Earlier this week, Deadspin published a story about a University of Toledo track coach who was busted for sending illicit messages to students. The Toledo Blade, the 177-year-old newspaper that was also chasing the story, got scooped. Sound familiar?
Kevin Hadsell abruptly resigned after five years as the head of the University of Toledo's successful tack and field program at the end of January. No one knew why, until Deadspin's Doug Brown reported Monday evening that Hadsell had maintained a relationship with a member of the female track teams for over two years and was facing accusations of sexual harassment from another. It was a huge local story broken on a huge national website.
The Toledo Blade wasn't pleased. Their story on Hadsell didn't hit until later Tuesday morning. After all, they were just the latest publication chasing a story they should have owned, only to get scooped by Deadspin. It's been something of a trend lately. Weirdly, while Deadspin's story kept concealed the name of the athlete accusing Hadsell of sexual harassment, the Blade's story revealed Emma Kertesz's name. When a commenter asked about it in the comments, the Blade's editor Doug Murray responded:
Emma Kertesz agreed to an on-the-record interview with Blade sports writer Ryan Autullo and she knew her name would be published with her comments. As she is quoted as saying in the story Ms. Kertesz 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.
Emphasis ours. The Blade was implying their story was somehow more legitimate because Kerstesz agreed to reveal her name. In the Deadspin story, her identity is concealed "to protect her identity," but there is no mistaking they're the same person. Kerstesz cooperated with Deadspin's story, too.
Old media fretting over new media scooping them on big stories is nothing new. Most recently ESPN tried to defend itself to The New York Times for not reporting the Manti T'eo story sooner. In case you don't remember, it was Deadspin who scooped them.
Unsurprisingly, Deadspin isn't taking the strong words from Brown laying. Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs defended its latest reporting to Politico's Dylan Byers. "If Dave Murray wants to say something about the veracity of our reporting, without which the Blade's story likely never would've existed, he should say it," Craggs told Byers in an email. "I'm quivering with rage right now," Craggs told Jim Romenesko.
Murray picked the wrong time to pick a fight with Deadspin. Their reporting credentials have never been stronger — and this is a far cry from Brett Favre's privates. Besides the Te'o story, they've received praise for John Koblin's work on the decline in ESPN's journalistic standards. Before going to Deadspin, Koblin worked as a media reporter for Women's Wear Daily, and previously put in stints working for The New York Times and the New York Observer. The writer who broke the Toledo story, Douglas Brown, has written investigative pieces about college sports for Deadspin and has been published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
On Twitter, "professional journalists" started coming to Deadspin's defense, too:
How many times will the adults at Deadspin have to smoke everyone before they're not labeled "a bunch of ... kids"? politico.com/blogs/media/20…— Cord Jefferson (@cordjefferson) February 13, 2013
Ugh. Print-vs-online catfight narrative usu overblown, but Blade cheap shot v Deadspin makes print journos look bad jimromenesko.com/2013/02/13/tol…— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) February 13, 2013
Wait so Toledo Blade gets beat on a story by Deadspin, then bashes them for protecting the identity of the victim? WTF? politico.com/blogs/media/20…— ¡ David Holmes ! (@holmesdm) February 13, 2013
Murray defended his comments to Dylan Byers, saying he didn't mean to "diss" Deadspin:
We knew we were in competition with Deadspin for the story and could have published the story on Monday, but Ryan Autullo, our sports writer, hadn't confirmed a couple key facts so I made the decision to hold off until he was able to confirm on the record important parts of the story. We think it's important to use named sources whenever possible.
My comments responding to a reader this morning were to explain why we used the name of the young woman who turned text messages from the coach over to the University of Toledo. My comments about Ryan Autullo being a professional journalist who uses named sources was meant to praise him, not "diss" Deadspin and its reporters. I have no idea what their professional backgrounds are and I welcome their competition on this story.
The competition is here to stay. Get used to it.