets we think you’d enjoy.” Noooooooo! (Twitter) | Stuart Dredge weighs in: “The difference between the two social networks is that Facebook is taking stories out of its news feed – it prioritises around 300 a day out of a possible 1,500 for the average user – while Twitter is only adding tweets in. For now, at least.” (The Guardian) | Previously: I wrote about the Facebookification of Twitter and the Twitterfication of Facebook. (Poynter)
  2. More Twitter changes: Now with audio! “Notably, Twitter is teaming up with Apple to let users listen to certain tracks and buy the music directly from the iTunes store,” Yoree Koh reports. Twitter is also partnering with Soundcloud. (Wall Street Journal) | “Throughout your listening experience, you can dock the Audio Card and keep listening as you continue to browse inside the Twitter app,” product manager Richard Slatter writes in a blog post. (Twitter)
  3. The media kinda sucks at covering Ebola: Just look at how it covered #ClipboardMan, Arielle Duhaime-Ross writes. (The Verge)
  4. Liberian media really sucks at covering Ebola: The Daily Observer newspaper “has become a feeding ground of phony conspiracy,” Terrence McCoy reports. “The top three news stories on the website all allege medical professionals purposely infected the country with Ebola, ideas that have drawn the conspiratorial from across the planet.” The bad journalism is leading to a debate over press freedom in the country. (Washington Post) | From yesterday: The BBC is using WhatsApp to spread accurate information about the virus in Africa. (
  5. Correction of the week: Deadspin retracted its story claiming U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner didn’t actually play high school football, as he claimed, after the primary source changed his mind. “As serial collectors of media fuck-ups, we add this self-portrait to the gallery,” editor Tommy Craggs writes. (Deadspin) | Earlier, Craggs told Erik Wemple, “If you’re looking for someone to blame here, blame me for getting way too cocky about my site’s ability to prove a negative.” (Washington Post)
  6. Whisper vs. The Guardian: A damning report in The Guardian on Thursday claimed Whisper, “the social media app that promises users anonymity and claims to be ‘the safest place on the internet’, is tracking the location of its users, including some who have specifically asked not to be followed.” (The Guardian) | Whisper editor-in-chief Neetzan Zimmerman angrily denied the report, and wrote on Twitter that the piece “is lousy with falsehoods, and we will be debunking them all.” (Washington Post) | Here’s a good explainer from Carmel DeAmicis: “The two sides disagree over what constitutes ‘personally identifiable information,’ whether rough location data tied to a user’s previous activity could expose someone.” (Gigaom) | And here’s a take from Mathew Ingram, who says Whisper’s problem is that it “wants to be both an anonymous app and a news entity at the same time.” (Gigaom)
  7. American journalists detained in Russia: Joe Bergantino, co-founder of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, and Randy Covington, a professor at the University of South Carolina, are in Russia to teach an investigative journalism workshop. They were found guilty of “violating the visa regime” and will return to the U.S. on Saturday as scheduled. “Russian authorities have used visa issues in the past as a pretext to bar the entry for certain individuals to the country,” Nataliya Vasilyeva reports. (AP via ABC News)
  8. Good times at High Times: Subscriptions and advertising pages are growing for “the magazine about all things marijuana” as it celebrates its 40th birthday. Dan Skye, High Times’ editorial director, tells Michael Sebastian, “I think the legalization has everything to do with the boom.” (Ad Age)
  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare: The Daily News (see it at the Newseum).NY_DN
  10. No job moves today: Benjamin Mullin has the day off. But be sure to visit Poynter’s jobs site. Happy weekend!

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Connor Schell, Bill Simmons

ESPN ‘frees’ Bill Simmons, but will he seek more freedom elsewhere?

mediawiremorningIt’s Wednesday. That means you get 10 media stories.

  1. Freed Simmons: ESPN’s Bill Simmons returns to the network today after his three-week suspension “for calling N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell a ‘liar’ during a podcast, and then effectively daring ESPN to punish him.” His contract expires next fall, Jonathan Mahler and Richard Sandomir report. Will he leave? (New York Times) | Deadspin would take him. (Deadspin) | Previously: At the time of the suspension, Kelly McBride wrote, “when your biggest star declares himself above his newsroom’s standards, the boss has to respond.” (Poynter)
  2. Oops — ABC News didn’t beat NBC after all: Two weeks ago, Nielsen reported that ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped “NBC Nightly News” for the first time in 260 weeks. But it turns out NBC actually kept its streak alive thanks to revised ratings after Nielsen discovered inaccuracies, Bill Carter reports. (New York Times)
  3. How Time is getting all that traffic: “Time, together with sister site Money, published at least five different pieces” on the day the cable channel FXX began its marathon of “The Simpsons.” Joseph Lichterman takes a deep look at how Time is engaging its audience — and how it has more than doubled its unique visitors in a year. (Nieman Lab) | Previously:’s bounce rate down 15 percentage points since adopting continuous scroll (Poynter)
  4. AP’s Gannon speaks: “Honestly, I’ve thought it through so many times — I know neither Anja or I would have done anything differently,” says AP correspondent Kathy Gannon in her first interview since she and photographer Anja Niedringhaus were attacked in Afghanistan in April. Niedringhaus was killed, and Gannon “was hit with six bullets that ripped through her left arm, right hand and left shoulder, shattering her shoulder blade.” (Poynter)
  5. Layoffs at CNN, Conde Nast: CNN has closed its entertainment news division, and shows including Christiane Amanpour’s have lost their production staffs, Alex Weprin reports. (Capital New York) Meanwhile, “Condé Nast is expected to lay off 70 to 80 employees within the next week or two, primarily from the group that oversees ad sales,” writes Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. (Wall Street Journal)
  6. Baltimore Sun redesign: A Los Angeles-times style redesign comes to another Tribune newspaper. Among the advantages, writes executive editor Trif Alatzas: “Endless-scroll technology connects you to other news categories and related articles and images without page breaks at the end of an article or Web page.” (Baltimore Sun) | Previously: New L.A. Times site: precooked tweets and a new flavor of infinite scroll (Poynter) | How news sites are adding continuous scrolls to article pages (Poynter)
  7. Vox’s email newsletter debuts today: One differentiator: It’ll be sent in the evening, not the morning. And it’ll consist of, uh, “sentences.” (Nieman Lab)
  8. ICYMI: The South Florida Sun Sentinel is reducing its emphasis on print, and that means changing things beyond workflow: “It’s our language, how we talk,” associate editor Anne Vasquez told Kristen Hare. For instance, “‘That was a great paper today’ or ‘Write that story for 1A.’” (Poynter)
  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare: The final edition of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, “one of the most venerable, staunchly independent, and defiantly weird of America’s great alternative weekly newspapers,” as Slate’s Will Oremus describes it.
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Justin Bank is deputy editor of audience development at The New York Times. Previously, he ran The Washington Post’s audience and digital news team. (The New York Times) | Dao Nguyen is now BuzzFeed’s publisher. Previously, she was vice president of growth and data there. (Poynter) | Michael Dimock has been named president of the Pew Research Center. Previously, he was executive vice president there. (Politico) | Tessa Gould is senior director of native advertising at The Huffington Post. Previously, she was director of HuffPost’s partner studio. (Huffington Post) | Kevin Gentzel has been named head of advertising sales for Yahoo. Previously, he was chief revenue officer for The Washington Post. (Poynter) | Peter Cooper will be the writer and editor for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He’s a music columnist for The Tennessean. (The Tennessean) | Sean Kelley will be managing editor of Cooking Light. Previously, he was director of content and video for Sharecare. Katie Barreira will be director of Cooking Light Kitchen. Previously, she was food editor of Every Day with Rachael Ray. (Fishbowl NY) | Job of the day: GoLocalPDX is looking for an investigative reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

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How Apple prevents journalists ‘from asking really hard questions’

mediawiremorningGood morning. Jeez, my phone suddenly seems so dated and useless. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. What it’s like to cover an Apple event “The formula at these events is often the same: Apple invites select members of the press, who come and get their hands on the products and then write breathless stories filled with technical jargon and high-resolution photos. But this one was different. Gizmodo, for example, a publication previously banned for leaking photos of the iPhone 4 before its launch, was invited.” (BuzzFeed) |
    “You have to be able to control the journalist and prevent them from asking really hard questions,” a “source close to Apple’s international PR team” tells Patrick Coffee. (PRNewser, via Valleywag)
  2. One more battery to worry about: The new Apple watch is “a big deal.” (The Atlantic) | “this is by FAR the richest, deepest, most elaborate smartwatch OS ever” (@Pogue) | “Apple Gets Intimate.” (Medium) | “In other words, Apple hasn’t solved the basic smartwatch dilemma, which is that smart watches use up far more energy than dumb watches, and that there’s nowhere to store that much energy in something the size of a watch.” (Felix Salmon) | Design note: Apple made a new typeface for the watch. (The Verge) | Oh yeah, the phone: “the true media news may be that the iPhones’ larger screen sizes stand to help publishers better weather the transition to mobile, where advertising rates have been inherently lower than on desktops.” (Digiday)
  3. The Internet will be “slow” today: “Twitter, Netflix and Reddit will take part in an ‘internet slowdown’ protest in favour of net neutrality on Wednesday.” (BBC News) | “Slowdown Day will not feature any actual slowing down of the Internet.” (WP) | A proposed “Internet fast lane” means sites “including journalistic websites and start-up companies that could compete with established web services—could be slow to load, even as our expectations for loading speed leap ahead in the coming years.” (EFF) | Note: Don’t make a joke about your CMS.
  4. Politico partners with Axel Springer to launch European edition: The German publisher “shares our obsession with building media companies that produce and can sustain nonpartisan journalistic excellence,” Jim VandeHei and John Harris write in a memo to staff. (Poynter) | ” It is still unclear who will lead the effort.” (HuffPost) | OK, but what happened to Rick Berke? “Politico’s management was reportedly planning to hand over greater authority to Berke, but for unclear reasons that plan never took effect.” (WP)
  5. TMZ, considered: “There are a lot of stories on which TMZ absolutely eats our lunch,” Deadspin Editor Tommy Craggs tells Jonathan Mahler. “They have more money and better resources, and when they want to be, they’re every bit as gutsy as we like to think we are.” (NYT) | ICYMI: Anne Helen Petersen‘s “Down And Dirty History Of TMZ” (BuzzFeed)
  6. Fight this generation: Ben Schreckinger writes about the plague of trend pieces about millennials, many of which, he notes, are written by older people: “older pundits don’t really want to understand us anyways; they want to tell us who we are, and receive validation in return—in the form of votes, or book sales or acknowledgement of their moral superiority.” (Politico Magazine)
  7. Strongly, on a panel, a Times journalist speaks: “Our citizens are now being doomed by the policy of what Europe does,” New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi told a crowd at Columbia last night, referring to the fact that many European nations pay ransoms for their kidnapped citizens. “I’ve yet to see an American offical stand up and actually name the European countries that do this.” (Capital) | Callimachi wrote in July about how “Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe.” (NYT) | Poynter’s vast Rukmini Callimachi archives: “The mistake a lot of foreign correspondents make is they get wrapped up in reporting what they think sounds important rather than what interests people.” (March 2013) | How she kept breaking stories from a trove of Qaida documents she dug out of an abandoned building in Timbuktu (May 2013) | That time she dug up bodies in the desert. (December 2013)
  8. CJR destroys clickbait headlines: You can write good headlines for the Web without resorting to “come-hither pitches that overpromise on stories that underdeliver,” Michael Driscoll writes. (CJR) | FREEKY FLASHBACK: Remember when we complained about SEO-optimized headlines? (Slate) | Related: “Let’s start using clickbait for good” (Poynter)
  9. Today’s front page, selected by Kristen Hare: An Austrian supermoon from Kleine Zeitung. (Courtesy the Newseum.)


  10. Job moves, by Benjamin Mullin: Kim Kelleher is now publisher of Wired. She was president of Say Media. (Condé Nast) | Jeremy Colfer is now head of video for The Hollywood Reporter. He was senior producer for branded content at Sundance TV. (The Hollywood Reporter) | Andy Bush is now senior vice president of global accounts at Time Inc. Previously, he was international publisher of Time magazine and Fortune. (Time Inc.) | Carly Holden is now communications director at GQ. Previously, she was a public relations manager at W. (email) | John Woodrow Cox is a metro enterprise reporter at The Washington Post. Previously, he was a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times. (@JohnWoodrowCox) | Job of the day: The Washington Post is looking for a fact-checking reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

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Britain NSA Surveillance

Obama administration knew in advance about destruction of Guardian’s hard drives

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories. Want more roundups? We got ‘em! From Sam Kirkland: “Why are so many news organizations still worried about retweets by staffers?” From Kristen Hare: “Chinese journalists get a warning; press freedoms halt in South Sudan.”

  1. Obama administration knew British government planned to force Guardian to destroy hard drives with Snowden docs: AP scores emails with a FOIA request. “‘Good news, at least on this front,’ the current NSA deputy director, Richard Ledgett, said at the end of a short, censored email to then-NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander and others. The subject of that July 19, 2013, email was: ‘Guardian data being destroyed.’” (AP) | FLASHBACK: Video of Guardian editors destroying hard drives while technicians from the Brtitish intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) watched. (The Guardian)
  2. More Canadian papers close: Torstar’s Star Media Group will close Metro papers in Regina, Saskatchewan; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and London, Ontario. 25 positions will go. (Financial Post) | Metro will still have papers in seven other Canadian cities and online editions in four more. Star Media Group President John Cruickshank: “This decision does not reflect any change in our commitment to Metro’s future, both in print in larger markets and in digital in all markets.” (The Canadian Press) | Earlier this month: Torstar shut down Toronto magazine The Grid. “The media landscape continues to be impossible for a start-up,” its editor-in-chief said. (Toronto Star) | “The Grid was not a startup.” (Craig Silverman)
  3. The smoking gun? “The last two Twitter accounts that the official @TeamLeBron account followed? @ohiodotcom and @AkronBeacon.” (@EliLanger) | “Twitter feed sprinkled with reporters landing in Gaza and Cleveland.” (@MickiMaynard) | Related: Nike paid for Benjamin Markovits to write a story about LeBron James. Then it had the piece killed. (Deadspin)
  4. George Clooney racks up another USA Today byline: He does not accept the Daily Mail’s apology. “[E]ither they were lying originally or they’re lying now.” (USA Today)
  5. Madison’s Isthmus changes hands: Former Onion executives Jeff Haupt and Craig Bartlet teamed with former Green Bay Packers lineman Mark Tauscher to buy Madison, Wisconsin, alt-weekly Isthmus. (Wisconsin State Journal) | Former Isthmus owner Vince O’Hern: “I die a little bit when I think of the large part of my life that I leave behind.” (Isthmus) | “Long live the publication with the funny name.” (Isthmus)
  6. Retweets aren’t endorsements at NYT: “I think Twitter users by now understand that a retweet involves sharing or pointing something out, not necessarily advocating or endorsing,” Times standards editor Philip Corbett says. (Poynter) | “Are NPR, the AP, and Reuters’s editorial reputations really so fragile that a 140-character tweet or retweet by a staffer can blow the whole thing down?” (Reuters)
  7. Don’t expect any reality shows about being a TV critic: “Some jobs are just too hideous to contemplate,” Mike Rowe says. (Capital)
  8. How hotels ditching print newspapers affects the recycling industry: “For every major hotel chain that made these changes, it would be like eradicating newspapers from a city like Akron, Ohio, Tacoma, Wash., Birmingham, Ala. or Des Moines, Iowa.” (Waste360)
  9. MSM Weed Watch: Here’s a very good interactive guide to medical marijuana strains. (Los Angeles Times) | “Like any great accessory, a flashy vaporizer pen can be a conversation starter.” (The New York Times) | Man featured on front page purchasing pot legally says he’s losing his job (The Spokesman Review, via Jim Romenesko)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Julia Rubin will join, a fashion website. She was formerly online features editor for Teen Vogue. (@juliarubin) | Johana Bhuiyan will be a tech reporter at Buzzfeed. She was a digital media reporter at Capital New York. (Muck Rack) | Rick Green is managing editor for Bloomberg Industries. Formerly, he was a senior finance editor at Bloomberg. Andrew Thurlow is a real estate, sports and retail reporter for Jacksonville Business Journal. Formerly, he was a reporter for Automotive News. (Muck Rack) | Nathan Baca will be an investigative reporter at WBNS in Columbus, Ohio. He is currently a reporter at KLAS in Las Vegas. (Mediabistro) | Sarah Gilbert will be supervising senior editor of NPR’s Weekend Edition. She is currently managing editor of Marketplace. (FishbowlDC) | Rachel Dodes is Twitter’s partner manager for motion pictures. She was previously a film reporter for the Wall Street Journal. (FishbowlNY) | Amina Akhtar will be editorial director of She was formerly executive editor of Elle. (Adweek) | Megan Moser will be executive editor of the Manhattan (Kansas) Mercury. Formerly, she was the paper’s news editor. (AP) | Send Ben your job moves:

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Want more? Check out Sam Kirkland’s roundup of tech and social media news in Digital Day, and Kristen Hare’s roundup of journalism news outside the U.S. in MediaWireWorld. Read more

In this Dec. 19, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is intent on moving quickly in dealing with the racially charged scandal surrounding Clippers owner Sterling. The NBA league will discuss its investigation Tuesday, April 29, 2014, before the Clippers play Golden State in Game 5 of their playoff series. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

Does TMZ’s Clippers scoop mean pop websites can stand as equals with traditional news outlets?

The story is ubiquitous, perhaps as it should be.

On every news website, on every television station, in every morning paper. If you didn’t know who Donald Sterling was before this weekend, you certainly know who he is now. As a fan and follower of the NBA, I did, and I also knew about his checkered past. But at the same time, I count myself among those who were caught off guard by the egregious racial comments attributed to him that have become the biggest story of the current news cycle.

This time the big story didn’t come through the mainstream channels. When the late Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott used racial epithets in reference to outfielders Dave Parker and Eric Davis, The Cincinnati Enquirer was on top of it. And when football commentator Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder’s spewed his opinions on the genetics of black athletes and coaching opportunities for blacks on the landscape, they flowed from local TV station WRC in Washington to other media.

No, this time it was a representative of a fairly fresh branch of media that broke the story, one still struggling to achieve full legitimacy as a news organization: TMZ. The entertainment/pop culture site somehow gained access to the purported Sterling recording, which then exploded onto the country’s collective awareness thanks to the viral nature of social media.

It should be noted that the authenticity of the recording hasn’t yet been verified. That may come as early as Tuesday when the NBA plans to hold a press conference on its investigation into the recordings.

So far, we only have the attorney for V. Stiviano, the woman involved with Sterling whose voice is also said to be on the recording, insisting that it is Sterling’s voice. Stiviano claims she did not release it to any news outlets, including TMZ, according to the Los Angeles Times.

An expanded version of the recording then surfaced on Deadspin, Gawker’s sports site, which if authenticated, adds to what would be Sterling’s racially charged language — comments that have angered other NBA owners and led to calls for his suspension and dismissal.

The Clippers and Sterling have not out-and out-denied it is him on the recordings. Instead, the team’s official line is the remarks do not reflect the team owner’s “views, beliefs or feelings.”

It’s worth considering whether entertainment and pop culture websites like TMZ are turning a corner in the industry, establishing themselves as solid competitors for the top headlines.

Remember, it was TMZ in 2009 that broke the news Michael Jackson had died, arguably the story that defined viral news. The site was far ahead of other news outlets on the story. Even more recently, Deadspin first reported that Notre Dame football hero Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend was a hoax.

Rob Ford’s undoing came after Gawker reported that it had watched video of the Toronto mayor smoking crack cocaine. The Toronto Star, which also saw the video and redeemed itself in subsequent coverage, scrambled to follow up.

While not necessarily hallmarks in media history, these examples point to the increasing ability of non-traditional news outlets to break news that occupies the cycle and influences broad coverage of their stories.

Why might this be a trend? One possible reason is Internet sites take breaking news seriously and when sources hand them recordings like the purported Sterling audio, it equals a major victory. TMZ, Deadspin, BuzzFeed and others are web-ready; they have a better understanding of the power of the Internet than many mainstream news outlets.

Here’s something else they understand, a point made by BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith in a Poynter interview a year ago: “Good stories get a lot of readers. That’s true across journalism and history. But more people care about entertainment. A great Beyonce story will get more attention than anything else.”

But Rob King, senior vice president, SportsCenter and News at ESPN and Poynter national advisory board member, said that although TMZ’s scoop is commendable, and they are good at what they do, it can’t yet be said that this win represents a new trend.

“I can say for certain that competition makes us very mindful of our standards and makes us mindful that we’re doing what we need to do to serve our audience and stokes our competitive fire.

“But I don’t think this represents that much of a change because there’s been competition out there for quite some time.”

What’s clear is the Clippers story moved from TMZ and Deadspin to the larger news organizations like ESPN and Sports Illustrated, where it was and will be dissected, discussed, added to and analyzed for weeks. Companies that sponsor the L.A. Clippers are pulling or suspending their funding for the team, and now the question is whether Sterling can hold on to the franchise in the face of mounting pressure.

Less clear is whether more readers will turn not to mainstream outlets, but to TMZ, Deadspin and other non-traditional organizations for the next turn of the wheel on this story.

Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. The Detroit native has written for, the Associated Press, and the Detroit News among many other news outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @madisonjgray

Correction: An earlier version of this story made reference to a Sterling videotape. That has been corrected to say Sterling audio.

Related: What does it take to cover big-time sports? | AP’s Lou Ferrara live chat on sports journalism | Three lists about BuzzFeed’s serious journalism Read more

A woman poses for with the Olympic rings in Olympic Park as preparations continue for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Is Sochi the Peace Corps of the Olympics?

The Chicago Tribune | Deadspin | The Atlantic | The Washington Post | Yahoo Sports Canada


Maybe it’s because the games haven’t started yet, or maybe U.S. journalists are just accustomed to things like sheets and the ability to flush their toilet paper, but if you’ve followed along with the journalists in Sochi over the last few days, the story has mostly been about the hotel rooms. Stacy St. Clair, with the Tribune Olympic Bureau, wrote about what she’s facing in Sochi on Tuesday night for the Chicago Tribune, including a room with water that wasn’t working.

I called the front desk. “It will be fixed in 40 minutes,” the sympathetic man at the reception desk told me. “But when it comes back on, please do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.” Welcome to Sochi 2014, the dystopian-like Games where a simple shower poses a threat to your face, fire alarms ring constantly and several hotels remain unfinished. Russian President Vladimir Putin spent more than $50 billion on these Games — the most expensive Olympics, winter or summer, ever — yet he seemingly forgot to pay the water bill.

St. Clair’s tweet about what she saw when the water finally worked went viral, with 1,828 and counting retweets.

Read more

Federal charges greet men who sold recording to Deadspin

Associated Press | Deadspin |

Joshua Barber and Nicholas Kaiser of Plymouth, Mass., face up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine for allegedly recording a call they engineered between former Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix and Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik.

In a criminal complaint posted on Deadspin, federal prosecutors say Deadspin posted audio from the call and paid the pair $200. In an email to Poynter, Deadspin Editor Tommy Craggs confirmed the payment. Read more


Did Deadspin beat ESPN to the Te’o story because it didn’t care about preserving ‘access’?

Sports Illustrated | Journo2Go
It was a story of two tips.

The first, as Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reports, came to ESPN late on Jan. 10. The second came to Deadspin on Jan. 11. Both were similar: Something seems fishy about this Manti Te’o girlfriend story, you should check it out.

What happened after? Read more

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In a photo provided by ESPN, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o pauses during an interview with ESPN on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. ESPN says Te'o maintains he was never involved in creating the dead girlfriend hoax. He said in the off-camera interview: "When they hear the facts they'll know. They'll know there is no way I could be a part of this." (AP Photo/ESPN Images, Ryan Jones) MANDATORY CREDIT

5 reporting tips from the college student who helped break Deadspin’s Manti Te’o story

An anonymous email forwarded to the Deadspin staff more than a week ago claimed the deceased girlfriend of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o never actually existed.

Deadspin editorial fellow Jack Dickey was immediately intrigued. During an online chat, Dickey told other staffers, “This Te’o tip is fascinating. Anybody got dibs?”

“My instinct was really just to go for it,” he said in an interview Friday night. “Given how many tips we get that don’t pan out at all, I knew, of course, there was a chance this one would be a red herring. But I figured it was something to flag just in case, because it was such a crazy thing to even imagine — and because if it was true, it would be huge.”

The subsequent report — a Deadspin team effort featuring Dickey and video/assignment editor Timothy Burke in the byline and editor-in-chief Tommy Craggs and others on the editing and steering committee — has been nothing short of “a national sensation.” On its homepage Friday, labeled it “one of the most bizarre sports stories of our age.”

Along with enormous Web traffic, the Deadspin scoop has led to tons of questions: How did the hoax last for so long? What did Te’o know, and when did he know it? How were so many top journalists caught so flat-footed? And how did a site branded as an outsider with limited resources — at least compared to many national sports media — piece together most of the complicated tale so quickly?

As Deadspin managing editor Tom Scocca tweeted Thursday, “Our guys — and let me be clear ‘our guys’ include a COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE — nailed it down in five days.”

Dickey, 22, is the “COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE” in that tweet. The senior English major at Columbia University worked nonstop on the story while finishing up his winter break at home in Connecticut.

In a phone interview Friday, Dickey shared his thoughts on how Deadspin staff broke open such a big, bizarre story — one seemingly tailor-made for an online journalism investigation.

Be open and accessible to tips — even the anonymous, crazy kind.

According to Dickey, the prominent email has been a vital trigger for many of the site’s bigger scoops and smaller, everyday stories.

“If you’re a journalist, you should have a way for people to reach you, an easy way,” he said. “At Deadspin, we tell people to tip us. We put the tips email all over the place because we want to get tips. Sometimes you’re going to get misled, but most of the time people have good reasons for wanting to get in touch with you.”

The key with a tips forum — whether it’s an online chat room or an email or voicemail inbox — is to have it constantly monitored by key staff.

“I think that’s what surprises people about the Deadspin tips line,” said Dickey. “They assume it’s some intern whose job it is to check tips and forward the most interesting ones. But no, everyone on Deadspin gets all the tips. They are forwarded to all of our own personal emails. So we all read tips at the same time, depending on how frequently we check our email … It’s the same at all the other Gawker sites. We take tips very seriously.”

Practice “Internet journalism,” especially on an Internet story.

In an email interview published Thursday, Timothy Burke, the story’s other bylined contributor, told Poynter’s Mallary Tenore that competing news media might have missed the Te’o hoax story because they “didn’t have the tools Dickey and I did.”

I asked Dickey what tools Burke was talking about. He said they were a mix of digital and mental. In his words, “Well, first, Burke is a mad scientist. He’s a genius and has all sorts of technological skills no one else has. For this, he was doing a lot of digging, finding deleted tweets, and then tying people’s identities on Twitter to real names and finding photos of the so-called Lennay Kekua [Te’o’s alleged girlfriend] and putting a real name to that. Some of that I can do, some of it I can’t. He’s obviously far more skilled at it than I am and than anyone else on Deadspin is.”

In a photo provided by ESPN, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o pauses during an interview with the sports network on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. ESPN says Te’o maintains he was never involved in creating the dead girlfriend hoax. He said in the off-camera interview: “When they hear the facts they’ll know. They’ll know there is no way I could be a part of this.” (AP Photo/ESPN Images, Ryan Jones)

But Dickey said it was not just search skills, but online instincts that helped the pair dive in so successfully, so fast.

“If you’re not used to doing Internet journalism, you would not be able to crack this story,” he said. “Your first instinct might not be to do really deep Googling on people. It might be, ‘OK, let me find a phone number and let me search LexisNexis,’ which we did for everyone involved in the story. But we also did as much social media digging as we could. Our story needed both those things. It needed the older media component of Nexis, the press clippings, and all of that. But it also needed the new media component of searching social networking profiles. Even though there were a lot of red herrings and dead ends in those profiles, they still gave us the keys to unlock the story.”

Even on a successful story, there will be lots of failures.

“This is sort of the funny part,” Dickey said. “For all the great things people are saying about our reporting, I personally was quite unsuccessful in trying to get anyone close to [the alleged hoax perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo] to talk. I called a lot of people and kept getting no answer or full voicemail inboxes. I think the only person I got to talk to me on the phone was his football coach for two years in high school. Although the overall reporting on the story was a success, my reporting had a lot of failure in it.”

On a larger level, as he shared about the ultimate published report, “We were trying to round out the story even more than the story we had on the website. We tried to get the Te’o family [to talk]. We tried to get anyone close to Ronaiah. We tried to get people close to the first person Ronaiah had scammed. We were mostly unsuccessful with that … It goes to show that stories like this one — even big successes for Deadspin — still do have a lot of reporters’ disappointments in the process.”

The details matter, especially when they don’t add up.

To Dickey, one of the most surprising aspects of the hoax narrative was the willingness of other journalists such as Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel to simply look past or leave out details that did not add up or that they could not track down.

As he said about Thamel’s recent accounting of his ultimately mistaken reports, “There were just so many things that didn’t check out. Rather than say ‘Wait a second, there are four or five things that don’t check out here, that really calls the whole story into question,’ he said ‘Well, these four or five details don’t check out, let’s just lose those four or five details from the story.’ … You would hope no journalist would ever make a mistake like that again, although I’m sure they will.”

Being an outsider is OK, even essential at times, to break big news.

“Every so often the mainstream media will totally goof on a story like this, and we’ll get it, and they won’t and that’s because we are outsiders,” said Dickey.

“There are other times where the dominant narrative is just the wrong one and we are in the position to hold people accountable. That’s the Deadspin motto, ‘Sports News Without Access, Favor, or Discretion,’ which is not true by the way. We sometimes have access.  We have plenty of favors. And sometimes we have discretion. But the general gist of that — trying to do things that hold people accountable without being beholden to anybody else — I think that’s still part of our mission.”

On an unrelated note, I asked Dickey toward the end of our talk whether being on winter break was the key to his efforts, giving him time to really dig in, free of distractions. His answer: “For a story like this, I would have cut class.”

Correction: Jack Dickey is 22 years old, not 20 as this article originally stated. Read more


Sports journalism faces moment of truth in week of Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o hoax

Almost exactly a year ago, “This American Life” did what it did best: ran a story that tugged at the heartstrings and enraptured its audience. The piece, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” so perfectly suited TAL’s storytelling style, none of the talented journalists on staff took enough time to wonder if it might in fact be a lie.

And of course it was a lie. Mike Daisey did not uncover underage or disfigured workers in China, a fact that should have become obvious under proper scrutiny. At the time, it seemed like too good a story to let fact-checking get in the way. “This American Life” would deeply regret that decision.

This week, the entire field of sports journalism is facing a similar moment of self-reflection after learning that several reputable journalists unwittingly helped spread the tragic — and completely false — story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s deceased girlfriend.

Deadspin’s jaw-dropping deconstruction of the Lennay Kekua hoax on Wednesday called out a litany of top-tier news outlets for spreading the story of a grieving Heisman candidate and his beautiful girlfriend lost to leukemia. Mentioned by name in the piece were Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Los Angeles Times, The South Bend Tribune, “CBS This Morning,” The New York Post and Fox Sports. There were, of course, many others who carried stories about Te’o and Kekua, turning the fiction into a widely accepted reality.

It was a painful and embarrassing day for the mainstream sports media, doubly disheartened by the fact they were disrobed by — shame of shames! — a blog. It also broke the same week that Lance Armstrong owned up to a career full of infractions, which some observers felt were tacitly suppressed by U.S. sports journalists who were overly dubious of doping allegations against a beloved national hero.

It’s a gut-check moment for sports reporters, and if they’re wise, they’ll use this opportunity to do three things “This American Life” did when it ended up in a similar situation last year.

Full transparency and accountability

When “This American Life” host Ira Glass learned that one of his own public radio colleagues, Marketplace’s China correspondent Rob Schmitz, had serious concerns about “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” Glass quickly green-lit a follow-up investigative piece helmed by Schmitz himself.

On March 16, 2012, “This American Life” aired an episode called “Retraction,” in which the staff spent the better part of an hour picking apart their own failed fact-checking and (albeit too late) cornering Daisey into kinda, sorta admitting that yeah, maybe he made a lot of that stuff up. It was a painful hour of radio for any journalist to hear, but it was a far more painful hour for the “This American Life” crew to record.

“I and my co-workers here at ‘This American Life’, we are not happy to have done anything to hurt the reputation of the journalism that happens on this radio station every day,” Glass told listeners. “So we want to be completely transparent about what we got wrong and what we now believe is the truth.”

Each news outlet that ran the Te’o-Kekua story owes it to its readers to give a similar full accounting of why it did not appropriately check the story’s veracity. So far, the process is off to a slow start.

Initial coverage of Deadspin’s exposé by the news outlets involved has primarily highlighted Notre Dame’s version of events: that Te’o was the blameless victim of an online scam. If you have faith in Deadpsin’s coverage, then this explanation is riddled with holes that journalists should be prodding mercilessly. If Te’o never met his cyber-girlfriend, why did the South Bend Tribune describe them meeting after a 2009 game in Palo Alto? Why did Te’o’s dad tell the same newspaper that Te’o and Kekua would meet in Hawaii to spend time together?

The first test of transparency for these news outlets will be the level of skepticism they bring to bear on the emerging narrative favored by Te’o and Notre Dame. To its credit, The South Bend Tribune is obviously working quickly and dilligently to put the pieces together and find out why they were fed information from Teo’s father that simply couldn’t have been true.

Improved process

When I was a regional news reporter for an Indiana daily, I once had to interview a small-town editor in our coverage area after his newspaper helped raise money to send a young cancer-stricken girl to Disney World. During her trip, a relative revealed to the paper that the cancer was likely an elaborate hoax by the girl’s mother. Sure enough, the story quickly unraveled, and the mother was soon in police custody.

“I don’t want to live in a world where I have to ask a mother to prove that her daughter has cancer,” the editor told me. But he then proceeded to list all the procedural safeguards he had put in place in the newsroom to keep something similar from happening again. He didn’t want to live in that world, but he knew he had to.


Harpo Studios Inc. provided the Associated Press with this photo of cyclist Lance Armstrong with Oprah Winfrey during the taping of their interview in Austin, Texas. The two-part episode of “Oprah’s Next Chapter” will air nationally Thursday and Friday, Jan. 17-18, 2013. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc., George Burns)

“This American Life” also moved fact-checking to the fore, even when it meant asking difficult questions of people in sensitive situations. A TAL piece in June 2012 about comedian Jackie Clarke’s highly dysfunctional family, for example, ended with Ira Glass detailing all the ways his staff had tried to confirm her story with her estranged relatives. It was an awkward coda, breaking the storytelling structure by closing with footnotes and minutia, but it was one of the clearest signs that the program had learned to put accuracy above narrative.

Sports journalists are clearly dealing with a similar realization. ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski seemed half-contrite, half-naïve when he explained to “SportsCenter” why he ran with the Te’o-Kekua story despite a lack of factual evidence to back it up:

Well, I sat across from him and I was moved by his story and it was heartbreaking and heartwarming and as it turns out totally untrue. But short of asking to see a death certificate, I’m not sure what most people would do differently in that case.

He later says that he asked for photos of Kekua and contact info from her family, but backed off when Te’o didn’t want to supply them. When a story requires no factual support despite a lack of what should be obvious evidence, it’s clear that there is little or no process in place for ensuring accuracy.

Earnest self-reflection

When “This American Life” ran its retraction and apology, Glass sounded like a man who had been sucker-punched by his own child. He was clearly exhausted from a week not only of intensive reporting but also intensive reflection. He had revisited the moments that led to his error in judgment, and he had judged himself guilty.

“We should have killed the story right there and then,” Glass admitted. “And to do anything else was a screw-up.”

It’s never easy to admit you screwed up. It’s far easier to find excuses, like being lied to or misdirected by an otherwise reliable source. The easy way out for news outlets who wrote about Te’o and Kekua would be to write about Notre Dame’s version of events and move on. But that would leave too many questions unaddressed – questions more important than who was behind Te’o’s fictional girlfriend.

Sports journalism has always inhabited a murky ethical zone that can make hard-news reporters uneasy. By nature of their jobs, sports reporters typically have a closer relationship with the players, coaches, venues and institutions they cover compared to their peers on the City Hall or crime beats. Their rules on everything from free food to fraternizing with sources are often more liberal than those for news reporters.

But this relaxed approach to sports coverage — which certainly isn’t universal — is only part of the problem. More problematic these days is the fact that sports writers and producers are always on the hunt for a narrative, something that can elevate games above boring statistics and leaderboard shuffling.

All journalists love telling a good story, but sports coverage and presentation have become reliant on it. A game can’t just be a series of pre-prepared tactics and random interventions of chance. These days, it needs to be a clash of iconic personalities, the heroes of our modern mythology playing out their epic storylines one installment at a time.

In the case of Manti Te’o, the quest for a storyline appears to have clouded the judgment of otherwise sensible journalists. And Notre Dame helped fuel the story, likely hoping that it would make Te’o a more compelling case for a Heisman.

While Te’o so far denies knowing his girlfriend was fake, it seems from Deadspin’s coverage that he (or at least his father) continued to spool out more details of his faux relationship as it became clear how much positive press it was generating for him and his team. In other words, each piece of the sports machine benefited from the narrative, and in the end each suffered for it.

It is my hope that this week – the week of Armstrong and Te’o – sports journalists across the country will have vigorous debates among themselves and their colleagues about how they should approach their work. That process begins by admitting there is a problem — several, in fact. Read more