‘Without access, favor or discretion’


‘Without access, favor or discretion:’ The gatekeeping practices of Deadspin


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Abstract Deadspin.com, a part of the online Gawker network, is one of the most popular sports blogs. The site promotes itself as an alternative outlet to mainstream sources of


sports news and information, and carries stories about the off-field exploits of athletes as well as their on-field achievements. This study examines the gatekeeping effect of Deadspin by examining the types of sources editors draw stories from, the types of stories posted as well as the valence and the frame of each post. The study found that an overwhelming number of stories selected from non-mainstream sources were about offfield events, illustrating the site’s gatekeeping influence of bringing new types of stories from alternative sources into the marketplace of ideas. Keywords: Blogs, sports media, gatekeeping, framing


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ ‘Without access, favor or discretion:’ The gatekeeping practices of Deadspin For years, each morning a post appeared on Deadspin.com, a popular blog for sports news. The post, which generally appeared around 9 a.m., included a collection of links to sports stories. It began the same way every day, with the following text in italics beneath the headline and before the first link: Because no one reads the newspaper, and SportsCenter's anchors are too perky for this early in the morning, Deadspin combs the best of the broadsheets and internets to bring you everything you need to know to start your day. (Deadspin.com, May 1, 2010)
This text did more than just suggest a strong gatekeeping influence. With its


reference to daily newspapers and to ESPN’s ubiquitous highlight show, it outright acknowledged the gatekeeping role the site hopes to play and believes it does play in the sports media landscape. (The site reformatted its morning round-up post in 2011 as part of a larger site redesign.)
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, blogs emerged as an important

new communications medium. They’ve been called a new, post-modern form of journalism (Robinson, 2006). One of the most popular blogs to emerge in the 2000s is Deadpsin, one that is dedicated to sports news (Deitsch, 2008).
The purpose of this study is to examine the gatekeeping role Deadspin plays in the

sports media world. The study seeks to identify the types of stories that appear on


‘Without access, favor or discretion’


Deadspin and how the editors and contributors of the site frame those stories. Stories will be defined as the subject material of the posts on Deadspin.
Gatekeeping and framing are important theoretical frameworks in the study of

news. Gatekeeping has been conceptualized as the study of the processes by which news organizations select the stories that are presented to the public (Shoemaker, 1991). Framing is the study of how the stories are presented in the media, or how individual elements within stories are presented to increase the salience of the topic (Entman, 1993).
Numerous studies have been conducted on the gatekeeping aspects of the mass

media, dating back to David Manning White’s famous study of “Mr. Gates,” the wire editor and his selection of newspaper stories (1950). But the 2000s have brought an upheaval to the traditional media power structure. Declining circulation and advertising print revenues have had a devastating impact on print newspapers (Pew, 2010). Online advertising revenues, while growing, have yet to yield profitability for media organizations (Pew, 2010), but the growth of online circulation and the proliferation of laptop computers, mobile devices such as iPhones and other smart phones and tablets clearly show that the future of news is, in at least in some form, online.
Deadspin is one of the most popular sports blogs, receiving at least 15 million

page views each month from May 2009 to May 2010 (Deadspin.com). Founded in 2005, the blog promotes itself as an alternative to mainstream sports media outlets like ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times. Its slogan, which is a part of its masthead, reads “Sports news without access, favor or discretion” (Deadspin.com, May 1, 2010). Despite promoting itself as an alternative to those mainstream, traditional publications, Deadspin is owned and operated under the umbrella of a highly successful online media


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ network, Gawker. Like other blogs in the Gawker network, the content on the site is typically written in a humorous, biting, sarcastic style and often pokes fun at (or directly insults) prominent sports figures. The site is known best for posting pictures of


professional athletes partying with fans (typically young, attractive women) and focusing on the salacious side of sports. It received widespread attention in the fall of 2010 by publishing lewd text messages allegedly sent by then-New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre to a team employee (Deadspin.com, Oct. 7, 2010). The site is widely read by sports fans and sports media professionals, and it is perceived as being influential in the growth and direction of online sports news. As noted earlier, the header on the site’s morning round-up suggests a strong gatekeeping affect that Deadspin seeks to play.
Media have derived much of their influence due to their gatekeeping abilities.

However, the emergence of internet communications in the 1990s and throughout the 2000s has created a transition era for news producers. More and more people are going online to read their news - whether it is original online content or news that is repurposed from traditional print or broadcast formats. The emergence of online news has led to a new generation of gatekeepers outside the traditional mass media - including blogs like Deadspin. In order to better understand the extent of the power sites like Deadspin can have on the marketplace of ideas, it's important to study what stories "pass through their gate," so to speak.
Sports media represents an ideal area to study. Mass communications research,

particularly research surrounding journalism blogs, has shown that sports are one of the most popular subjects for newspapers to cover via blogs. Blogs have been shown to be an extension of talk radio because sports often elicit strong opinions from fans. This makes 10/7/11

‘Without access, favor or discretion’ sports a natural subject for blogs, and makes sports blogs worthy of study. This study would add to that literature.
For the purpose of this study, mainstream media sources will be defined as


network sports coverage (ESPN, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, etc.), newspapers (both print and online editions) as well as nationally recognized websites (i.e. Yahoo.com). Nonmainstream news sources will be defined as any news source outside of the mainstream definition (i.e. blogs, message boards, etc.).


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Theory Several theories are drawn on in this study. The primary theoretical lens is gatekeeping. Framing is also important, as are the studies of journalists’ roles. However, before delving into the scholarly literature and theory, it is important to provide some background into Deadspin. Deadspin Deadspin is the brainchild of Will Leitch, who started the site in 2005 after working as a freelance writer in New York City. The popular press dates the site’s beginning as September of 2005 (Mallozzi, 2006); however the first posts on the site’s archive are dated August 30, 2005. The first post is “Chopping Wood at Baseball Prospectus,” detailing how one of the writers at a popular baseball website became a transsexual (Deadspin, August 30, 2005). Deadspin is owned and operated by Gawker Media, an online media corporation that runs, among other blogs, Gawker.com, Jezebel.com and Gizmodo.com (Hollingshead, 2008). Leitch left Deadspin in 2008 and was replaced as editor by AJ Daulerio, also a former sports writer and blogger. In 2010, the site had a staff of seven editors and contributors. In less than five years, Deadspin became one of the most popular sports-related blogs, recording 150,000 page views per day (Perez-Pena, 2009). Sports Illustrated


ranked it as the top sports blog of the 2000s (Graham, 2009). One of the main reasons for its popularity is its subject material and the blog’s writing style. Deadspin blog entries are typically funny, sarcastic, snarky and cynical and deal with off-the-field misdeeds of athletes and sports casters (Gonzalez, 2009; Lemke, 2008; Mallozzi, 2006; Nolan, 2007).


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ It’s seen, both by itself and by fans, as an alternative to mainstream sports news sources like ESPN and daily newspapers (Nolan, 2007).


Leitch has said in an interview that he wanted the site to be something different on the sports landscape, something other than a typical fan site or one that is heavily into statistics (Beer, 2006). One of the first stories the site pursed was that of then-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick being accused in a civil lawsuit of giving a woman a sexually transmitted disease, and the fact that Vick used the alias Ron Mexico at a clinic (this was before Vick’s well publicized conviction for running a dog-righting ring). The Ron Mexico portion of the story was not widely covered by mainstream sports media outlets, but Leitch wrote about it on Deadpsin. On occasion, Deadspin has broken typical sports news stories. In 2005, it was the first to report a baseball player’s pending suspension for steroid use (Nolan, 2007). But Deadspin also received attention for running pictures of quarterbacks Matt Leinart, Ben Roethlisberger and Kyle Orton partying and drinking. The site has also focused attention on ESPN anchors, posting audio and video of anchors drunk in public or trying to pick up women in bars - including a famous one of Chris Berman, the popular anchor, saying “You’re with me, leather,” to a woman at a bar (Nolan, 2007, p. 8). In an interview with the online edition of Sports Illustrated, Leitch summed up his view of the site: One of the exciting things about Deadspin … is that kind of wall used to be there. Now we (fans) decide what we want to know. We don’t always need that wall


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ anymore … people react to sports as entertainment because that’s what it is. Whatever fans find entertaining is what counts. (Deitsch, 2008, p. 1).


Like the daily recap post quoted at the beginning of this study, that quote from Leitch acknowledges the gatekeeping role he hopes Deadspin plays. Gatekeeping For 60 years, one of the primary areas of media research has examined media’s role as a gatekeeper of news and information. Broadly defined, gatekeeping is the process used by media professionals select which news items will be written about or covered in the newspaper, included in a broadcast or published on the internet (Shoemaker, 1991; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009). The name comes from the selection of stories to pass through the media’s gates and get to the public. The study of gatekeeping in a mass media context dates to David Manning White’s famous study (1950) in which he asked a newspaper wire editor to keep notes on why he chose specific stories and to write on the back of those stories he did not use why he chose not to use them. Among White’s findings was the fact that almost 90 percent of available stories were not chosen and that the decisions of the editor – named for eternity as “Mr. Gates” – were highly subjective. Later studies argued that gatekeeping choices were less about personal preferences and more reliant upon organizational roles and work routines (Bass, 1969; Halloran, Elliott & Murdock, 1970; Gieber, 1956; Westley & McLean, 1957). Chibnall (1977) and Tuchman (1978) argued that news is manufactured by reporters, not simply reported, meaning that reporters themselves often act as gatekeepers.


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ This process has evolved over the past 10-15 years with the emergence of the


internet as a news source. Government agencies and sports teams alike can communicate directly with the public through their own websites, eliminating the need for the media to act as a gatekeeping conduit, leading some to argue that gatekeeping is dead (Poor, 2006; Williams and Deli Carpini, 2000). An early example of this was the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, which first emerged not from the mainstream media but from internet sources and blogs (Williams & Deli Carpini 2006). In the sports realm, this was studied by Poor (2006) and his study of Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s use of the internet and traditional media. Blogs have also become a growing news source. Originally, weblogs were personal, opinionated sites – the online equivalent of a diary (Deuze, 2003). But through the late-1990s and the early 2000s, blogs emerged as a sort of new journalism (Robinson, 2006). Deuze (2003) found that blogs fit into his second category of online journalism, index and category sites. One of the primary aspects of a blog is its ability to act as a sortof second-level gatekeeper – for instance, stories that don’t appear in mainstream sources (or are downplayed in those sources) can be given significant attention on a blog. Hewes and Graham (1989) illustrated an early version of this with their second-guessing theoretical perspective, in which individuals interpret and reinterpret messages based on their personal memories and doubts they may harbor. But blogs are still reliant on mainstream news sources for most of their material. One study showed that 99 percent of stories linked to on blogs come from so-called traditional, mainstream media outlets (Pew, 2010).


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ An important element to the study of gatekeeping is how newsworthiness is defined. Shoemaker, Chang and Bredlinger (1987) found that deviance – that is,


something outside the accepted, normal boundaries of every day life – is an indicator of newsworthiness. A story headlined “Plane lands safely after routine flight” would hardly qualify as news. A story headlined “Plane crashes; hundreds feared dead” would definitely be news. A primary reason for Deadspin’s creation and popularity is the fact that they pick stories to pass through its gates that aren’t typically covered by traditional, mainstream news sources. One of those story categories is the behavior of media figures, including ESPN anchors and sports writers. Leitch has said in interviews that he believes the traditional belief that sports media figures are there to report the games and not be covered themselves is hypocritical, because the media figures are as well known than many athletes (Sandomir, 2008). Stories that do not focus on the well-covered realms of game results and player moves are also a perfect fit for Deadspin. Leitch explained in an interview: If ESPN gets a story that they don’t consider news or might not be in their best interest to run, well, it’s no longer a story and we never hear about it. But if I get a really good scoop from one of my sources or something really interesting from a fan, I have the freedom to post it without having to deal with any political pressure. (Mallozzi, 2006, p. 11)



‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Framing is related to gatekeeping. If gatekeeping is loosely and simplistically defined as the study of what gets covered, framing can be loosely and simplistically defined as the study of how those news items are covered. Broadly put, frames supplied by the media allow audience members to organize


and understand information (Tewksbury et al, 2000). Entman (1993) defined framing as selecting “some aspects of a perceived reality and mak(ing) them more salient in a communicating text” (p. 52). By highlighting word, phrases, or other bits of information, Entman said those particular pieces of information are elevated in salience. Salience can also be influenced, Entman wrote, by the placement and/or repetition of texts or by their association with familiar symbols. One type of framing involves word choices or phrases used, such as eventoriented coverage or conflict-oriented coverage, which presents two sides of an issue (Tewksbury et al, 2000). Other types of framing include the placement of information within a story. Journalistic norms and practices dictate that the most relevant information is placed closer to the beginning of the story (this is known as the inverted pyramid style of writing), with the lead paragraph serving as an important location for framing devices (Tewksbury et al, 2000; Pan & Kosicki, 1993). As noted earlier, Deadspin is well known for the way it portrays athletes and sportscasters, often taking a negative, sarcastic and humorous light to their stories (Beer, 2006; Gonzalez, 2009; Nolan, 2007). “The goal is to be funny, even if that requires occasionally being scatological,” Leitch said in an interview with the online edition of Sports Illustrated (Deitsch, 2008, p. 4). In the same interview he said, in reference to


‘Without access, favor or discretion’


running photos of drunk athletes: “I don’t want to over intellectualize it. The photos are fun” (Deitsch, 2008, p. 5). Journalists’ roles The way in which journalists view their on-the-job duties and responsibilities has been widely studied and debates within the profession. Johnstone, Slawski & Bowman (1972) found two primary roles reporters play within a newsroom culture: One being a neutral, impartial observer and the other being an active participant whose point of view drives the reporting. Weaver & Wilhoit (1992), in a survey of American journalists at the end of the in the 1990s, found three different roles for journalists: disseminators of information; interpreters of events; and adversaries of business and government. A study 10 years later found a fourth role – a mobilizer of audience members (Beam, Weaver & Brownlee, 2008). In some circles, objectivity is considered the most important professional norm in journalism (Soloski 1989). Soloski (1989) defined journalistic objectivity as the ability to seek and report themes fairly and in as balanced a way as possible. The rise of online news has raised questions about the place of traditional journalism roles in newer media. Concerns have been raised that the speed of online news could hurt journalists’ accuracy (Berkman & Shumway, 2003). The increased amount of raw information available on the internet has lessened the public’s reliance on the typical media outlets - in the sports world, teams are providing game statistics, quotes from players and coaches and video on their official websites (Weintraub, 2007). Blogs, with


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ their highly personal writing, are not typically bound by notions of objectivity (Deuze, 2003; Singer, 2006). Mainstream journalists have been critical of Deadspin, saying that editors and contributors spread rumors without subjecting them to traditional journalistic fact


checking (Cowlinshaw, 2010). Deadspin editors have been quoted in the popular press as saying that they view what they do as being rooted in traditional journalism practices but that, as a blog, there is a different standard they should and do work by (Deitsch, 2008; Fitzpatrick, 2009). “We’re still a blog at the end of the day,” current editor Daulerio said in 2009 (Perez-Pena, p. B-6). Hypotheses With the theoretical background in mind, the following hypotheses are proposed: H1: Posts to Deadspin drawn from non-mainstream media sources are more likely to consist of off -field news items than posts drawn from mainstream media sources. H2: Posts to Deadspin drawn from non-mainstream media sources are more likely to be negative in valance than posts drawn from mainstream media sources. H3: Posts to Deadspin drawn from non-mainstream media sources are more likely to be representative of a critical frame and a celebrity frame than posts drawn from mainstream sources. For the purpose of this study, a post’s source will be the independent variable, coded as either a mainstream or non-mainstream outlet as defined earlier in this paper. The topic of the post is one of the dependent variables and will be coded as either on-field or off-field. On-field news items is defined for this study as any event or story


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ dealing with a game, a team, or a coach or athlete’s performance specifically related to their sport. For example, a story about Kobe Bryant’s play on the court for the Los


Angeles Lakers would be an on-field news item. Off-field news items would be any story relating to a team, athlete or fan outside of the actual sport. For example, a story about Kobe Bryant’s legal or marital troubles would be an off-field item. Since Deadspin has positioned itself as an alternative source of information, it’s logical that the site’s posts will not repeat widely available sports news but instead focus on off-field activities, and that those posts are more likely to come from non-mainstream news sources than mainstream ones. Valence is another dependent variable and is defined as either negative, neutral or positive. Negative valence is defined as a story that casts the subject/story in a predominately negative light. Neutral valence is defined as a story that does not cast the subject/story in either a positive or negative manner. Positive valence is defined as a story that casts the subject/story in a predominately positive light. As interviews with Deadspin editors have shown, posts on the site are often written from a funny and critical perspective. Frame is the third dependent variable in this study and is being defined as either critical, celebrity, supportive or straightforward/statistical. A critical frame will be defined for this study as story primarily critical of an athlete (related to, but not necessarily the same as, negative valence). A celebrity fame will be defined as story that focuses primarily on the athlete or subject as an object of fame. A supportive frame will be defined as a story that focuses primarily on the positive aspects of an athlete (related to,


‘Without access, favor or discretion’


but not necessarily the same as, positive valence). A statistical frame will be defined as a story focused primarily on statistical elements of sports (i.e. game results, contract negotiations). This finding would verify the anecdotal evidence provided in the literature and in interviews of Deadspin editors.


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Method Deadspin posts appearing over a one-month time frame were analyzed. Neuendorf (2002) defined content analysis as “the systematic, objective, quantitative analysis of message characteristics” (p. 1). Babbie (2009) defined a manifest content analysis as the study of the content itself, rather than any interpreted meaning. Sample


The unit of analysis for this study was a post to Deadspin, and the recording unit was a sentence. The posts being analyzed were written during the month of May, 2010. That month was selected because of its placement in the sports calendar. Three of the four major sports in the United States are active (Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League) during that month, with the NBA and NHL playoffs underway. The month was selected in part because there are no major events during the month that could skew the sample toward one sport. The Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 do take place in May, but those events are far less popular than, say, the World Series, the Super Bowl or the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. A total of 493 stories were posted to Deadspin in the month, and 200 were selected at random using a systematic sampling design, in which a post was randomly selected as the starting point (using the random number generator at http://www.random.org), and every third post was selected for study. This allowed every post an equal chance of being selected. Analysis


‘Without access, favor or discretion’


Posts were coded for source, topic, valence and frame, all of which were coded as nominal variables. The first is source, which was measured as defined above where as 1=mainstream source and 2=non-mainstream source. The second is item type, as defined earlier where 1=on-field and 2=off-field. The number of sentences in each post will be counted as part of the measure of item type. Valence is the third variable, which is being measured as defined above where 1=negative, 2=neutral and 3=positive. The fourth and final variable is frame, which is being measured as defined earlier where 1=critical, 2=supportive, 3=statistical and 4=celebrity. Reliability tests were run on all variables to show the dependability of the coding scheme. Krippendorf’s Alpha was recorded at greater than the 0.8 level for all variables, indicating an acceptable level of reliability. Reliability measured at 1 for source; 0.896 for topic; 0.832 for valance and 0.928 for frame.


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Results


A total of 200 blog posts were studied for four variables (see Table 1). Of the 200, 102 came from mainstream sources and 98 came from non-mainstream sources. Off-field stories resulted in 129 of the posts, compared to 71 on-field stories. In terms of valence, 78 posts were negative, 82 were neutral and 40 were positive. With regard to framing, 72 posts were found to represent a critical frame, 65 were found to have a straightforward/ statistical frame, 32 were found to have a supportive frame and 31 were found to have a celebrity frame (see Table 2). Examples of mainstream news sources include stories from ESPN.com, The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Non-mainstream sources include videos from YouTube either posted by or found by readers, fan blogs, original writing by Deadspin contributors that did not include links to an outside story, or e-mails from readers (several posts were mailbags that consisted of emails from readers that a contributor answered). On-field news stories included references to games, including, but not limited to, the NBA and NHL playoffs or early season Major League Baseball games. Off-field news stories ranged from posts about fan behavior, including the tasing of a Philadelphia Phillies fan who ran on the field during a game at Citizens Bank Field, to several highprofile arrests, including that of NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor on rape charges and of a University of Virginia lacrosse player for the murder of his girlfriend, also a lacrosse player. Examples of posts with a negative valence include one about the Ohio State pep band that compared the group to the TV show “Glee” in a derogatory fashion, and one


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ describing of a fan’s bad experience at the New York Jets’ draft party. Neutral valence


posts included several daily round-ups, which featured one-line references to games and news items from the night before. These references, while sometimes humorous, were neither positive nor negative. Examples of positive valence posts include one about ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons’ decision to return to the network and one describing the Argentina National Soccer Team doctor saying that players would be allowed to have sex during the up-coming World Cup. In terms of frame, examples of a critical frame include one criticizing sports writers who wrote stories complaining about the NFL’s decision to hold the 2012 Super Bowl in New Jersey and one mocking a Philadelphia Flyers’ fan for cursing during the live call-in portion of a post-game television show. Examples of a supportive frame include a description of Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s long home-run trot and a post about the career of professional wrestler Junkyard Dog. The celebrity fame could be seen in posts about New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez dating a model, one of Tiger Woods’ alleged mistresses and several posts about ESPN’s Chris Berman getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The straightforward/statistical frame was seen in posts about the death of Jose Lima and in cyclist Floyd Landis’ accusations that former teammate Lance Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs. With regard to post topic, 80 of the posts from non-mainstream sources dealt with off-field news items (40 percent of the total), while only 49 posts drawn from mainstream sources dealt with off-field news items (24.5 percent of the total). This finding was statistically significant (p<.000), and Hypothesis 1 was supported. (see Table 3)


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ For valence (Hypothesis 2), posts drawn from non-mainstream sources had a negative valence 33 times (16.5 percent of the total), compared with 45 posts with negative valance from mainstream sources (22.5 percent of the total). This finding approached statistical significance but did not meet the appropriate level (p<.062), so Hypothesis 2 was not supported. (See Table 4) For frame (Hypothesis 3), posts drawn from non-mainstream sources held a


critical frame 33 times (16.5 percent of the total) and from a celebrity frame just 15 times (7.5 percent), compared with 23 instances of a supportive frame (11.5 percent of the total) and 27 instances of the straightforward/statistical frame (13.5 percent of the total). For posts drawn from mainstream news sources, the critical frame was represented 39 times, followed in descending order by straightforward/statistical (38), celebrity (16) and supportive (9). These findings were statistically significant (p<.038), so Hypothesis 3 was not supported (see Table 5).


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Discussion Like many blogs, Deadspin is often portrayed as the snarky, critical outsider


poking traditional sports figures and sports coverage in the eye. This is often the case in both the site’s self-promotion and in the way it is written about in the popular press (Cowlinshaw, 2010). This study shows that while there is some truth to that depiction, Deadspin is in many ways a well-rounded blog. Posts come from a balance of mainstream and non-mainstream sources (nearly a 50-50 split). The valence and frames were split between negative and neutral (for valence, accounting for 80 percent of the posts between them) and critical and straightforward statistical (68.5 percent of the posts). This suggests that Deadspin is not the overtly negative blog that it is often perceived as being but is instead fairly well-balanced. In terms of topic, posts to Deadspin are more likely to involve off-field stories than on-field ones. Of the 200 posts studied, nearly two-thirds of them (129) involved off-field stories. The most telling finding is the overwhelming number of off-field stories that came from non-mainstream sources. A total of 81.6 percent of the non-mainstream stories were about off-field topics. This finding suggests a strong, second-level gatekeeping influence the site has. Much like the second-guessing theory of Hewes and Graham (1989), Deadspin editors (and sometimes, the readers themselves) are reinterpreting the messages from mainstream media sources – or, in some instances, find new stories not covered by the more traditional media outlets. One of the more surprising findings is that the celebrity frame – which was hypothesized to be would be one of the most dominant frames in posts to Deadspin – was


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ in fact the least prevalent of the four frames studied, with only 31 of the 200 stories reflecting this frame. While this could possibly be explained away by sheer luck (there were no high-profile, off-field scandals during the sample period), it indicates that the celebrity aspect of Deadspin is not as prevalent as often suggested. Mainstream media stories about Deadspin have focused on this celebrity frame, but this study shows that posts reflecting this frame are the rarest kind on the site. Overall, this study suggests that Deadspin is not the overall purveyor of sex, sleaze and gossip that it is sometimes perceived as being. Nor is it completely an


alternative source of sports news as it promotes itself. Rather, it acts as a kind of secondguesser, taking stories that are already in the marketplace of ideas and reinterpreting them in an entertaining way. The second-guessing model is an interesting one to use in studying blogs and their relationship to both mainstream media and to readers. There were some limitations to this study. One of the challenges is the fact that not all posts to Deadspin are about sports news. Some of them deal with celebrity news (one post in the sample dealt with the death of actor Gary Coleman). The lengthy reader mailbags referenced earlier did not deal at all with sports. This made coding a challenge, since the codes were developed in reference to sports news. However, these posts are a part of the site and so needed to be studied. Another limitation is the fact that humor was not coded for. In interviews, Deadspin editors have said that a main reason for the site is to have fun and to poke fun at sports news and sports figures (Deitsch, 2008). However, the author believes that trying to code for humor is too difficult to accomplish with any reliability. Humor is


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ subjective, as is determining whether or not writing is intended to be humorous. What


one person sees as a clear joke may go over the head of another reader. Certainly, an area for future research would include coding Deadspin posts for humor, to determine how important that is to the site. Future research could include coding for different variables than this study did, such as expanding the study of topic to include individual sports. Then, it could be examined whether or not a sport is covered on Deadspin more or less during its regular season. It would be interesting to compare stories covered on Deadspin with the stories covered in mainstream sources like ESPN or the New York Times, to see if the blog has any agenda setting influence over the more traditional outlets. Additionally, it would be interesting to study other sports blogs and see what, if any, agenda-setting power Deadspin holds over these sites.


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ References


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Table 1

Means and standard deviations for source, topic, valence and frame variables Mean 1.49 1.65 1.81 2.44 SD .501 .480 .746 1.275 N 200 200 200 200

Variables Source* Topic** Valence*** Frame****

* Responses coded 1 = mainstream media, 2 = non-mainstream media ** Responses coded 1 = on-the-field story, 2 = off-the-field story *** Responses coded 1 = negative, 2 = neutral, 3 = positive **** Responses coded 1 = critical, 2 = supportive, 3 = celebrity, 4 = straightforward/statistical


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Table 2 Variables Source Mainstream Non-mainstream Percentages for source, topic, valence and frame variables %


51.00 49.00 100.00% (N=200)

Topic On-the-field Off-the-field

35.50 64.50 100.00% (N=200)

Valence Negative Neutral Positive

39.00 41.00 20.00 100.00% (N=200)

Frame Critical Supportive Celebrity Straightforward/statistical

36.00 16.00 15.50 32.50 100.00% (N=200)


‘Without access, favor or discretion’ Table 3 Cross-tabulation of topic by post’s source. Source Mainstream Non-Mainstream 52.0 % 48.0 100.0% (N=102) 18.4% 81.6 100.0% (N=98)


Post deals with on-the-field news or off-the-field news? On-the-field Off-the-field

X2 =24.663, df=1, p<.000 Cramer’s V = .351


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Table 4

Cross-tabulation of valence by post’s source. Source Mainstream Non-Mainstream 44.1% 42.2 13.7 100% (N=102) 33.7% 39.8 26.5 100% (N=98)

Post has a valence that is negative, neutral or positive? Negative Neutral Positive

X2 =5.564, df=2, p<.ns Cramer’s V = .167


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Table 5

Cross-tabulation of frame by post’s source. Source Mainstream Non-Mainstream 38.2% 8.8 15.7 37.3 100% (N=102) 33.7% 23.5 15.3 27.5 100% (N=98)

Post reflects a critical, supportive, celebrity or straightforward/statistical frame Critical Supportive Celebrity Straightforward/statistical

X2 =8.442, df=3, p<.038 Cramer’s V = .205


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