An internal review of SB Nation’s much-criticized story “Who is Daniel Holtzclaw” is within a week or two of completion and may be released to the public, an informed source told the Erik Wemple Blog. Vox Media, which publishes SB Nation and a number of other sites, commissioned the evaluation after critics on social media and beyond slammed the feature story on the former Oklahoma City cop and college football star who was sentenced to 263 years in prison after standing trial for raping 13 black women (Holtzclaw is half white, half Japanese). As Deadspin’s Greg Howard reported, the review panel includes the following: Kara Swisher of Recode, Helen Rosner of Eater, Vox.com managing editor Lauren Williams
and company executives Katie Nimick and Miriam Nissly.*
To add an outside perspective to the mix, Vox Media has brought in Douglas McGray, editor in chief of the California Sunday Magazine.
This crew has been examining a piece of work whose failures SB Nation execs have already acknowledged. Explicitly, too: Editorial director Spencer Hall called it a “complete failure” in an editor’s note. The 12,000-word story probed Holtzclaw’s background and exploits on the gridiron but short-shrifted his victims and allowed the convicted rapist’s friends and family to assert his virtues without sufficient skepticism.
Whatever its conclusions, the review won’t include the direct input of the story’s main editor, Glenn Stout, the longtime series editor of “Best American Sports Writing.” Stout was fired from his position as SB Nation’s long-form unit after the Holtzclaw disaster. An informed source tells this blog that Stout declined interview requests for the internal review.
David Rich, a lawyer representing Stout, tells the Erik Wemple Blog:
Glenn was asked to participate in an interview as part of the “internal review” but was fired the night before the interview. This timing strongly suggest that SB Nation had already made up its mind about how it intended to handle the matter, irrespective of any so-called “internal review.” Glenn was asked again to participate in an interview last Thursday, long after he was fired and the Deadspin article was published. As you know, we forwarded my letter to SB Nation’s legal counsel which lays out in detail his involvement, participation and knowledge on the matter and presumably could be used to the extent SB Nation has any legitimate interest in hearing his perspective.
That letter seeks a correction to a story by Deadspin concluding that Stout had failed to heed the warning of a colleague regarding significant shortcomings in the story.
It’s unclear whether Vox Media will release its findings to the public, though the source indicates that’s a strong possibility. NYU professor Jay Rosen opined that Vox Media/SB Nation could come out of this mess stronger, but only “if the investigation is thorough and the truthtelling is real and detailed— and made public.”
*Correction: A company official has told us that these two executives are, in fact, not part of the review panel. The panel also includes Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele.