NYT subtly frowns on Deadspin’s ESPN horndog dossier shenanigans

A new media campaign retaliating against ESPN for scandal related subterfuge got some old media attention today.

Deadspin, a Gawker media blog, gets oodles of sports and sportscaster news related tips and rumors in their inbox. Back at the beginning of September, Deadspin’s editor AJ Daulerio contacted ESPN for confirmation of the rumors swirling around Steve Philips regarding the unhinged intern (Brooke Hundley) that Philips totally turned out to be tapping. ESPN spokespeople were less than forthcoming about the brewing scandal, and Daulerio got scooped and got mad- so he decided to devote a day to posting all the tips he’d gotten regarding sexual impropriety at ESPN.

Daulerio tagged the entries “ESPN horndog dossier,” and posted rumors about Erik Kuselias, Stephania Bell, Jed Drake, Katie Lacey and David Berson. There was even a “glossary” posted that gave a bit of background info on some alleged less savory seduction practices common at ESPN. The intended effect was swift and painful for ESPN- the names named by Deadspin showed up in the top results of Google searches frequently late last week and even prompted ESPN President George Bodenheimer to issue a memo asking staff to quit blabbing about the constant in-house boning to media.

The New York Times kind of chided the Deadspin for their “ESPN horndog dossier” today, and ESPN only commented in a statement, saying:

“Deadspin’s self-admitted rumormongering is despicable behavior by any standard and shows callous disregard for its impact on people’s lives. It is not worthy of response and those responsible should be called to account.”

Although the Times piece seems to imply that the posts were all rumor and supposition posted purely out of spite, quotes at the end not only lend credence to Daulerio’s sources, but also the reasoning behind the decision to go after ESPN in the first place:

But in the interview (with the New York Times), (Daulerio) said he adhered to the same standard of proof as any traditional news organization, repeating only those things told to him by multiple sources with close knowledge of the subject.

He and Nick Denton, owner of Gawker Media, said the larger issue was sources being dishonest with journalists. “When an unnamed source misleads, as far as we’re concerned, they lose the right to remain in the shadows,” Mr. Denton said in an e-mail exchange.

Daulerio also contends that none of the tips posted were kept under wraps very well anyway:

“Do I bend the rules a little bit? Of course I do. We’re still a blog at the end of the day, a Gawker Media blog. The larger truth out of this, outside of my temper tantrum over getting scooped out of a story, is that this is the worst-kept secret in sports media.”

What do you think? Questionable judgment, or epic win?