On Deadspin’s Empty ESPN Assassination Attempt

Want to know why A.J. Daulerio exposed the personal lives of two inconsequential ESPN staffers this week? Here’s why.


At some media organizations you might get rapped for running a premature story. At Gawker Media, you’ll lose way more points for being scooped on a story you had in your hands.


Nick is Nick Denton, head of Gawker Media - Deadspin’s corporate parent.  Read the entire memo. It’s short, and to the point, and will illuminate you on why things happened at Deadspin the way they did this week.

Enough of the high-minded, journalistic analysis. What Daulerio did Wednesday was about one thing: employment.

20 years ago, my first year in the mainstream media biz, I learned that the sole job of a pr person is to keep you away from the story, not facilitate it.

You don’t think Daulerio knows that? Of course he does.

But he duped readers and media into thinking that ESPN pr guy Josh Krulewitz’s obligatory rebuff of his Phillips inquiry was the reason to launch a (rather underwhelming) attack on Bristol.

Daulerio goes to work every day with his head in a guillotine. All around him, Gawker blogs are getting axed. Defamer, Valleywag, Consumerist, Wonkette, etc. All acclaimed blogs with seemingly strong followings - now gone. He previously started his own Gawker blog, Oddjack, which failed because of lack of traffic.

So now think about Denton’s memo, and the cannibal-like atmosphere that prevails at Gawker and put yourself in Daulerio’s shoes. If he wants to keep his job, he has to always be in a desperate drive for more traffic and buzz. Day after day, month after month. It’s a tough gig. Believe me, if anyone knows, it’s me.

So how do you do that? By doing what he did this week. Never mind that he posted ridiculously overhyped stories about ESPN staffers nobody knows. He accomplished what he set out to do: he got you visiting, the media covering and even ESPN responding. (A hollow, non-response I might add.)

Wednesday morning, Daulerio sidled up to his laptop thinking ‘how in the hell am I going to keep increasing my traffic?’ He knew he was sitting on moldy, non-sequitur posts about the regrettable behavior of two ESPNers, so in order to create buzz/traffic he made the clumsy connection between getting scooped on the Phillips story to offering up office behavior from ESPNers that is no different than anything we’ve all experienced in the workplace.

But again, to his credit, people came. And they talked. And the lights stay on another day. Bless his heart.

The other big part of all of this is legal. Gawker knows full well where it stands legally with what Daulerio is doing, and for all Denton cares, he’d prefer ESPN sue his company and give his charges even more publicity. Not to mention possibly exposing more damaging information about ESPN personnel.