Jihad The Second: Chait On Deadspin

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2009 at 10:46 PM

Guest post from Jon Chait, who needed a platform via which to respond.

So Brian yesterday noted Deadspin’s foray into the “Let’s Accuse A Coach We Don’t Like Of Violating NCAA Regulations Without Bothering To Learn What The Regulations Say” genre popularized by the Detroit Free Press. I wanted to chime in because that same post featured a not-very-insightful shot at yours truly.

Yesterday I wrote a column for Rivals pointing out that, while it’s fine for Michael Rosenberg to express his strong anti-Rich Rodriguez opinions in his sports columns, allowing a columnist with such a strong viewpoint to write an anonymously-sourced investigative news article on the same topic of his obsession is improper.

Deadspin’s Dashiell Bennett drops the gotcha on me:

Jonathan Chait stepped down from his high horse at The New Republic to lambaste the Freep's Michael Rosenberg for his anti-Rich Rod bias, stating that no place he worked would ever let an opinion writer do hard news about a subject he was so "passionate" about. Interesting, if true. I wonder if any of those fine, upstanding newspapers Chait's talking about would let an alumnus (UM, Class of '94) attack another writer because they published dirt about an organization he used to be associated with?

Jesus. Was I writing an investigative news article in a newspaper about a topic which I have strong opinions on? No, I was not. Nor should I. Having lambasted the Freep’s journalistic ethics, if I were to go to the Detroit News and propose they hire me to write an expose about how Freep sports editors are laundering money for the Cali drug cartel to fund their kitten-strangling hobby, the News should definitely not hire me. In fact, I hereby authorize every newspaper in the country to reject any future entreaties by me to report and write investigative news stories on any subject in which I have previously expressed strong opinions.

It’s perfectly ethical for Rosenberg to wage his anti-Rodriguez jihad in his sports column. Dumb, unpersuasive, misleading, sometimes factually inaccurate, yes, but not unethical. It’s likewise perfectly ethical for me to opine about the University of Michigan, despite having graduated from it. But if Dashiell Bennett learned he was the subject of an investigative news story in the New York Times, authored by me, reporting on the scandal of people who are allowed to write sports blogs despite having IQs under 90, he would probably feel that something unethical had transpired.



September 1st, 2009 at 10:56 PM ^

Well said.

I'm glad to see more and more of Dashiell Bennett's inane post being taken apart. I'm not a huge reader of Deadspin, but I sense the actual readers aren't big fans of Dashiell either.


September 1st, 2009 at 10:57 PM ^

Mr. Chait, if you're reading this, I can tell you with great certainty that basically everyone on this blog loved your piece. It was straight to the point, it was insightful, and it came from somebody that actually had the authority to put Rosenberg and his editor down like you did. It was greatly appreciated by not just Michigan fans, but fans of good journalism.

Keep fighting the good fight, and Go Blue


September 1st, 2009 at 10:58 PM ^

Well said Jon. I likened your article yesterday to the premise of the movie Absence of Malice (P. Newman, S. Field, Diabeetus, et. al). There's something inherently wrong with writing a semi-factual newspaper article to see what 'sticks' (and what doesn't) against the proverbial wall. I seriously hope the backlash against the Freep is enough to cost a few people their jobs. Hopefully, the whole kit & caboodle will implode due to their shortsightedness.


September 1st, 2009 at 11:08 PM ^

...when he created significant controversy by using the school newspaper to advance ideas such as the general uselessness of our cheerleaders, the concept that they viewed all non-cheerleaders as unshaven lesbians, and the advantages of razing the foreign language wing for a parking lot.

Back then -- much as now -- he was right on target.


September 1st, 2009 at 11:17 PM ^

Why is it not okay for Mr Chait to write about Michigan because he graduated from there BUT it's okay for Snyder and Rosenberg to both write/edit the column when they both went here?

Obviously Snyder and Rosenberg have an anti-RR bias but hey don't let that stand in the way of you getting on your soapbox Deadspin!

The King of Belch

September 2nd, 2009 at 5:13 AM ^

Right on, bouje! Only self loathing Michigan is allowed! I guess you get instant cred, especially in SE Michigan these days if you hate yourself for being a UM fan or graduate, and you do all you can to help destroy Ann Arbor.

Y'know, I noticed this trend the minute Rich Rod was hired. Like him or not, question him or not, what he has done in the past is PROVE he deserves the chance to come here and succeed. What Michigan proved in the past is they were doing a lot of things right--except get over The Hump ('97 excepted, of course). Even off the field, at the time RR took over UM's HC position, he was graduating players at a better rate than UM under Aristotle Carr.

It could better be put into perspective if 3-9 had launched all the questioning by the media. But to those who followed it, even peripherally, Rodriguez and UM have been on the receiving end of the pitchfork mob from the get-go. I meaan, i'm as much of a cynic and love to just go out and make fun of everything that happens, ever, and love to give people shit (quite often for no reason)--but this whole, IMO, anti Rodriguez-UM stance by the media really has me absolutely dumbstruck. I just can't figure it out. And I really am one of the last guys ever who takes the stance that "The media is out to get me!"

Rodriguez, as Brian said in another post, just HAS GOT to be wondering why he left West Virginia and how in the FUCK he ended up like Daniel in the furnace.

One thing that has to be said here: Again, like him or not, blah blah--the Man left a veritable throne in West Virginia. Prodigal Son, the backing of their own Bo (Nehlen), built them into a perennial power, got them national recognition like no other, and would have undoubetdly had them at that level until he retired to a palace they would have carved out for him on some mountain top there--to take over a job that came with a flaming hot seat, immense scrutiny and pressure, and pretty much starting over.

The amount of courage (even if mixed in with more than a healthy dose of bravado) to make this move is to be admired--yet many in the media (those who should be responsible, unlike guys like me) have never given him a chance and don't appear to be willing to let up. And I don't believe for a second that "winning will make it go away" Ask Earle Bruce and John Cooper--hell, to a point, ask Lloyd Carr.


September 1st, 2009 at 11:25 PM ^

Really enjoy Deadspin, it cuts the fluff most of the time and gets straight to the point. I think you could successfully use the tag "no sugarcoat" in all their articles. This is just another great example.


September 1st, 2009 at 11:50 PM ^

every single comment i have seen you make is this sort of "lolz UM sux the OP is wrong" crap. yet you have 700 points. there's people who have been posting 4 times longer than you, with substantive, or at least common agreement, posts and have a third your points. several different people on here have magically accumulated hundreds of points while being a jerk and having a -5 by each post they make so it makes me wonder how this is possible.


September 2nd, 2009 at 12:13 AM ^

This is really one of those deep philosophical questions, its like string theory all 300 of them, could one of them actually be proven as an equation possible of predicting the characteristics and intricacies of every force, subatomic particle and just the general nature of the entire universe? (and the universe is pretty big)

How can a ND fan, not even that, a ND fan who doesn't hide behind a random screen name with a distinctly "Irish" avatar somehow not get banned 30 secs after he signed up?

See you may not think the two questions are related but they are because the answer is the same, I don't know.

Obviously I can't be as bad as you think or I wouldn't have lasted more than a few million femtoseconds after signing up. But I do know that I will be here for a while until I do something so blasphemous a mod sees fit to remove me from the site. And who knows maybe this post was blasphemous enough but in case it isn't I will be back tomorrow.

Till then.

The King of Belch

September 2nd, 2009 at 4:56 AM ^

I love it when opposing teams' fans come in here. It kind of justifies the feeling that UM is a national program that draws attention from everywhere. In my experiences, fans from other teams generally do a great job when on Michigan boards (except the DetNews forums) and ry to have a lil fun. Kind of what these exercises are all about.

It's kind of that open conversation/other opinions/what's the pulse of other people thing that beats being locked up in a room with people who only think like you do.

Go Irish Go! (I should admit that I am not fueled in any way by any animosity toward other programs or their fans with the exception of Michigan State).


September 2nd, 2009 at 8:52 AM ^

Alternative theory: opposing teams' fans come here because we actually LIVE in Ann Arbor.
Alternative theory: opposing teams' fans come here because we enjoy good writing, and can actually *GASP* recognize it when we see it!

Umm, get over yourself. See you on October 4, after MSU clowns UM again, not gently like last year.

FWIW, I do appreciate that you smell of rich, stale beer, though.

03 Blue 07

September 2nd, 2009 at 3:24 AM ^

I generally like what Irish has to say because it is measured, usually, and I +1 him sometimes because he has decent insights and isn't a prick about things. So...If you are wondering who gives the guy points, I'll go on record as saying I do.

Although, Irish, I do think your use of words like "femtoseconds" and referencing string theory is kind of inherently condescending. I feel comfortable saying that you don't speak that way in everyday conversation. Or you're a physicist. One or the other.

Regardless, despite these flaws, I generally think you have solid takes on things. It also might be a byproduct of the fact that ND is the only rival of ours that I even remotely respect academically.

I am sure I'll get negged for this.


September 2nd, 2009 at 12:54 AM ^

in the last five days in which i have really paid attention to the board, every single comment he has made (possible exaggeration) has been some form of snark. not humorous snark. "i'm smarter and btw lolz um sux" snark. this comment is on par with what i've seen.

zero content or quality beside being contentious. simply refuting the idea the Deadspin article was as worthless as it was and actually claiming it had "solid value."


September 2nd, 2009 at 7:56 AM ^

Even Brian has pointed to Irish in the past as an example of how another team's fan should operate on this board.

I think he deserves double credit, too, since Brian is harder on the Domers than most other rivals. It's even board policy (and MGoBlog sells a t-shirt) to cruelly make light of their coach's weight.

And yet he sticks around, and hasn't allowed himself to be dragged into a flame war. I couldn't do that on a Fighting Irish site.

STW P. Brabbs

September 2nd, 2009 at 8:10 AM ^

I don't know you well enough to know if this is just a joke, but in case you actually do love Deadspin, I'm going to give you a -1 for having the intellect of a sixth-grader. If you were kidding I'll take it back.

Please note that this has nothing (well, very little, anyway) with you being a Notre Dame fan.


September 2nd, 2009 at 8:34 AM ^

I just didn't do a very good job reading the article, probably up too late tbh, I do enjoy deadspin either way though, don't love it but it is a nice distraction from espin who always seems to have an agenda but thats just my opinion.

Looking back though, I don't think I have ever agreed with much of what deadspin has said on ND so I can understand any UM fan isn't a fan at the same time.


September 2nd, 2009 at 9:15 AM ^

and the one thing we agree on is that M and ND are pretty much hated more than any other D1 football schools. Not a whole lot of media love. Oh, we also agree that Charlie Weis is a terrible coach, so that's 2 things. And that RR is getting the shaft from the Freep, so that's 3 things.

What was my premise again?


September 2nd, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

Well I'm gonna to go then. And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this ashtray.

And that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

Intermountain Alum

September 1st, 2009 at 11:51 PM ^

I asked the girlfriend, a journalist, her thought on the Rosenberg piece. Mind you, as a non-UM grad who believes football teams serve merely as the opener to the band at halftime and enjoys football Saturdays only for the macadamia pancakes at the pub, she sided with Chait and said that having an openly antagonistic columnist write the piece was sketchy and only served to discredit whatever merit the article might have had. (She had several other beefs with the article, but was far less harsh than I thought it desereved.)


September 2nd, 2009 at 12:58 AM ^

and then your "girlfriend" took over the keyboard from g right and your friend the stranger handled keys f and left so you could post this.


anyways, i thought it would be an interesting mid-week item to send this article to 10 journalism professors and see what they thought. of course, 5 would be current or former UM professors who enjoy football but we won't say which is which when we give the results.


September 2nd, 2009 at 3:27 AM ^

Dash is a horribly partisan asshat who is one of the worst sports bloggers on the planet. He's one of the main reasons Deadspin has become a shell of what it once was. Will Leitch should be horrified that everything he built is being ruined by Dash and the other jackoffs AJ Delaurio decided to let do his job.

Jon, on the off chance you read this... I want to have your kittens.

STW P. Brabbs

September 2nd, 2009 at 7:53 AM ^

Dash is one of the people whose lack of wit and talent was actually a drain on the Deadspin comments, but he just fucking hung around so long and commented so much that he became internet buddies with Daulerio. Internet Buddies with Daulerio, of course, being the only qualification needed to write for Deadspin since Leitch left. It's basically the fucking Bleacher Report.


September 2nd, 2009 at 4:17 AM ^

Reputation assault aside, does anyone legitimately fear punishment from the NCAA? If the past is any indication, I have to believe the UM program will be fine. Add a few directions to our school (N/E/S/W), subtract a decent amount of wins and trophies, and MAYBE we face a strict punishment.

We'll make it.


September 2nd, 2009 at 5:08 AM ^

I am the publisher of a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine, so when I read the above article it was so obviously correct I thought to myself, "why does anyone need to say this?" Then I remembered that everyone who is following this story is not in the news business.

So, just to put a fine point on it for anyone who is interested, there is a big difference between a columnist and a reporter. A columnist writes opinion pieces. A reporter writes facts with as much impartiality as possible. Not only do they serve totally different functions, but the journalistic standards are also different.

Unfortunately, readers often have a difficult time knowing the difference between columnists and reporters. The line is unnecessarily blurred further when organizations like FP allow columnists to pretend to report news. With extremely limited exceptions, no quality news organization would ever do that. This is the principle that underlies why Kirk Herbstreit (or pick your favorite ESPN analyst) will not make a game prediction on a game he is going to be covering. Since he is going to be reporting the game, he does not want to appear biased in having previously told you who is going to win.

And, yes, I am a Michigan alum so shoot me for being biased. It does not change the fact that a columnist who writes opinion pieces about Michigan for a living should never have been allowed to moonlight (poorly I might add) as an investigative reporter on a story about Michigan. It is, as my British friends would say, "very poor form."


September 2nd, 2009 at 9:45 AM ^

This is why most newspapers made a huge deal about the "wall" between editorial and reporting, to emphasize that the opinions their writers take on the op-ed page don't influence reporting. This is really journalism 101 and it's shocking that the Freep wouldn't see the issue in advance.

It likely has a lot to do with the way cut backs have gutted the Freep's reporting staff but it's still inexcusable.


September 2nd, 2009 at 9:50 AM ^

You didn't realize there was a difference between someone who writes opinion pieces and an actual journalist?
NOT trying to be snyde (sp. :) ) just wondering.
I actually read the newspaper (columbus dispatch, a terrible hunk of stuff) when I'm home and have to say that I don't think THEY know the difference between a journalist and a columnist.


September 2nd, 2009 at 11:49 AM ^

I don't think there is enough of a difference in many newspapers. I could be a little off base.
I don't know whether it is a symptom or a cause of the decline of newspapers, but they are not doing themselves any favors by throwing true journalism out the window.


September 2nd, 2009 at 1:51 PM ^

I wonder how many other people think this way?

I know I've taken a lot of guff, when writing for several publications, in which disgruntled readers pointed at editorials as examples of publication bias.

We put so much time into separating opinion from news, but it seems we don't spend nearly enough time making it clear to the readers that news and features are separate from columns and unsigned editorials -- that the same people do not write on the same topic for both, that we take this as seriously as judges and recusal.