Red Card for a Sports Blogger

By Deborah Howell
Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sports blogging is a wild world unto itself, and that's where the biggest complaints came from last week.

The week before last, Michael Tunison, 25, lost his day job as a Post editorial aide in the Montgomery County bureau after he stepped out from behind his online moniker of Christmas Ape on, a Web site he described as humorous and satirical. Tunison told me he "was forced to resign" after he "came out" on his blog as a Post employee, provided links to several Post stories he had done and appeared drunk in a picture on the blog -- or, as he wrote there, "totally [expletive] hammered."

Post editors refused to discuss this personnel matter, but it is no surprise that Tunison is no longer around if you read the blog, which contains obscene, sexist and racist comments that won't be repeated here. As Tunison said, there was "some content objectionable to some people."

He said that he wanted to let blog readers know his identity and that he hoped to keep both jobs. Post editors were unaware of his blog; company policy prohibits activity that could embarrass the Post, and outside work must be approved in advance.

"I expected that there would not be a positive reception on the nature and language of the blog," Tunison said, "but I didn't expect the swiftness and severity of what happened."

About 35 of his fans sent angry e-mails. Anthony Santori of Holly Springs, N.C., wrote: "A supposed bastion of journalism . . . should realize that readers in the Internet age are fully capable of separating what a writer writes on his personal or commercial blog from what the same writer writes for a 'mainstream' media source. If you honestly believe that the integrity of your paper is or ever could be compromised by such, then everyone in management at your paper is truly stuck in another dimension and will never fully understand this generation's readership."

Alex Nichols of Lawrence, Kan., wrote: "Firing Michael Tunison was a terrible, terrible mistake. . . . Mr. Tunison is a very unique and talented writer, and you fire him? For what? Drinking on the weekend? Having his own website? If everybody was fired for that, the unemployment rate would be nearly 100%."

Tunison's fans were clearly saying that the oldster media doesn't get it. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, assistant managing editor for sports, gave me a primer on popular sports blogs. "They all combine sports with a little sex. It's the same formula the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue started years ago. In the case of KSK, it's an NFL humor site with some talented folks who sometimes go too far," he said.

Advice to young bloggers who want a mainstream media job: Don't hide your other job. Don't embarrass the editors. And use that talent without posting a picture of yourself drunk.

On to the next sports blogger.

About 30 readers faulted an April 3 posting by sports reporter Jason La Canfora in his Redskins Insider blog. La Canfora decided to do a mock draft for a team he named Vinny's Vendettas, after Vinny Cerrato, executive vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins. La Canfora invited readers "to come up with a better Cerrato-tinged nickname for the team."

Readers posted comments: variations of "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"), leading to Vinny's Conquerors, Vinny Vidi Vicis. Others included Vinny's Valhalla/Valkyries/Vanguards, Cerrato's Conquerors, Cerrato's Cyclones, Vinnie's Ninnies, Vinsanity and Vinny the Chin.

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