"There is no qualification: it was a complete failure."
February 18, 2016 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Longform sports news and commentary website SB Nation, one of the websites under the Vox Media banner, has developed a reputation as being a location for well written and thoughtful commentary on not just sports, but society as well. Which is why it was surprising when they wound up publishing a disastrous longform article about former cop and convicted rapist Daniel Holtzclaw that wound up being little more than a racially charged hagiography.

Outcry over the piece was quick and pointed, leading the editors at SB Nation to not only pull the piece, but to also issue a mea culpa from the editorial staff, stating that they should never have run the piece, and it's appearance reflected "a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation", noting that warnings from several other editors went unheeded.

Since nothing on the Internet truly goes away, a cached version of the piece can be found here (trigger warning: rape, racism).
posted by NoxAeternum (94 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Things that are complete failures:

- Fiorina's campaign.
- Hindenburg trying to dock in NJ.
- The design of the Titanic.

No, SB Nation, this was something worse.
posted by qcubed at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


A story about how a convicted rapist's friends don't think he's guilty is not news. The editors were right to acknowledge that its publication was a complete failure not only by the writer, but also by the editorial staff. It's truly a remarkable piece of work, as an object lesson on how not to write a profile of a convicted multiple rapist.
posted by Gelatin at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Wow, the article seems to be a whole heap of, "But he wasn't a cackling stereotypical supervillain out of a movie, how could that be if he really did this?"

There are too many examples to name of people, a lot of those names being sports stars, who present as nice but behave as monsters when they think nobody is looking that nobody should be thinking this is some sort of novel insight worth this much text.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:10 AM on February 18, 2016


That it was published at all is astonishing. Both content and form should have been unacceptable. It was both poorly written and ill conceived. How it got past an editor is the real mystery here.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:12 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


There were objections by senior editorial staff that went unheeded.

Why? How? Unheeded by whom? What was the process? Where did it break down - or was it broken from the start? How have they changed it?
posted by rtha at 8:17 AM on February 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


So what is the story on how something goes through an editorial process but extracts a groveling apology within hours of release? Seems ridiculous. It's like shitting on a plate and sending it out to table 12. You knew it was shit already, people don't generally enjoy eating shit.
posted by selfnoise at 8:18 AM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


This part was fascinating to me, from the linked Deadspin article: I don’t know if the pitch resembled the story that was filed. As an editor, I know that it can be very hard to kill a piece, especially one of this length. I also know that killing a piece is almost always better for everyone involved.

It doesn't shock me that a lot of people praising this probably didn't read it, but I would love to hear more about the editor's role in between receiving the finished piece and putting it up on the site. Did they try to kill, or even mitigate, it at all?

SBNation also hosts some of the more progressive voices in hockey, the main site and some of their individual team blogs have published some really wonderful, feminist, intelligent writing about assault. It's a true shame this shared their platform.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:20 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]




I don't know what their editorial process is like, but it seems like someone looked at the word count and skimmed it, saw that it was about a topic that would get a lot of attention, and then they ran it. It wasn't until Twitter exploded on them that someone actually read it for comprehension and realized how bad it was.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:21 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


the fact that this did go out on sbnation instead of any of the other often misogynistic sports sites is a really great lesson in how rape culture is alive and well and ingrained even in spaces you thought were aware of that sort of thing.
posted by nadawi at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2016 [40 favorites]


Why? How? Unheeded by whom? What was the process? Where did it break down - or was it broken from the start? How have they changed it?

The apology from Editorial Director Spencer Hall says "We're reviewing all of our processes in light of this failure. There are a lot of them, and I promise to talk in detail about them publicly while we work through all of them." I hope this means we get some detailed answers to these questions. I really like SB Nation, and judging from his writing and his busy Twitter account, Spencer is generally a good, responsible, progressive guy, and while that does not absolve him of this egregious fuck up, it makes me hopeful that we will get a full accounting of what went wrong, and some real changes to make sure it doesn't happen again.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I would love to hear more about the editor's role in between receiving the finished piece and putting it up on the site.

I'm pretty sure this was a scene from Office Space.

He has people skills.
posted by mhoye at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2016


> It wasn't until Twitter exploded on them that someone actually read it for comprehension and realized how bad it was.

But it says in their apology that several senior editorial staff objected before it was published. Why were those objections ignored?
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


But it says in their apology that several senior editorial staff objected before it was published. Why were those objections ignored?

I wonder how many women editors there were.
posted by qcubed at 8:30 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know. I just read the whole long form piece, and it doesn't read to me like a "he didn't do it" piece at all. It was more showcasing his slow disintegration, to an extent where I found it really valuable, as showing how even people who commit terrible crimes aren't just unknowable monsters, but could in fact be your son, your friend. That they can be good people in one area, and that doesn't invalidate their shitty rapey misogyny.

Because you know, contrary to all the cops being like "this has nothing to do with our department, nuh-uh, this guy is a monster and nothing like us", this kind of shit used to be ridiculously common in police departments enamored with their own power and untouchable status. When I was growing up in NYC, it was common enough that my whole neighborhood knew some cops "took it out in trade".

So as a piece about how even "good kids" can get caught up in toxic masculinity and rape and abuse culture, I found it really good. The problem is the piece meanders there, so there's a lot of talk about how great he was before, which could read as hagiographic.
posted by corb at 8:32 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Deadspin refers to this kind of writing as "schlongform", which is perfect on a couple of levels.
posted by stargell at 8:33 AM on February 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


he has deleted (or renamed) his twitter account, but here is the author thanking men who shared the story (before it was taken down).
posted by nadawi at 8:34 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


to an extent where I found it really valuable, as showing how even people who commit terrible crimes aren't just unknowable monsters

From the fansided link: It’s also a failure because it does the worst of what sports writing does when it tries to tackle issues of violence against women, including domestic and/or sexual violence: it centers the athlete and almost completely ignores the victims. In the nearly 12,000 words, I count just under 500 were about the thirteen (13!) women who came forward and testified against Holtzclaw (you can read their stories in their words at BuzzFeed). In telling the story of a man known almost exclusively because he is a convicted rapist, Arnold spent 4% of the many words he was allotted on the people who were harmed by Holtzclaw.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:34 AM on February 18, 2016 [26 favorites]


I think honestly this was meant to be a really progressive piece - like you, the reader, are supposed to be caught up in "maybe he's innocent because he's good" but then supposed to slowly and inexorably come to the understanding that "maybe he's a good friend and good player but also a shitty rapist ohhhhhhhhhh."
posted by corb at 8:34 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


deadspin is a dumpster fire and gets no kudos for pointing out anyone else's missteps wrt rape culture and women.
posted by nadawi at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Really? Every line in the article was dripping with sympathy for Holtzclaw. The last paragraph alone is vomitous.
posted by kmz at 8:36 AM on February 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


So as a piece about how even "good kids" can get caught up in toxic masculinity

When "good kid" is defined by his football performance and ability to adhere to lazy male standards you have a pretty good picture of our fucked culture, but I don't think that's what the article meant.
posted by selfnoise at 8:37 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


When "good kid" is defined by his football performance and ability to adhere to lazy male standards you have a pretty good picture of our fucked culture, but I don't think that's what the article meant.

Having read the piece, I was mostly left wondering 'shit, what crimes did he commit during his sports career that have never seen the light of day?'

Because if this is how the author covers someone who's been convicted, I don't think he was doing too much investigative journalism back when he was covering Holtzclaw's (and others) sports career(s).
posted by cjelli at 8:39 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's a fair point. Like, I'm reading it as stealth rape culture expose, but honestly I'm only doing so because SB Nation has such a good track record on this shit. If it were a mainstream publication, I wouldn't be assuming the writer shares my kind of slow horror at these centers of frustrated power and masculinity fetishization.
posted by corb at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


The last paragraph alone is vomitous

Indeed. For those who don't want to click into the article, here it is:
Pending an improbable successful appeal, everything he had worked for was now gone, likely never to be recovered, ever again. Recovery, if there is any, appears to be something deserved only by the victims of a man whose belief in his innocence will apparently be, like the way he once pursued his dream of playing in the NFL, unrelenting, despite all evidence to the contrary.
What the ever-loving fuck.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2016 [38 favorites]


Having read the piece, I was mostly left wondering 'shit, what crimes did he commit during his sports career that have never seen the light of day?'

That was one of the things that raised my eyebrows about the story, because it had lines like this:

So when news broke of Holtzclaw’s arrest nearly two years ago, Grey — like many within Enid’s borders - had trouble believing that the teammate he had known back in high school could have become a completely different person. When Holtzclaw returned to Oklahoma after college to attend the Oklahoma City police academy, the two even shared an apartment. Grey detected no change in his friend.

I would venture to guess if you were to do a long background of Daniel within the town, you probably won’t find much,” Grey said. “And that’s saying something and points to the kind of kid that he was.”


It's a quote suggesting that there are no other abuses in his past if you looked. That is entirely possible, maybe being a cop just gave him the right opportunity to do things he wanted to but couldn't before...but it's just pure speculation. I believe that guy thinks that but I don't care that he does. Why would I? The evidence on Holtzclaw for the crimes he was convicted of is damning.

We have no idea what would be found if we looked harder in his past, and even if there was nothing it doesn't mean much of anything. He did what he did, that is more revelatory of his character than that he didn't get in trouble, as the son of a cop, earlier in his life.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:44 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm reading it as stealth rape culture expose

if sbnation were doing that they wouldn't have taken it down so quickly using words like "wrongheaded in approach and execution. There is no qualification: it was a complete failure."
posted by nadawi at 8:46 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's a quote suggesting that there are no other crimes if you looked. That is entirely possible, maybe being a cop just gave him the right opportunity to do things he wanted to but couldn't before...but it's just pure speculation.

The author even goes so far as to pre-emptively dismiss the idea that investigating Holtzclaw's earlier life could possibly turn up anything -- since he has!
The entire time Holtzclaw spent on campus in Ypsilanti, Michigan, his name had never been associated with trouble. Independent searches and police and court records confirm that, as do the recollections of former teammates and university officials alike, none of whom could recall that Holtzclaw had ever made any serious missteps during his entire Division I playing career. And yet, here Holtzclaw was, on trial for his life.
But there weren't any police or court records that would show wrongdoing as a cop, either, right up until the point when there were. He was able to get away with his crimes for as long as he did because the people he worked with dismissed allegations against him. Saying he wasn't convicted before he was convicted doesn't say much.
posted by cjelli at 8:47 AM on February 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


I skimmed the story last night and it might actually be the worst piece of "journalism" I've ever seen. You've got the horrifically sexist and rapist-defending premise that starts in from sentence one, the constant repetition that builds to nothing over 12,000 fucking words, a complete lack of anything resembling analysis of the story he's supposedly examining and just atrocious use of the English language as the flaming bag of dog poop on top of the bigger, rape-ier pile of dog poop.

So, all that said, I can't figure out:
(a) how this story got greenlit, given the odious premise
(b) how it got published over objections from senior staff
(c) how it got published in that form without fixing the grammar, sentence structure, etc.
(d) aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:48 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


"a man whose belief in his innocence will apparently be, like the way he once pursued his dream of playing in the NFL, unrelenting, despite all evidence to the contrary."

That last "despite all evidence..." clause totally reads like something tacked on by an editor. See, in the end we do acknowledge that he is a convicted rapist!
posted by stargell at 8:49 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think honestly this was meant to be a really progressive piece

I'm reading it as stealth rape culture expose

Sure, if you didn't read literally anything else about this case--including both of the links in the FPP--you could maybe come to this conclusion.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:55 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


In Bates’ view, Holtzclaw was swept up in the furor over treatment of black Americans by police officers in other places, turmoil that had already resulted the #BlackLivesMatter movement and sparked riots in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, a brewing perfect storm that was only getting worse.

“The emotions were already there and all (the public) needed was a poster child and Daniel came along at the absolute worst time for Daniel,” Bates said. “And he was done.”
Yes. Social justice is the problem that caused a rapist to get what is effectively a life sentence. That was entirely the reason here. /s
posted by Talez at 8:57 AM on February 18, 2016 [31 favorites]


Seriously, the guy is like a Scooby Doo villain... "And he would have gotten away with it if not for those godless liberals!"
posted by Talez at 8:59 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


corb: “I think honestly this was meant to be a really progressive piece - like you, the reader, are supposed to be caught up in ‘maybe he's innocent because he's good’ but then supposed to slowly and inexorably come to the understanding that ‘maybe he's a good friend and good player but also a shitty rapist ohhhhhhhhhh.’”

I really, really wanted to read it that way. But there are glaring things about this essay that keep me from feeling like that's the case.

The main one is this: if you read it closely, you'll note that the author goes out of his way, twisting himself in grammatical knots at times, to avoid saying that Daniel Holtzclaw is a serial rapist. For example, look at this bit, the second-to-the-last paragraph of the piece:
Moments later, Holtzclaw was led away, handcuffed and shackled, through the silent corridors of the courthouse where his life had been taken away from him. Long removed, not only by the miles, but by the years since his identity had been forged as a hard-hitting linebacker, Daniel Holtzclaw had failed in his efforts to prove people wrong. Unlike in the past, when his shortcomings only kept him from playing professionally, these failures, as first defined by a prosecutor and then by a jury, carried much heavier consequences.
See that? The writing is incredibly tortuous – I can see why people say it's written badly – but at the end there, the author says that Holtzclaw faces "much heavier consequences." Oh – okay, maybe they're saying he's guilty of rape. No, look closer – what is he facing those consequences for? Because he "failed in his efforts to prove people wrong." In other words, Daniel Holtzclaw has been sentenced to 263 years in prison because he failed to prove his accusers wrong – not because he, uh, actually raped people.

There's also the people the author trots out as supporters of Holtzclaw. One of the most vocal, given a lot of line-space in this article, is this guy:
... Brian Bates, a licensed Oklahoma City-based private investigator and controversial self-professed “video vigilante,” known for taping prostitutes and johns to combat human trafficking and licensing the product to news outlets at a profit (his website is called “JohnTV”), painted Holtzclaw in a similar light. Bates, who spent hundreds of hours looking into Holtzclaw’s case for Adams, deemed the former football star to be immature and naïve. He determined that through a series of critical procedural errors involving the women he came into contact with, Holtzclaw, guilty or not, nevertheless left himself wide open to be charged with abuse of his authority by leaving windows of time spent with each woman unaccounted for. In Bates’ view, Holtzclaw was swept up in the furor over treatment of black Americans by police officers in other places, turmoil that had already resulted the #BlackLivesMatter movement and sparked riots in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, a brewing perfect storm that was only getting worse.
What? A private investigator with a pretty sickeningly exploitative scheme going on where he tapes prostitutes' clients and publicizes the pictures, under the patently ridiculous guise of "combat[ting] human trafficking," is important enough to solicit comments throughout, and to cite as an expert in the case? The author fawns over Bates, as he does with all of Holtzclaw's supporters, noting over and over again all the "hundreds of hours" he spent "looking into Holtzclaw's case."

There are silly bits that seems laughably weird in their perspective – like this, which makes high-school football stars in middle America – "particularly those from prominent families"! – out to be unfortunate victims:
Grey describes him and his teammates as straight-laced as they come, well aware that in a town like Enid, popular athletes were easily identified and often the target of jealousy, particularly those from prominent families.
The only way to read this and make sense of it, I think, is from the old perspective that 'when people accuse prominent men of rape, it's usually because of jealousy.' And that turns this silly sentence into something a bit darker.

Finally, in light of all this stuff in the article, which (again) flatly refuses to state clearly that Daniel Holtzclaw is a rapist, we have the author's own tagline in presenting his article on Twitter:
Every story has two sides but can one person be two people at once?
This is what annoys me most about all this, because it reveals just how hideously underhanded the author is being, I think. The question is phrased very cannily. "Can one person be two people at once?" The obvious, immediate answer is: "NO." No, one person can't be two people at once – not rationally, anyway – unless you mean in some distant metaphorical way. Which – well, you could mean it in a metaphorical way; Holtzclaw led a double life, &c. But if you read the article, you can see that it steadfastly refuses to say that he was two people. It only presents one person, and the author clearly believes he is one person: a non-rapist. The ambiguity – maybe they mean that he was living a double life? – is clearly there merely to provide plausible deniability, to provide an excuse if anyone might suggest that the author is trying to call Daniel Holtzclaw an innocent man.

In short, the author clearly believes Holtzclaw is innocent, but is afraid to say so, and is hedging his phrasing in order to make it seem as though he's just presenting 'another side to the story.'
posted by koeselitz at 9:00 AM on February 18, 2016 [54 favorites]


Yes. Social justice is the problem that caused a rapist to get what is effectively a life sentence. That was entirely the reason here. /s

Yeah, it's like that bullshit when you're midway through the season and the refs suddenly start enforcing that obscure rule about not raping a bunch of black women!
posted by selfnoise at 9:00 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't know. I just read the whole long form piece, and it doesn't read to me like a "he didn't do it" piece at all.

It did, to me. Although the author does, at several points, talk about how Holtzclaw is guilty, and talks about his victims, far, far more often we get sentences like this:
Looking back, those who were routinely around Holtzclaw away from the football field recall nothing that paints Holtzclaw as anything but just another college student and certainly not as the sexual predator he would later be convicted of becoming.
Not, 'as the sexual predator he would later be;' the author frequently talks about him as a convict, not as a rapist.
There were periods of time left unaccounted for because Holtzclaw either turned off the computer in his car or didn’t radio in updates. It was during these times, the prosecutors charged and the jury determined, when Holtzclaw went from the football player turned caring cop to serial rapist.
Likewise, not 'it was during these times when Holtzclaw assaulted women.' It's, 'it was during these times the jury decided he must have assaulted women.'

Again and again, the author turns to language describing what Holtzclaw was convicted of, not what he did. That reads exactly like 'he didn't do it.'
posted by cjelli at 9:01 AM on February 18, 2016 [23 favorites]




where his life had been taken away from him

why do we keep reporting on men who commit awful crimes against women like this? i mean - i know why, i just wish we'd all collectively agree to fuckin stop already. his life wasn't taken away from him. he raped at least 13 women and finally, after far too long, was sent to prison for it. he has his life and it's being lived out exactly where it should be.
posted by nadawi at 9:04 AM on February 18, 2016 [36 favorites]


I think honestly this was meant to be a really progressive piece - like you, the reader, are supposed to be caught up in "maybe he's innocent because he's good" but then supposed to slowly and inexorably come to the understanding that "maybe he's a good friend and good player but also a shitty rapist ohhhhhhhhhh."
We can speculate that, certainly. On the other hand, there are lots of signs that regardless of what the editors expected from the pitch, that wasn't the actual spirit of the piece. A couple of key passages (particularly the incomprehensible closing paragraph) bear all the marks of someone swooping in and saying, "Woooooooah, buddy, you need to qualify the SHIT out of that." For example:
Pending an improbable successful appeal, everything he had worked for was now gone, likely never to be recovered, ever again. Recovery, if there is any, appears to be something deserved only by the victims of a man whose belief in his innocence will apparently be, like the way he once pursued his dream of playing in the NFL, unrelenting, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Underneath all of the fluff, this is the lamenting close of the story: "Recovery appears to the something deserved only by the victims." He's an unrepentant convicted serial rapist who used his authority as a police officer to prey on the marginalized and escape detection.

The first-hand sources he quotes are:
  1. The father, friends, and sympathetic former teammates of the convicted serial rapist
  2. A local private investigator who films johns and prostitutes and helped the defense because he's convinced Holtzclaw was "naive" and swept up in "bad timing" around Black Lives Matter
  3. A pair of rando psychologists who gamely suggest that maybe 'roid rage or the stress of not achieving his football dreams triggered a carefully covered-up raping spree.
He links to Holtzclaw's sister's web site (which argues that Holtzclaw is innocent and was framed), and makes many references to the "giant holes in the defense's case" but never details them. He refers to the case's "minimal physical evidence" when in fact one of the key pieces of evidence was Holtzclaw's DNA, obtained from one of his victims.

What makes this story so inexplicably, so flat-out bad, is that it if you believe Holtzclaw is innocent, and you have more than a few neurons to rub together, you understand that 12,000 words of insinuation and "I don't understand, he was such a stand-up dude!" is utterly unconvincing in the face of the the evidence arrayed against him. But if you believe Holtzclaw is guilty, and want to write a story about how the monstrous side of a serial rapist can shock and surprise those closest to him, you don't write a sad lament about how he could've been a contender and leave the conclusion as an exercise for the reader.
posted by verb at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2016 [22 favorites]


He refers to the case's "minimal physical evidence" when in fact one of the key pieces of evidence was Holtzclaw's DNA, obtained from one of his victims.

Exactly! DNA is so teeny-tiny; REAL evidence should be, like, at least the size of a football. Speaking of football....
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


But it says in their apology that several senior editorial staff objected before it was published. Why were those objections ignored?

and

So, all that said, I can't figure out:
(a) how this story got greenlit, given the odious premise
(b) how it got published over objections from senior staff
(c) how it got published in that form without fixing the grammar, sentence structure, etc.



He said it point blank. "The publication of this story represents a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation."

It does not matter what process you have if somebody can end-run it. Period. That's what happened. The process broke down. They explicitly said editors were warning them off and the process ignored them. Somebody went around it by ignoring other editors and getting it pushed to the front page. It appears that the damn thing didn't even get a good pass at the copy desk.

They stated clearly that A) it was a massive fuckup, B) that it was their fault, and C) they would go over the process that lead to that being published despite warnings and see where it failed and D) then attempt to fix the problem(s) that led to the failure. They didn't say exactly what those failures were because *they don't know what they are yet*. They haven't said what the fixes are because fixing shit without knowing what broke doesn't fix anything.

The culture of "I want all the answers and I want them now" is not the answer. Not if you actually would prefer this not happen again and SBNation get back to publishing thoughtful and entertaining long form pieces.

I just saw this is Twitter. "SB Nation should publish pitch, story, and editor interviews and sell to j schools as a case study in wrong." Okay. (NOTE THIS IS MERELY A THEORETICAL AND THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.) What if the pitch is fine, the story comes in and it's that horrorshow, editorial is going "oh fuck no!" and some junior flunky with a direction to get that long from article up STAT sees it in a folder and goes "Better get this online."

Editorial could be all over not publishing this, but those editors don't hit the publish command. All you need for a failure like this? Some guy with the right access control list, and that's it.

The popular thing to do would be to fire that guy. This would be wrong -- if they had an order to publish it ASAP. That person did exactly what they were told to do -- publish that long form ASAP. I'd be asking who gave that instruction, and how did that story become visible to the web staff before it was approved, because that's the failure. If that person was instructed to do so by someone with the authority to tell them to do so, they were doing their job and it's not their fault. The fault lies with whomever and/or whatever led to Web Person X hitting "publish."

If you send a book to a printer with pages 100-150 consisting of nothing but FUCK YOU YOU SUCK, it's not the printer's fault if that ends up in the book. The printer prints what they're told. You told them to do it. You didn't proof it. They did what you told them to do. "Print this book."

That's not to say this is what happened. This is to say that demanding answers RIGHT NOW is bad, because, if you actually want this fixed, the first step is finding out what exactly broke. Then you can try to fix it.

Or we can just rage on it until the next thing inflames the Internet.

If they don't come forward with what's wrong? Then you call them out for saying they would and no doing so. If they don't say how they're fixing that? Same thing. If they do it again? Then pitchforks to the left, torches to the right.

But if you want this to never happen again at SBNation? Let them figure out why it happened. Then let them try to fix it.
posted by eriko at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


Oh man, thanks guys. I think I read - because of my own viewpoint, probably- the places where he talks about "convicted of rape" as "he is incontrovertibly a rapist who has even been convicted by a jury of his peers" without realizing this is a way for shitty weasel word plausible deniability to be expressed.
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on February 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


it's really too bad that katie nolan's season is over, she could have done a great job yelling at sbnation.
posted by nadawi at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


As I had said on the Toast, I think it was possibly trying to do something that the author didn't know how to do.

Compare it to Making A Murderer, which wore its heart on its sleeve: Avery wasn't guilty. And it ignored a lot of evidence suggesting Avery WAS guilty. But Arnold didn't see the distinction: with the Avery case, first he had been unfairly convicted of a different crime by the same people; second there were clearly weird things done by the prosecution, the cops, his nephew's lawyer; third he was about to get a bunch of money from these people; and fourth, it's not a question of "did this crime occur" -- there's a murderer somewhere -- but "who is the criminal". Instead we went to "friends and family think he's innocent" which is uninteresting as it is presented.

But it could have been presented in an interesting way! Here's a guy who seems like a nice guy but was convicted of many, many sexual assaults. What does this mean about how we see people we know, how we see assault, how we see criminals? How can we use this in the future, to go from "he's a nice guy who would never have done this" to "but guys who seem nice can". Did he look into unofficial stories of assault when Holtzclaw was a student? That there were no official complaints made against him as a reasonably star athlete isn't proof of much. (Even if there were no unofficial complaints, not proof.)

They could even have gone to a steroid story.

But no, it ended with "he lost it all". Not even "he threw it all away in order to rape poor minority women".
posted by jeather at 9:15 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


He said it point blank. "The publication of this story represents a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation."

I know they're going to go into more detail on how at some point; I still think it's worth saying that I, a person who's spent the last 18 years of my life working in newsrooms, can't even venture a guess on what those details are going to turn out to be. I've seen some disasters (If we're ever at a meetup, ask me about the time I got an angry phone call from the founder of Home Depot!) but for the writing and editing processes to break down to this degree is mystifying.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:16 AM on February 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


And now – oh man – I'm reading through Holtzclaw's sister's "Justice for Daniel Holtzclaw" website, and it's... more than a little ridiculous. For instance, one point on which she stresses that this wasn't "a fair investigation" is when she asks why on earth Daniel was "profiled" as victimizing specifically black women when in fact he "arrested and interacted with women of all race."

Which is – a good point? Yes, he may have had other victims we aren't aware of who weren't black. Wow. So, uh – wow. Not sure where that leaves the whole 'he's innocent!' thing – actually feels like saying he could have had a ton of other victims is pushing it in the other direction. Y'know, further toward oh my god what a monster.
posted by koeselitz at 9:27 AM on February 18, 2016


Tl;dr is not an editorial "process."
posted by jonp72 at 9:28 AM on February 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


Can someone who thinks the article was trying to be written in a positive way point out sections of the article that made them believe that? To me, the entire thing seems like repeatedly saying that Holtzclaw was set up.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2016


In summary: you should measure his career by the women he didn't rape which were a whole lot more than those he did.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:31 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


the entire thing seems like repeatedly saying that Holtzclaw was set up.

Basically the plot of Making A Murderer, which is why I think there was influence.

To be clear, though, I don't think he was set up.
posted by jeather at 9:32 AM on February 18, 2016


For instance, one point on which she stresses that this wasn't "a fair investigation" is when she asks why on earth Daniel was "profiled" as victimizing specifically black women when in fact he "arrested and interacted with women of all race."

Oh Jebus. "If he WAS a rapist, he certainly wouldn't be racist in choosing his targets! Trust me, he would have been open to raping all sorts of people!"
posted by Drinky Die at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's always shocking when journalism goes this wrong, and it's perplexing. I remember years ago, the Minneapolis Reader did an article on a fellow named Michael Fitzpatrick. His name is sort of lost to history now, but he was an FBI informant, and is most notorious for having set up Qubilah Shabazz, Malcolm X's daughter, who was then living in Minneapolis. He and Qubilah Shabazz had discussed assassinating Louis Farrakhan, who Shabazz blamed for her father's death. She was arrested and plead down, resulting in a relatively light sentence.

But people started looking into Michael Fitzpatrick, and he was a piece of work, with a long criminal record, and who had a history of violence and of encouraging others to engage in violence. He even claimed to be Jewish at one point and joined the notoriously awful Jewish Defense League. He was sort of notorious in the Twin Cities for having joined the anarchist community, which immediately pegged him as an informer, and then encouraging violent action -- he was expelled when he encouraged other anarchists to bomb government leaders.

And yet when the Reader published the piece, it was a puff piece about what a great guy Fitzpatrick was, how misunderstood he was, how much integrity he had. And it came out that the author of the piece had dated Fitzpatrick, which she did not let on in her story. Additionally, it came out that she also knew Shabazz, and that Shabazz was in Minnesota because this author had suggested she move out, saying she could probably get work at The Reader.

The editor of the piece? David Carr, who was usually better than that. I asked him about it once and he said, Max, it was a witch hunt that just kept finding witches.
posted by maxsparber at 9:35 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


The part where I actually started to feel physically ill was when I realized that the entire 12,000-word clusterfuck was written exactly in parallel with how the defense presented its case. Lead off with the foregone conclusion that these charges were only brought because of Ferguson, with an exasperated sigh and a quick pivot to 'but he has plenty of black friends!' ("[Selman, t]he black native of Detroit had already been vilified on social media, which saw the crime primarily in racial terms, for his support of his friend"), parade a line of character witnesses with no knowledge of any of the events in question through the courtroom, (Grandma, Dad, a teammate, and a PI on the defense's payroll), mention that women were throwing themselves at him in college, devote a few minutes to character assassination of the witnesses, and then throw everything at the wall you think might stick: CTE, race relations, psychological disorder.

Utterly horrifying that this survived even a cursory read, much less the ostensibly-rigorous editorial process at an organization this large.
posted by Mayor West at 9:38 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


What I don't get is why this author was ever even hired by SBNation in the first place.

Failure Points:

1)Bad Writer gets job at SBNation

2)Pitch Meeting that okays a crime journalism piece in a sports journalism venue mainly because the Rapist was a former college football player

3)12,000 of garbage gets turned in - seriously who authorizes this sight unseen?

4)Editorial review apparently doesn't turn up the fact that the piece is completely awful

5)Publish to website because maybe trainwrecks are good clickbait

6)Outrage because OMG this piece is fucking awful

7)Mea Culpa and takedown because apparently some bad publicity is really just bad
posted by vuron at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2016


We're reviewing all of our processes in light of this failure.

"Guys, we really should, you know, have a process."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is a crazy story. How incredibly shitty.
posted by OmieWise at 10:05 AM on February 18, 2016


What I don't get is why this author was ever even hired by SBNation in the first place.

The author was a freelancer. Which, honestly, you'd figure there would be a stricter vetting process for freelance pieces than in-house anyway.
posted by kmz at 10:14 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


> 4)Editorial review apparently doesn't turn up the fact that the piece is completely awful

But this is exactly not what happened: they acknowledge that the piece ran over the objections of several senior editorial staff. This is the part that interests me. And, contrary to what eriko said above, I am not demanding all the answers right now; I do want them to do a thorough review of what happened (and what didn't) and why and how, and then publish their findings.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


part of receiving answers is asking the questions - it doesn't make sense to say don't ask the questions until you get the answers.
posted by nadawi at 10:22 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


> "The publication of this story represents a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation."

It's been a while since my freelance writing days, but based on my experiences with editors of magazines and websites, the process should have been fairly straightforward.

1. Writer pitches the story idea (I am assuming for argument's sake that it didn't sound as awful as a pitch as it turned out).
2. Editor says "That sounds like it could be interesting," commissions piece.
3. Author submits it.
3. Editor *reads it*.
4. Editor speaks with author, says "What the fuck is this piece of shit? We're not publishing it."
5. Nobody ever reads it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:25 AM on February 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Can someone who thinks the article was trying to be written in a positive way point out sections of the article that made them believe that?

Sure, if only for an exercise on "how our biases make us read articles differently."

So I'd read things like
Nearly six weeks before Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison for committing the series of rapes and unthinkable sexual crimes while on duty as a police officer
and see "They're leading right off the bat with how horrific it is!" without seeing "was sentenced for committing" as different from "committing". It's the same way I would see stuff about the victim's "troubled pasts" and criminal history as saying, "Look how vulnerable his victims were!" rather than "Look how untrustworthy his victims were!"

Or for example, when it talks about victim testimony it says "As the victim testified" or "As the victim told media outlets", and I would see "According to these things directly taken from first person evidence" rather than "According to these ladies' CLAIMS.."

Or when the article says,
Selman still refuses to believe that his former college teammate could have carried out such a sexually deviant plan while working under the guise of a police officer.
To me, that reads, "Look how pervasive the myth of 'rapists are strangers and monsters' is, that even with all this evidence, this guy can't believe that his teammate could have committed these crimes!" rather than "Selman doesn't think he's a criminal, so maybe he's not?"

But all that is, again, in how I respond to the words being said - the story I see when I read them - which is not necessarily how the author actually intended them.
posted by corb at 10:31 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


In addition to the general awful of the piece in question, there's also the loss of the good a properly done piece on Holtzclaw could have produced. People like to comfortingly imagine that rapists are cartoon villains, monsters lurking in the shadows waiting to attack a random woman as she walks down the street alone at night.

But the reality of rape is wildly different from how it exists in the imagination of most people, and the reality of who rapists are and how they act is not one that is often explored or even thought much about. Looking at Holtzclaw the rapist, examining who he was and how he thought and how he acted could be valuable in helping bring people's thinking about rape more in line with the reality.

But the author decided not to bother with that.
The entire time Holtzclaw spent on campus in Ypsilanti, Michigan, his name had never been associated with trouble. Independent searches and police and court records confirm that, as do the recollections of former teammates and university officials alike, none of whom could recall that Holtzclaw had ever made any serious missteps during his entire Division I playing career
Emphasis mine.

Note who the author of the piece didn't talk to: dorm mates, classmates, former girlfriends, and in general women and non-sports men who would have known Holtzclaw. Especially women who knew him. The author seems to have gone far out of his way to avoid talking to fully half of the people Holtzclaw would have interacted with in his daily life. I think asking those women about Holtzclaw might have gotten a different sort of answer from asking his teammates.

Presenting a story about how rapists fit into normal society, and how normal society accommodates rapists by denying that they might be rapists, by denying that the little hints they see might be real, now that would be a worthwhile story and well worth a long look.

Unfortunately we got a puff piece written to try to exonerate a rapist, basically on the grounds that he was a football player.
posted by sotonohito at 10:35 AM on February 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


...the author clearly believes Holtzclaw is innocent, but is afraid to say so...

I read it a bit differently than that. To me it sounded like the author was sort of admitting that yes, Holtzclaw did commit a bunch of rapes, but the author then downplayed the badness and the wrongness because a) Holtzclaw was a respected leader on his football team and had some minor talent and he had friends and people liked him and after all he was immature and unwordly when it came to issues about race, and b) the victims were women of color with "troubled pasts" and legal problems. So: Him good, them bad, it's a draw.

That's how I read it. I would have had more respect for the piece if it was actually arguing his innocence. Instead, it just sounded like the author was condoning the sexual assaults and encouraging us to feel sympathy for Holtzclaw for being punished for them.

Awful, awful piece.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:00 AM on February 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


looks up 'hagiography'

oh, dear.
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:08 AM on February 18, 2016


Instead, it just sounded like the author was condoning the sexual assaults and encouraging us to feel sympathy for Holtzclaw for being punished for them.

exactly - and the idea that this is some new bold direction and is really thought provoking would be hilarious if it weren't so depressing - finding the humanity in rapists is probably the most common way rape is written about or talked about. the women need to be proven worthy of being cared about more than the football players who have their 'lives taken from them.' it's so sadly typical.
posted by nadawi at 11:29 AM on February 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


That "his life had been taken away from him" line is just so, so gross. At *best* it's passive language, as though the rapes he committed were just something that happened to him, a bit of bad luck like lightning hitting a tree and it falling on him. At worst it makes it sound like a bunch of mean feminists and social justice warriors ganged up on him and had him sent to prison for no good reason.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:08 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I read the piece before it was taken down and was so awestruck by its horribleness that I almost posted it here. It's not just an apologia for Holtzclaw, who is routinely admired in the piece for his work ethic, sense of accountability, and fair-mindedness; it's also so badly written that I find it easy to believe that the editorial process broke down. I had to stop reading and hunt for missing auxiliary verbs and prepositions three or four times, not to mention all the winding clauses others have already pointed out. There's just no way any competent editor proofed the final piece or even a penultimate draft. (I allow for the presence of incompetent editors, of course, but consider that part of the breakdown in process.)

Racially, the thing is a mess too. It's not just how strongly it encourages the reader to think of Holtzclaw's victims as extralegal manipulators preying on his naivete and faith in people, but there's also how it quotes two of his black teammates, both of whom "have difficulty viewing the case in racial terms". It attributes to Holtzclaw's father the notion, presented unironically, that Holtzclaw isn't racially prejudiced because he has so many black friends.

Then, of course, there's all the reasons why Holtzclaw might have done what he did: because he played football and got hit in the head one too many times; because he didn't play football, because the NFL is shallow and couldn't look past his size to see what a hard worker he was; because he might have used steroids, although he probably didn't, although lots of people think he did; because he might have a sexual disorder, such as, say, the kind of disorder that causes people to become serial rapists. Just unbelievable.

As an addendum, Brian Bates, the supposedly impartial PI quoted extensively in the article, operates a Twitter account named "Justice4DanHoltzclaw", and the author, Jeff Arnold, is credited as having "covered Daniel Holtzclaw's entire Eastern Michigan football career". So these are not exactly disinterested actors.

I like Spencer Hall's editorial direction and I like SBNation, I'm glad they've apologized fully and unreservedly, but I am very interested in their exposure of the process and failure thereof that led to this nonsense.
posted by Errant at 1:10 PM on February 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


I wonder - not, mind, in any way to excuse anything at all here - if Sbnation's comprised-of-many blogs structure had anything to do with this getting greenlit?
posted by ominous_paws at 1:23 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The weird thing is that this is (poorly-written) stock sports journalism; it's the traditional underdog-overcomes or post-career purpose-finding, but the third act is systematic sexual assault.

Aside from the incredible tone-deafness, the writing is really labored. Take a look at this sentence and try to figure out if there's a worse way to convey that information:

Unlike the University of Michigan, the perennial college football powerhouse seven miles up Washtenaw Avenue in the more affluent and more picturesque college town of Ann Arbor, Eastern Michigan, despite a student population of about 25,000, is a member of the Mid-American Conference, more “mid-major” than big-time.

Or consider this paragraph, which like the rest of the article, really needs editing:

As the list of accusations of women claiming they had been sexually assaulted by his son grew in volume, Eric Holtzclaw, who, understandably, generally trusts police and prosecutors, found it increasingly difficult to remain objective. He first tried to remove Daniel from the equation and to handle the facts of the case as he would under any other investigation, but found that increasingly difficult. Meanwhile, his wife — troubled by the growing list of criminal complaints against Holtzclaw — became enamored by each news report and each online headline that began to paint her son as a serial rapist.
Eric Holtzclaw eventually pleaded with Kumiko to turn off the news, unable to wrap his head around the portrait of his son reported by the media. In this case, he wasn’t a police officer, he was a dad.

posted by theclaw at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


It seems like a lot of people are expecting some kind of New Yorker-style editorial process at what is essentially a blog. I'm guessing the editorial process is something like: editor reads half-assed pitch email, thinks "hm, that might be interesting," assigns it on spec, gets the piece in a month or two later, reads it, does some cursory line editing, and then posts it. The other editors opinions were probably the result of someone saying, "Hey, what are you working on?" I'd be amazed if there were any fact checkers or copy editors involved.
posted by Dr. Send at 1:36 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Back in the day even the stupid gadgets column I wrote* for a stupid lad mag sponsored by a cigarette company got fact-checked.

* I was young, I needed the work, etc.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2016


in the year of our lord 2016, is 'it's a blog' still being used as an insult? it takes all kinds, i guess...
posted by nadawi at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


It seems like a lot of people are expecting some kind of New Yorker-style editorial process at what is essentially a blog.

SB Nation really isn't 'just a blog' anymore. The editor on this piece was Glenn Stout, who edits the 25-year-old The Best American Sports Writing series.
posted by theclaw at 2:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


But this is exactly not what happened: they acknowledge that the piece ran over the objections of several senior editorial staff.

I wonder if that's even true - maybe there is no real editorial oversight at all. Framing something like this as an anomalous failure of a system that is otherwise functional is a typical PR response, and in a world where we're just waiting another X months for advertising supported business models to simply disappear much less be profitable it wouldn't surprise me.
posted by MillMan at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2016


I didn't mean "it's a blog" as an insult, just as a way of calibrating people's expectations about the editorial process.
posted by Dr. Send at 7:57 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


SB Nation really isn't 'just a blog' anymore. The editor on this piece was Glenn Stout, who edits the 25-year-old The Best American Sports Writing series.

When the controversy hit Twitter, I was surprised to find out that it was due to a piece that ran on SBNation's main site, which indeed presents itself as more traditional, professional journalism, as opposed to something that ran on the team blogs--the team blogs have more highly variable editorial control. Or lack thereof. On the team sites there are a lot of posts that never actually get edited before they see the light of day.
posted by Electric Elf at 8:10 PM on February 18, 2016


I can see how the staff of SB Nation would have been interested in having a former Eastern Michigan sports reporter write the story: presumably he has contacts and sources that would have allowed him to do a deep dive into Holtzclaw's life and background when he played football. That's what I would have expected. Instead, the author seems like he saw himself as a fellow member of the Eastern Michigan football team and basically commiserated with Holtzclaw's teammates over their friend's fall from grace.
posted by deanc at 7:05 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder if that's even true - maybe there is no real editorial oversight at all. Framing something like this as an anomalous failure of a system that is otherwise functional is a typical PR response, and in a world where we're just waiting another X months for advertising supported business models to simply disappear much less be profitable it wouldn't surprise me.
For the vast majority of publishing companies, the only thing that keeps embarrassing and horrible shit off the front page is employees' fear of being fired if they are the one that hits 'publish' on embarrassing and horrible shit.

I have relatively limited knowledge of SBNation, but it comes from talking to the folks who maintain and build their backend CMS. They do have the tools for editorial process (review, etc), but as with most orgs they are enforced by convention rather than explicit software rules. According to a couple of the SBNation regulars, it sounds like Spencer Hall was also on vacation for several weeks before the story went up? It's conceivable that a heated argument over whether it should be published resulted in one or two editors championing the story and pushing it live. I don't know if that's what happened, but having worked behind the scenes with a lot of media companies' web sites it's highly plausible.
posted by verb at 9:41 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


The editor on this piece was Glenn Stout, who edits the 25-year-old The Best American Sports Writing series.

It's always been a huge badge of honor for a writer and a publication when a story gets selected for BASW. Now I wonder if it shouldn't be such a huge deal anymore. Stout's comments quoted in the Times piece do not reflect well on his editorial judgment.
posted by stargell at 10:27 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Deadspin has obtained a memo that Kevin Lockland, SB Nation’s vice president of editorial operations, sent out to all of Vox Media this morning. In it, Lockland explained that the site has severed ties with Jeff Arnold, the freelancer who wrote the story. There will also be a peer review led by Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele during which SB Nation’s Longform program will be inactive. You can read the memo in full here:"
posted by rtha at 1:12 PM on February 19, 2016


As a corollary, here is an SBNation longform article for 2014 on David Meggett, another former football player and serial rapist of easily-discredited women, which is much better and actually maintains focus on the victims. (I didn't notice anything too explicit in there, but there is some description of his attacks which makes for uncomfortable reading, so consider this a trigger warning to that effect.)
posted by Errant at 2:28 PM on February 19, 2016


There will also be a peer review led by Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele during which SB Nation’s Longform program will be inactive.

SBNation Editor in Chief Kevin Lockland explicitly notes that since the subject of the review involves his team, he cannot be truly objective in this review, which is why Vox Media's editorial director was asked to conduct the review.

This, of course, is the exact right course. It may be that Kevin Lockland was the reason the process broke down. If that's the case, a review led by him would likely try to hide that. By kicking it out to a Vox Media official, he'll be under the same scrutiny as everybody else.
posted by eriko at 9:45 AM on February 20, 2016


Author Of Botched Daniel Holtzclaw Profile Apologizes For 'Lopsided Account'
As reporters, we strive never to become part of the story. Last week, I didn't measure up to that expectation and wanted to offer this statement to account for my failings.

In recent days, I have had a chance to reflect on the profile of convicted rapist Daniel Holtzclaw I worked on for two months in collaboration with the editors at SB Nation. Now that I have some distance on the piece, I see that it presented a lopsided account that failed to acknowledge the suffering of Mr. Holtzclaw’s victims. For that, I apologize.

Throughout an arduous reporting and editing process, my editor and I were mindful that we could never lose sight of those victims or the horrific treatment each of them experienced. But we also felt there was an untold story to be told, which led us to focus on Mr. Holtzclaw, starting with his past as a football player at Eastern Michigan and his pursuit to play in the NFL.

In writing this piece – which was reviewed and signed off on by at least four editors prior to its publication – I hoped to present a more fully-rounded portrait of Mr. Holtzclaw than had appeared in the press. I hoped to explore the question of what had happened to this once-promising young man. I and my editor at SB Nation hoped to find possible answers as to what could have led to him to become a convicted rapist and sexual predator. In the end, though, I produced a piece that had massive shortcomings.

By not spending more time reaching out to victims or their families as a way of accounting for the horrific abuse they suffered, I made a grave mistake. I accept responsibility for that.

While I believe some of the personal attacks on my journalistic integrity and personal character were unfair and unfounded, I take personal and professional responsibility for my work and must, and have, accepted the consequences that have come because of mistakes that occurred – mistakes that I have learned from and will strive not to repeat in the future.

I believe my friends and those who have reached out to offer support over the past several days understand I am not the person I have been made out to be on social media. I know I won't change the minds of some, but sincerely hope my words here help to express the remorse I feel for the damage this story has caused.
So, "we were determined not to lose sight of the victims, but we forgot about that determination immediately, and four different editors thought it was awesome. But now I'm supposed to apologize idk."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:22 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


led to him to become a convicted rapist

Not even in his apology can he bring himself to use an active verb to describe Holtzclaw's actions. Ugh.
posted by cjelli at 10:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


But we also felt there was an untold story to be told

This dude is also not much of a writer.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Not even in his apology can he bring himself to use an active verb to describe Holtzclaw's actions. Ugh.

If I had any doubts that this dude really, really wants Holtzclaw to be innocent, they're gone.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:24 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]




Looks like a new piece on Deadspin is up giving some fascinating context:
We found, in the course of our reporting, that the failure here was in part a function of structural problems at SB Nation, which set up a system that would allow it to enjoy the benefits of running longform stories without actually having to do much work on them, and in part a function of the style and sensibility of Glenn Stout, who has, we can report, already been fired. We also found that this failure could have been averted if only Stout and top editorial staff had listened to one of their colleagues, senior editor Elena Bergeron, who explicitly and repeatedly drew attention to the story’s flaws in the days leading to its publication—and was, somehow, ignored.
posted by verb at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Deadspin has published a piece by Greg Howard , How SB Nation Published Their Daniel Holtzclaw Story, which is super inside baseball but also probably pretty important to understanding the mechanics of how this happened.

The whole thing is great, but this piece stuck out to me a lot as a larger point.

There is no such thing as longform writing. There is such a thing as features writing—profiles, investigations, essays—and if it’s prestigious, that’s mainly because of its association with careful selection of subjects and with vigorous research, reporting, editing, copy-editing, and fact-checking. A feature carries an implicit assertion that a publication has invested money, time, talent, effort, and care to produce something of depth. Longform is a variant of feature writing—a branding strategy, really—that confuses a secondary indicator (length) for the thing itself (quality). As the name implies, it asserts nothing more than that a certain mass has been attained.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another interesting thing is that despite featuring professional reporting edited by a full-time SB Nation employee, Longform was run as if it were one of the site's blog affiliates with Stout as the sole operator and not a branch of the central sports features-and-news organization that, say, Jon Bois is part of.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:48 AM on February 26, 2016


This was the best part of the Deadspin writeup, for me:
Among other things, this story serves as an example of why diversity in the newsroom is so important. It isn’t because diversity is charity, or because giving opportunities to people other than white men is a Christlike thing to do, but because everyone has blind spots, and everyone fucks up. Bergeron was there, and the best-suited to work on the story alongside Arnold and Stout—not just because she’s the only person of color and the only woman among SBNation.com’s top layer of editors, but because she’s capable and experienced. Not only did Stout never enlist her to cover his and Arnold’s blindspots, though, but when she did so anyway, he disregarded her, and was empowered to do so. The habits of thought embedded in the name SB Nation Longform—the tendency to view the seriousness of a feature as a function not of rigor but of length—converged with the homogeneity of the senior staff and the structure of the operation itself, and ended in a disaster.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:11 AM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Honestly, if this was a fictional tale of journalistic fucking-up, the loudest (and basically only) voice against this piece pre-publishing being a black woman would be almost eye-rolling in its "on the nose-ness"; that this is true a and that she was ignored is what makes it somehow both more ridiculous and probably sadly, more realistic.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:35 PM on February 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Stout deemed the piece ready to publish, upon which, two sources close to the story said, he emailed the final draft to most of SBNation.com’s senior editors—though, curiously, not Bergeron. (Why she wasn’t included, we can’t say...

So Stout knew there were problems with the piece even before Begeron brought it to his attention. After she pointed out the problems it was published anyway. I don't see this mess as an example of how diversity improves journalism because having a single reasonable voice in the newsroom didn't seem to mean anything. It's an example of what happens when a media company employs someone with a sexist/racist agenda.
posted by rdr at 5:12 PM on February 26, 2016


Honestly, if this was a fictional tale of journalistic fucking-up, the loudest (and basically only) voice against this piece pre-publishing being a black woman would be almost eye-rolling in its "on the nose-ness"; that this is true a and that she was ignored is what makes it somehow both more ridiculous and probably sadly, more realistic.

When Spencer Hall wrote that the piece went out over the objections of senior editorial staff, I was 100% certain that he was talking about Elena Bergeron, and I was 120% certain that he was only talking about Elena Bergeron. I can't tell whether I'm grimly satisfied or thoroughly dismayed to be proven wholly correct.
posted by Errant at 11:47 PM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


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