Never Bet Against Yahoo When Death Is On The Line

Never Bet Against Yahoo When Death Is On The Line

Submitted by Brian on March 9th, 2011 at 2:14 PM


Left: Yahoo's Charles Robinson. Right: Death.

The Colonel Klink scandal unfolding at Ohio State is interesting from a hur-hur rival perspective, obviously, but I'm also fascinated by the responses across the blogosphere in the 23 hours between Yahoo posting their story and Ohio State's ham-handed press conference*.

This includes mine, essentially "I'm not sure if there's any paper but Yahoo is serious business." Eleven Warriors echoed:

it is highly unlikely that either Charles Robinson or Dan Wetzel would risk their reputations on a piece of investigative journalism that they didn't believe was accurate and authentic. Yahoo! Sports is a legitimate reporting organization, and whatever you think about either Wetzel or Robinson, no editor with a shred of sanity or professionalism would allow such a damning story to go live without at least something behind it. Some OSU fans have pointed out that the story cites only one anonymous source, which is fair criticism, and if that source continues to be unnamed and the only supplier of information to this story, then its credibility should be put in doubt. But keep in mind that Yahoo's track record with regard to investigative sports journalism is anything but shaky, and that it is probable that Wetzel and Robinson have not played every card in their hand.

Dr. Saturday was in the same boat:

Presumably – considering we're working on the word of respected reporters with a pretty good track record when it comes to NCAA scandal – that's a solid source, and presumably there are others leading the reporters to the same conclusion without saying as much outright. Presumably, too, there's more evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) on the way.

EDSBS went farther, into open hostility to anyone who would point at the single anonymous source as a reason to discount the story:

The story by Dan Wetzel uses a single anonymous source, the red flag for stupid people who like to point and say "HURP WHY ANONAMOOSE MEDIA FURRP." An anonymous source is fine, especially because this is Wetzel, who knows his shit and has a long track record of solid reportage. Don't rely on this as a critique unless you're dumb, and if you are please, feel free to get your dumbness all over the place somewhere else.

Wetzel and Robinson's one anonymous source is the moment when the blogosphere's trust in the Yahoo military-investigative complex went from implicit to explicit**. Anywhere else, even most newspapers, and the skepticism would be between substantial and total. Here it was minor, mostly limited to the question of paper. Slow States FTW:

So the winner here is clearly Yahoo! and Wetzel, not only for getting their name all over this one but doing the impossible: proving to the Internet (!) that you can in fact trust them next time they come out with a report based on what would at any Kansas City radio station be hardly worth a retweet.

Yahoo has accomplished what the set out to when they hired Wetzel and Robinson and a few other guys and told them "be NCAA enforcement." Q: is it working financially? We've seen Fanhouse go the wide-and-shallow route and eventually give up, leaving TSN to fire everyone except some overpaid columnists. We've seen Deadspin's mix of terrific and awful work. Lord, have we heard the complaints from newspaper folk about how no one cares about quality and no one pays for investigative work. Yahoo seems to be an encouraging counterpoint to the narrative that says in ten years all newspapers will be TMZ and all restaurants Taco Bell.

I know two things:

  1. I'll be just as depressed as anyone at a newspaper if it turns out Wetzel and Robinson almost singlehandedly causing Bruce Feldman to title a post "Is College Football Falling Apart?"($) does not work financially. If you can't get paid doing what Yahoo is doing you can't get paid doing any substantive reporting.
  2. The reasonable response to a Yahoo article linking your school to NCAA wrongdoing is to wet yourself and hide in the corner.

BONUS: Interviewed on Chicago radio, Robinson says Yahoo will break two more stories before football season, one a 6-7 on a ten point scale on which Tressel is an 8, the other a 10. I've got Clemson in the pool.

*[With rhabdogate and the whole Legends/Leaders debacle, this appears to be a Big Ten specialty.]

**[There was one obvious exception of local interest that seemed kinder to ignore, but somehow I find myself called out for not responding to it. So, fine: of late MNB Dave has 1) declared moving The Game was not only not a big deal, but a good thing, 2) declared Michigan's most recent recruiting class "awesome", 3) been the only person on the planet other than Dave Brandon to defend Dave Brandon's process, and 4) called out Robinson and Wetzel as what's wrong with modern-day journalism.

He's either sustained a major brain injury or is—as emailers have taken to suggesting on the regular—started taking idiotic contrarian positions for the attention. Either way I'm past the point where a response would be anything constructive.  If you agree with any of the above points we are speaking a different language and interaction is pointless. Maybe if I was a better person I could gently explain the many specific ways in which the above positions are incorrect, but I'm sure halfway through I'd go HULK SMASH and start talking about how people look like horses and should be quarantined on the moon so their disease does not infect the rest of the planet. Since I prefer to restrict my vicious ad hominem attacks to people I haven't met I'm taking mom's advice and not saying anything at all… except when directly called out. So: MNB, for the love of God either get a coherent editorial position or fan out into a half-dozen different blogs so I can better distinguish which things to ts;dr.

You don't care, I know, which is why this is a footnote.]