Thursday, February 12, 2009

Phoenix New Times 'NBA Tattoo Cap' Debacle: What Had Happened Was...


UPDATE 11/3/10: Phoenix New Times fails again with a Steve Nash retirement hoax.

Earlier I mentioned a curious Phoenix New Times article about tattoos in the NBA that refers to a ludicrous NBA "tattoo cap" whereby teams would be limited to 61% arm and neck tattoo coverage as a team. David Stern is quoted as saying he does not want to "scare the bejesus out of affluent demographic groups." The New Times article claimed FoxSports.com as the source, but was in fact quoting a clearly satirical blog post by Con Chapman that appeared in Fox's community section. Fellow sports media professional Matt Watson originally alerted me to the article and we got a good laugh out of it. I then tried unsuccessfully a couple of times to get a response from the paper. In the meantime, I made contact with the hilarious Con Chapman, and we had a good laugh about the matter. Finally this morning I got a message through to the author of the article, Niki D'Andrea.

Ms. D'Andrea seems like a very nice woman, and I hate to be a hater here... after all, there are lots of very nice people who just aren't web savvy, aren't quick to understand things, and make terribly embarrassing errors... but those people should not be PAID STAFF WRITERS AT NEWSPAPERS. As a female trying to earn my own credibility in the media world as an editor at Yardbarker.com, I actually feel personally upset by incidents like this. Sh*t like this brings us all down. This woman was going around asking NBA players about this proposed tattoo cap. My mind implodes.

Niki replied to my email right away and asked if we could speak on the phone. She indicated in her email that she still wasn't sure if she had been duped or not. Couple of things: 1) How could you still not be sure you had been duped? Read the full hilariousness of the Con Chapman post, consider the sheer ridiculousness of David Stern's supposed quote, do a quick Google search to see if any news site talked about this "tattoo cap"... 2) If you are trying to get to the bottom of this matter, why do you want to waste time talking to me? You have no idea who I am. Spend your time talking to the NBA or a trusted source who reports on the NBA, right?

I found out later why she wanted to talk to me -- so she could quote me in her retraction blog post! Not that I mind being quoted, I think it's hilarious (although the last portion of the quote is not what I believe I said...). I guess I know that you are always on the record when talking to a reporter -- forgive me for forgetting that she's a reporter.

Anyway, in our phone call she told me that she had "heard" about the tattoo cap, couldn't get the NBA to return her calls about it, did a Google search and found the FoxSports "article" and... decided to go ahead and print it. Questions still unanswered include: 1) Since when does one Google search yielding one satirical blog post constitute adequate reporting? 2) Where was her editor? 3) Where was the fact-checker? 4) Where was the guy who takes out the trash who occasionally watches Sports Center who might have leaned over her desk and caught a glimpse of this story and realized right away that it was completely unbelievable?

I still have not gotten a reply from editor Rick Barrs about this story. Which, by the way, is the cover story... on stands now... in Phoenix... while the entire NBA world visits for All Star Weekend. OOPS!

Again, I'm not usually a hater. But incompetence like this (on the part of the author, the editor, the whole New Times organization) needs to be addressed, and not just with a cutesy "mea culpa" blog post. I know so many talented writers, editors, bloggers, and fact checkers who all struggle to find work. To see people like D'Andrea and Barrs holding staff positions at papers makes me angry. If you think I'm being overly harsh for one mistake, I challenge you to read the full 5,000 or so words of this article and tell me it doesn't have several other suspect items. For that matter, Google Niki D'Andrea and see what others have said about her previous work. (Now, if you want to see some quality investigative reporting, check out this incredible piece by Ed Kohler about how the New Times organization exploits the Digg system to get traffic. Somebody give THAT guy a promotion!)

One last thing, in her retraction blog post, Niki refers to me as "a sports blogger in Pennsylvania." Perhaps she deduced this by Googling the area code of the cell phone number I gave her. You know, instead of just asking me, the direct source. I'm actually a sports editor in California.

Note to journalists: the photo at the top of this post is SATIRE. Please do not reproduce as fact.

Thank you to those who have linked up this story, including ESPN's True Hoop, Poynter.org, Heat City, MediaBistro (x2), Sports by Brooks, The Big Lead, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (x2), The Two Man Game, Bootlegger Sports, Sporting Madness, Can't Stop the Bleeding, Arizona Sports Fans Network, DallasBasketball.com, Brian's Thoughts About Airplanes, Strangepup, Los Angeles Times Pressmen... It is also being talked about on Gawker, Matt Davis, Yardbarker, NYMag, Maynard Institute, The Kicker...

UPDATE: Just found a piece published yesterday at Truth Wins Out (via David's Open Forum) slamming Niki D'Andrea for another article she wrote. The error and consequences on this one seem even larger than this NBA tattoo cap story.

UPDATE 2: I received an email from Niki D'Andrea saying the claims made in the Truth Wins Out link immediately above are part of a "slanderous smear campaign." I don't pretend to know enough about the story to sort out the details, but I'll offer the links to D'Andrea's two stories published on the matter. Regarding the NBA story, D'Andrea did tell me, "If you want to drag me through the mud over the first mistake I've ever made in more than 15 years in journalism, that's fine. Go ahead and have your day in the sun." Glad she picked a whopper for her FIRST mistake! I have to wonder what kinds of things she's been reporting on to make it 15 years mistake-free with a research method that consists of searching Google, quoting blog posts, and then failing to research further even when her "knee-jerk reaction" is that the story "might be a joke."

UPDATE 3: Thank you to all of the comment haters for humbling me!

23 comments:

Reese said...

Keep representing the ladies, Miss G. I have been a fan of yours even before you held up the BOOM BOOM Diaw sign on TNT! Also, are you really surprised that she would assume that you were from Pennsylvania? Just goes to prove your point.

Reese said...

P.S. I really miss The Hype, can you get him to make some kind of return?

Alana G said...

Thanks for the love Reese!! Hmmm I'll see what I can do about Mr. Hype...

Jamie Mottram said...

Is there something more absurd than patently absurd? If so, then Ms. D'Andrea is that.

Andrew B said...

Crushed.

Anonymous said...

In fact, the "quote" from David Stern is exactly the kind of thing he would have said, even if he wouldn't have said it for publication. Larry Maxcy

Anonymous said...

In the 80s, the New Times had great writing and editing. How sad.

Anonymous said...

The Phoenix New Times has quit letting people post critical comments.

Pete Vlastelica said...

This is beyond shocking. D'Andrea needs to be fired for this. How can such a moron be allowed to have the public's attention?

DMtShooter said...

Agreed 100%... but the plain and simple fact of newspaper people at this point is that (shh!) you are, for the most part, just dealing with the detritus of a once-great industry. The smarter folks have all fled for industries with futures...

(And this has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the fact that I'm not really using my Syracuse journo degree in my advertising career...)

Jeff in Boston said...

" As a female trying to earn my own credibility in the media world as an editor at Yardbarker.com."

Self promote much? Jesus Christ, who the fuck cares? It's sports writing, sweetie. Get upset about real things.

Luke said...

Newspapers can no longer afford fact-checkers (their loss, our gain)

Anonymous said...

Luke, I was a copyeditor at a paper taken over by New Times. I always, always fact-checked articles -- but when I left my replacement was told, "Don't fact-check." So much for careful journalism.

Chris said...

What a pathetic piece of reporting by the New Times. (A pre-Super Bowl story by Martin Cizmar wasn't much better. He trashed Pittsburgh and Steeler fans based on YouTube videos and supposition. Why are alt-weeklies disintegrating into terrible blogs?)

But my point in writing is to question why Jeff decided to play chauvinist in dismissing Alana's post. Women still are battling for respect in covering sports, and the New Times reporter's huge error carries a bigger target than a male reporter's errors. (Such as Chris Mortensen's failure to call the Raiders for comment on a story about Al Davis considering selling the team simply because Mort figured they would issue a "no comment.) See also Paul Farhi's recent article on the glass ceiling for female broadcasters.

I'm a reporter and I take reporting seriously. It's what pays my rent, and the more that articles -- and slipshod explanations -- like Niki's circulate, the harder it is for any reporter to gain the trust of sources and readers.

Alana G said...

Chris -- thank you for the support!

Jeff in Boston -- I made you a sandwich. Tell me where to bring it, sweetie!

Nick R. Martin said...

Thanks for the link back to my site. This was quite a catch. You're all over the web in journalism circles today.

Anonymous said...

Hmm....maybe someone could point Niki d’Andrea towards the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and see if she'll do a story.

Brian said...

I want to hug you again.

David Alex Nahmod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OneinSixBillion said...

You're right. The problem, is more people than not are on this lady reporter's level of stupid. After all, if we were smarter we wouldn't be in this mess.

exile said...

Gawd, New Times, has it really got this bad? I wish I could see this as a wacky one-off by one useless reporter, but it strikes me more as one example of what happens when a company loses its way.
I used to live in Kansas City, where I knew a number of the staffers who worked for the New Times paper there. While they never dropped any clangers this brutal, it was in keeping with the overall level of research and basic journalistic aptitude.
The US needs a healthy alternative media, and the fact that so many the country's alt-weeklies are getting swallowed up by this useless company is bad for us all.

Incidentally, I found this blog through the Poynter link and have now bookmarked it. Excellent stuff!

Anonymous said...

The New Times, a once-mighty alt-weekly in Phoenix, has become irrelevant. They're actually somewhat of a joke these days. The only thing worse than being irrelevant, is being snarky and irrelevant. And they are snarky.

Satan said...

This past week, Niki D'Andrea was fired from New Times. About time too, as D'Andrea has done nothing but cause trouble for the paper. At one D'Andrea story alone, Five Reasons There Shouldn't Be a Men's Roller Derby, posted at New Times on Mar 10 2011, there are 132 posted complaints about Niki D'Andrea's unethical conduct. D'Andrea is a lousy writer who sucks as a human being. She should have been canned long ago.