(without proper due diligence, there’s no way of knowing if this is really King Kaufman)
Man, who’d have ever imagined former Mets GM Steve would be the second most embarrassing Phillips to be associated with ESPN? Deadspin has reported extensively on sports blogging’s way-less interesting answer to J.T. Leroy, Sarah Phillips and how she and an Oregon associate parlayed her ESPN Playbook gig into a series of creepy /criminal attempts at defrauding other aspiring nu-media schnooks. Though I’m tempted to think anyone who hoped to profit from an idea as flimsy as “NBA Memes” deserves to lose their shirt, it’s still a fascinating story, and full credit to the oft-maligned (by me, anyway) Gawker property for pursuing a scoop most of the established media wouldn’t have bothered with (not until reading it elsewhere, anyway).
If the Phillips story has been a treasure trove for Deadspin, consider the case of the Bleacher Report, where posts culled from Deadspin’s Phillips coverage are nearing double-digits in less than two days. “Sarah Phillips Scandal Raises New Concerns for Online Journalism” headlined a post from Pulitzer-winner Gabe Zaldivar Tuesday (“Sarah Phillips rose to stardom in a blink of an eye, leaving no room for the crucial step of becoming a viable journalist”), while a Wednesday post from that modern answer to Red Smith, Mike Chiara, called the scandal, “a story that has certainly taken on a life of its own,” (which is a somewhat diplomatic way of saying it’s provided the easiest content imaginable for B/R).
When you combine these alleged scams with the fact that nobody at ESPN had actually ever met her, it had to be an easy decision to let her go. In the Internet age, you never know exactly what you’re getting and it appears as though ESPN had a con artist on its hands.
Even if Phillips is innocent, there is simply too much bad press to make her worth keeping for ESPN. The sports media giant looks really bad in this case as it failed to do its due diligence in hiring Phillips, so all ESPN can do at this point is sever ties and hope that the whole situation just goes away.
I’m curious, how much “due diligence” was observed when Bleacher Report hired Chiara or Zaldivar? Can B/R CEO Brian Grey pick either of these gentlemen out of a police lineup, or off the top of his head name one interesting piece of writing from either without looking it up first? How do Phillips’ “alleged scams” measure on the ethical scoreboard compared to B/R’s Google-rigging and reluctance to compensate nearly all of their workforce?
Please, by all means, let’s have tons more pointless speculation what ESPN’s blunder means to the future of journalism, particularly if it’s delivered by a source that’s done everything possible to destroy it.