May 26, 2016

Editors at the Vox Media sports site SB Nation have finished a review process that traced the mistakes leading up to a flawed profile of Daniel Holtzclaw, a convicted rapist and former police officer who played football in college.

The story, which SB Nation has chalked up to a “complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process,” was 12,000 words long and cast Holtzclaw in a sympathetic light. After it ran, the story met with backlash from journalists and readers who wondered why editors at SB Nation hadn’t intervened before it was published.

SB Nation Editorial Director Spencer Hall and Editorial Vice President Kevin Lockland described three factors that led to the publication of the story in an editor’s note Thursday:

  • The site’s longform program, which produced the Holtzclaw story, operated in isolation. That will apparently change. “We will not be bringing back the SB Nation Longform Program as it existed previously. Instead, we will launch a new features program later this year.”
  • Communication broke down.
  • “In the next few weeks, we will be rolling out some changes to our editorial planning and publishing process for all longer lead and planned pieces, ensuring that each piece is properly resourced for scope and complexity and to improve overall communication and collaboration across”

  • Lack of diversity at SB Nation left editorial blind spots. “We will continue to work on building and valuing diversity throughout all functions and levels within SB Nation. SB Nation is broadening the editorial structure at the top, and ensuring a wide range of voices makes decisions not just on future features, but on every aspect of our direction, with even greater urgency.”
  • SB Nation replaced the story, “Who is Daniel Holtzclaw?” with an editor’s note, but a cached version remains online.

    Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
    Benjamin Mullin

    More News

    Back to News