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Feb 27 / King Kaufman

Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs on the ethics of the Manti Te’o piece

There’s a pretty good interview with Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs about the Manti Te’o hoax story at the National Sports Journalism Center website.

Manny Randhawa, a journalism grad student at Indiana University and former Bleacher Report writer, asks Craggs about some of the ethical issues involved with publishing the story, especially the quote from the friend of hoaxer Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who said he was “80 percent sure” Te’o was “in on it.” He also asks Craggs to respond to some criticisms of the piece lodged by the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and others.

Here’s Craggs’ answer to Randhawa’s question about the “80 percent sure” quote, which media critic Ed Sherman wrote Deadspin should not have used because “you’re running an incredibly damning quote from a single source who likely doesn’t know the complete story.”

This is a concern troll’s complaint. It’s moronic. That’s a quote from a source who knew both the hoax and hoaxer better than anyone we’d spoken with. It contains its own grain of salt. Eighty percent is not 100 percent: congratulations, Ed Sherman, you can understand the basic English words and number concepts that went into the quote. Yet 80 percent is nevertheless “incredibly damning.”

There are 2,000 words of context preceding that quote, context that was perfectly understood by everyone who read the story except committed Notre Dame truthers and certain willfully dense journalists who were determined to remind people that Deadspin isn’t real journalism …

The evidence supported–and, frankly, still supports–a degree of skepticism about the Manti-as-duped-romantic story. We wanted to relay our source’s belief and be transparent about his uncertainty. There is nothing outrageous about that.

Craggs takes an increasingly belligerent tone throughout the interview for some reason, but don’t let that throw you. He makes a lot of reasonable points, though they’re not as slam-dunk argument-ending as that tone might lead you to believe he thinks they are. It’s worth a read and some thought. Would you have run the “80 percent” quote? I think I would have.

  • Scott Henry

    “…willfully dense journalists who were determined to remind people that Deadspin isn’t real journalism.”

    That quote right there is why Craggs is well within his rights to get a little belligerent when Deadspin pulls a major coup like the Te’o story. The site’s taken enough slings and arrows over the years, not unlike B/R. The difference is that Deadspin can actually score a major story of its own, which we’re essentially forbidden to do. Congrats to them, and bravo to Tommy Craggs for not suffering fools trying to score 15 minutes off his team’s back.