Sunday, June 30, 2013

32 days later

GigaOm got in touch with John Cook on Friday to ask what will happen with the over $184,000 raised from the Crackstarter campaign.  The response:
"I'm presently reaching out to potential recipients to find a good home for the money. Hope to have something to announce soon," Gawker editor, John Cook, wrote in reply to an email query.
So he's still in the "reaching out" phase, which admittedly can take a while.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sam Biddle is tardy

Yesterday (Friday, June 28th), Sam Biddle wrote about AOL's open casting call for an online news host. He included the video of a woman giving an awkward audition, and he made a few other snippy remarks.  Then at the bottom, Biddle wrote:
If you're interested in maybe humiliating yourself on the internet for $700 (really not a bad deal at all), here are the details:
Thursday, June 27 and Friday, June 28, 2013
Casting location - 770 Broadway in Manhattan.  (Enter East 9th Street between Broadway and 4th Avenue)
5 AM Casting Call opens
10 AM Casting Call closes
The post went up on Valleywag at 10:41 A.M., or a full 41 minutes after the casting call had already closed.

So what even was the point?  By comparison, when PCMag wrote about the casting calls, they had enough common sense to post it on June 27th.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

30 days later

A month has passed since Gawker successfully raised $200,000 in order to purchase the alleged Rob Ford crack tape.  Back on May 28th, John Cook told the Globe and Mail that he would wait a month for delivery of the tape:
"I'd say give them a month," said Mr. Cook, who is editor of  "If I hear nothing but silence, then I can only conclude that for whatever reasons, the people who have it are no longer motivated to sell it even though we've got a huge amount of money that we've raised and that was what they asked for."
Gawker's "Plan B" was always to donate the money to a Canadian non-profit if they couldn't procure the tape.  Will an announcement come tomorrow?  Or will Gawker come up with a reason to keep holding onto the money?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I'm going to tell Romenesko about that!

If spotting typos were a form of watchdog journalism, Jim Romenesko would be head of the pack.  Romenesko runs a personal website where he aggregates stories about the journalism industry.  It’s a useful site.  He also has a penchant for pointing out copy-editing mistakes.

Sometimes the mistakes are egregious.  But other times they’re just sort of random.  (For example, pointing out the misspelling of “border patrol” in the Houston Chronicle.  It’s a mistake for sure, but don’t those errors happen a hundred times a day?)  I normally don’t care about Gawker’s copy-editing mistakes, however there was a boner on Jezebel a few months ago that deserves mentioning:  

On December 1st, they wished happy birthday to Bette Midler.  She was turning 67.

Then on March 19th they wished her happy birthday again!

Wrongly announcing a celebrity's birthday--and with a duplicate headline, no less?  That's Romenesko bait if I've ever seen it!  Hopefully he'll have some snarky comment about the decline of the newspaper industry or whatever.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tailored tweets

Why, yes, this is another post about how Deadspin covered the Manti Te'o hoax.  And this time, I'm going to mention some of the specific clues that Deadspin had uncovered during the course of their investigation.  What I find interesting is how some clues can be presented differently, depending on who's telling the story.

Hours after the Deadspin story went live, a Twitter user named Justin Megahan began looking for tweets in connection to the hoax.  Megahan searched through Twitter archives from the previous month using the sites Topsy and Twicsy, and he soon discovered a group of about half a dozen people openly discussing the hoax. Megahan compiled 17 of these tweets on his blog.  (In addition, there was a tweet he found on Twicsy which wasn't part of that collection.)

Taken as a whole, the tweets strongly suggested that Ronaiah was the man behind the catfishing scheme, and not a single account implied that Manti had knowingly taken part.  Megahan himself surmised: "...they seem to believe that Manti was being misled, and was not in on the scam."

At this point, most sportswriters were still trying to determine whether Te'o had perpetrated the hoax, and so Megahan's work was treated as a mini-revelation.  The catch, of course, is that Deadspin knew full well about those tweets.  Deadspin had actually alluded to some of the tweets in their original article, but any references to Te'o being catfished were left out.  For example, they had written:
"...two now-suspended Twitter accounts had alleged that [Lennay's sister] was a fraud, that the same person behind Lennay was operating the U'ilani account, and that the images of "U'ilani" were really of a woman named Donna Tei."  
That sounds like a comprehensive description.  But was it really?  There's only a limited number of tweets that Deadspin could have been describing, and I think the two suspended accounts were @catfishhhhhhhh and @iCaughtaCatfish.

This is the one tweet sent from the @iCaughtaCatfish account:

Those last 4 words ("He did @mteo_5 dirty!!!") are kind of important.  If you include them, the message is that Te'o was a victim.  If you cut them out--and also ignore the name on the account--the situation gets a lot murkier.  Now here are the three tweets sent from the @catfishhhhhhhh account:

I doubt Te'o would have personally noticed any of the tweets sent to him by the two "catfish" accounts.  Topsy shows about 1,500 tweets were sent to Te'o during the first week of December. Nonetheless, whoever was behind those accounts had cracked the mystery, and they were trying to get the word out to Nev Schulman, producer of MTV's "Catfish." 

There was one other tweet Justin Megahan posted which I couldn't find, but it appears to have belonged to the same @catfishhhhhhhh account: 

The Deadspin article mentioned catfishing only one time, and that was in a paragraph about Donna Tei--a peripheral character who had no direct connection to Manti.  Deadspin said that Donna had "reached out" to Nev Schulman, but they didn't explain why Donna was reaching out to him in the first place, nor did they show the tweet.  This is the tweet that Donna sent:

I don't consider these tweets as evidence, per se, of Te'o's innocence.  But they are very compelling clues, and they might have altered the narrative if Deadspin had shown them.  I realize, too, that a couple of Deadspin's unnamed sources were part of the group tweeting out their suspicions.  (For example, @jayrahz.)  It's possible Deadspin agreed not to show his specific Twitter handle.  However that still wouldn't answer the bigger question:  Why did Deadspin omit all of the references to Te'o being catfished?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

And now they're gone

This blog has been around for several months, and it's not surprising that some of the writers whose articles I've criticized are no longer working for Gawker.  So I should acknowledge those changes:

A.J. Daulerio, mentioned in this post, left in January.
Jordan Sargent, mentioned in this post, left in February.  
And Isaac Rauch, mentioned in this post, left in April.

Update: 6/29:  Daulerio is back for about three months as a "consultant" for the Defamer subdomain.