Letter to Romenesko
From TIM MULLIN: It’s worth considering that the whole Toledo Blade reaction to the Deadspin piece may be about something else.
Deadspin really breaks the unspoken, but long-standing tradition that sports reporters only cover what goes on between the lines. I remember covering Oklahoma during the Switzer era. Sports covered the football, but when something went off the reservation in the football program (for OU that was rape, shooting and cocaine dealing), it fell on the news division to cover that story. And that really doesn’t make sense, since the guys with the best contacts and inside track in the athletic department are the sports reporters. You saw the same thing later with Sandusky….you don’t think there weren’t sports reporters on the Penn State beat who hadn’t heard the whispers and rumors about creepy Jerry? But it took Sara Ganim, the police beat reporter, to break the story.
I suspect that it has more than a little to do with the relationship between the sports departments and the institutions they cover. 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.
With stories on imaginary girlfriends and sexual harassment, Deadspin broke one of those unwritten rules, and reported on what happens outside the lines. That’s going to piss off a lot of sports reporters and editors.