What the Toledo Blade should have said …

Let’s reset the scene.

Early Tuesday morning, Deadspin published a long story exposing the reason why a longtime University of Toledo coach was fired, detailing the sexual harassment claims lodged against the coach and quoting text messages sent to an anonymous former runner. Five hours later, the Toledo Blade published its version of the story, in which the runner is named and interviewed on the record. The first reader comment called attention to the fact that the Blade reporter named the athlete and that Deadspin did not.

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At which point, a man by the name of Dave Murray, the managing editor of the Blade, reads the comment.

That’s where we are.

Now, to quote my favorite comedian, Mike Birbiglia:

At this point, what he should have said … was nothing.

At most, he could have said that the interview was conducted on the record, that she consented to having her name published in this report, and left it at that. It’s a perfect answer to a valid reader question.

He should have said nothing.

What he said, was:

The difference between the coverage of this story by The Blade and Deadspin is that (Ryan) Autullo is a professional journalist who has named sources and you can believe what he reports.

Needless to say, this has not gone over well.

It’s ignited the usual tiresome debates over old vs. new media, about how sports journalists aren’t real journalists, blah blah blah.

I get the frustration. The Blade was working on the story, trying to get it published, and then they got beat at the 11th hour by a national blog – one that used anonymous sources. I know what it’s like to get beat on a story by an outlet that uses anonymous sources when you can’t or don’t want to. I know how frustrating it is to watch a national outlet parachute in and do a big story on your beat because they don’t have to worry about burning bridges, sources and your credibility in town if you’re wrong. I get that.

But that post was completely out of line.

There’s this perception in a lot of sports journalism circles that Deadspin is still “just a blog,” just a home for juvenile humor. That’s not the case. Deadspin is a major player in sports journalism. Deadspin is as much a part of sports journalism as SI, ESPN and Yahoo. Deadspin’s journalism is as good as the sports journalism published in any outlet, legacy, traditional or new media.Deadspin broke Manti T’eo story. Deadspin reported this story. They’ve been out in front of a lot of stories lately.

Sports editors may not want to acknowledge it or admit it, but Deadspin is a sports journalism outlet. And more often than not, it’s a damn good one.

What makes the Blade’s editor’s response more damning is that there was no need for it. The stories don’t so much compete with each other as they do complement each other. As the paper’s top editor said in a post to Romenesko, they’re written for different audiences. The Blade story is perfectly fine for the local readers, who may know, care and be impacted by it. The Deadspin story is perfectly fine for a national audience, that doesn’t have any vested interest in the story other than the salacious aspects.

What the editor at the Blade should have done was pointed out the Deadspin story as a way for his paper’s readers to learn more about this story that affects their community.

What he should have done was answer the question without resorting to an unwarranted, unfair and unprovoked cheap shot at a news outlet that did nothing wrong and does nothing but promote a stupid, outdated, and useless false dichotomy.

What he should have said …

Was nothing.

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