As the scandal at Penn State has exploded over the last few days, media outlets, from blogs to newspapers to twitter, have looked for new information to run with and explore. That’s perfectly understandable, and in fact, laudable. However, in the quest to get new information disseminated as quickly as possible, there still exists a certain code of responsibility that must be upheld. Unfortunately, not everyone has met that burden.
Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead took the opportunity to use information readily available to many outlets, and construct a conspiracy theory. Of course, as is his wont, he didn’t explicitly state these things, but strongly encouraged his readership to do so, and then doubled down on the whole thing, even after his theory had been flat out debunked.
Let’s start with this post, which appeared on The Big Lead on Monday. I’d like to compare that to this piece, which appeared on the New York Times 5th Down blog on Tuesday. Both of these pieces start similarly, and in a fact based vein. From The Big Lead:
Of the many questions in the sickening Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case that has shaken Happy Valley, here’s one that will never be answered: Why didn’t former district attorney Ray Gricar prosecute Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in 1998 when two kids reported he washed them in the shower?
From the NYT:
One of the questions surrounding the sex-abuse case against Jerry Sandusky is why a former district attorney chose not to prosecute the then-Penn State assistant coach in 1998 after reports surfaced that he had inappropriate interactions with a boy.
The answer is unknowable because of an unsolved mystery: What happened to Ray Gricar, the Centre County, Pa., district attorney?
Each article then recounts the facts of the disappearance of Ray Gricar, and that’s where the similarities end. The NYT proceeds with more factual information:
“No one got a bye with Ray,” said Anthony De Boef, who worked as an assistant district attorney under Gricar for five years. “He didn’t care who you were; he had a job to do.”
De Boef said Gricar did not share any information with him about the case in 1998, which involved Sandusky allegedly showering with an 11-year-old boy. Gricar, he said, reviewed the police reports in private including, presumably, notes or recordings of two conversations that the police heard between Sandusky and the boy’s mother. But Gricar had a reputation for thoroughness, and if he thought he had enough to charge Sandusky, he would have, De Boef and other lawyers said.
McIntyre, on the other hand, chose to engage in baseless wild speculation:
Feel free to speculate as to why Gricar didn’t prosecute the scumbag, even though “Sandusky admitted to showering naked with the victim and admitted it was wrong.” Interestingly, Sandusky retired after the 1999 season. (Form your own conclusions.) Four years after Gricar’s poor decision, Penn State officials neglected to report to police that an eyewitness saw Sandusky allegedly anally-raping a young boy in the showers on the Penn State campus.
This touched off a firestorm in the comment section at The Big Lead, and one of the commenters that chose to take issue with the post was none other than Tony Gricar, the nephew of Ray Gricar. Before we get to the comments portion (where things got weird and a little uncomfortable), let’s look at that paragraph.
“Feel free to speculate as to why Gricar didn’t prosecute the scumbag…” implies that he should’ve prosecuted. However, based on what the NYT found, other attorneys’ opinions of Gricar, and the opinions of attorneys that understand the burden of proof (see here as well), the case did not move forward based on the merits of the case. As for why Sandusky retired following the 1999 season, it’s anyone’s guess. The next sentence is what really bothers me. ”Four years after Gricar’s poor decision…” doesn’t sound like the author wants you to draw your own conclusion. He wants you to draw the same one that he’s drawn: Gricar didn’t prosecute this case because he was in Penn State’s pocket, or was pressured by Paterno/the university, or some similar ulterior motive. That in and of itself is irresponsible enough, but McIntyre dug in his heels, and doubled down on his stance.
Let’s now proceed into the sometimes (hell, who am I kidding, always) weird and murky comment section. Here’s a comment from McIntyre (quote in the comment is from Tony Gricar):
Here we have the essence of McIntyre. The Ray Gricar disappearance “went viral” due to a newspaper article, and nobody would’ve known otherwise. In fact, that’s quite untrue. The TV show “Disappeared” on Investigation Discovery featured Gricar’s story in its third season (original air date: February 28, 2011). It’s one thing to not know about Gricar’s disappearance (I didn’t), but then to claim that nobody knew about it, especially after someone informed you that it is a well known case, the proper thing to do would be to acknowledge that, and tone down the speculation. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened here.
After many commenters voiced their opinion that McIntyre was out of line in this whole thing, this was his response:
And tweet it out he did. On that same day, McIntyre offered this tweet:
The link in that tweet leads to the post I linked up top. Suddenly “feel free to speculate” and “draw your own conclusion” has morphed into “answer”. I’d like to say that’s unbelievable, but that’s just par for the course for McIntyre.
Finally, Tony Gricar was compelled to leave a comment on a subsequent post spelling out his position, and how McIntyre was in error.
In that last sentence, Gricar underscores my point. This is the way McIntyre operates. This is a person that has at various times in the past advocated murder, encouraged theft, routinely tweets about illegal gambling, and has possibly the most offensive stance on Title IX that I’ve seen offered by anyone with a platform like his. He simply will not be bothered to do enough research even when information is being offered to him on a platter. It is worth noting that since that comment was left, McIntyre has offered no further statement on the matter, and seemingly hasn’t backed off of his position (no retractions offered, and all comments and posts remain on his site).
Let’s wind the clock back to June of 2008. Will Leitch, then of Deadspin, had recently appeared on “Costas Now”, and took a verbal berating from Buzz Bissinger about blogs, their lack of accountability, and the way they generally conduct themselves. In the wake of that, McIntyre was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times. Here was his take at that time:
“The initial reaction was ‘Buzz is a lunatic,’ ” McIntyre said. “After that, people calmed down, listened to what he said and thought, ‘You know, maybe we should clean up our act a little bit.’ “
Does anything presented here show that McIntyre has “cleaned up his act a little bit”? Absolutely not. In fact, it seems to have gotten worse. At one time, I was a frequent commenter on his blog, and even a fan. I still read his site almost every day. There are great people there doing great work. Tyler Duffy is intelligent and well read, and even if I don’t agree with everything he writes, he produces great work. Jason Lisk produces a lot of thought provoking content, and is a research fanatic. His statistical analyses are phenomenal. Tim Ryan is one of the funniest guys out there, and always provides interesting stuff. Stephen Douglas tackles any and everything, from hockey to MMA to movie reviews, and his output is always enjoyable. Those people are the reason I read that site, and encourage you to as well.
To wrap this up, let me say this. McIntyre has always been quick to label those who criticize him as angry, bitter, or jealous, and likes to refer to them as “clowns”. Let me be clear about this, in no uncertain terms. I didn’t spend almost 1500 words on this because I’m angry, bitter, or jealous, and if you’ve read anything I’ve written before, I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t consider me a clown. No, this post grew out of a different emotion: disappointment. Jason McIntyre is the editor in chief of a blog that offers fine, fine content, and he’s ruining it with his reckless irresponsibility.