Here’s what happened: One year ago, Con Chapman wrote a satirical blog post on the community section of FoxNews.com about an NBA “tattoo cap” that would allow no more than 61% of the upper arms and necks of players to be inked. Last week, the Phoenix New Times went to press with a 4,500 word cover story about tattoos in the NBA- and reported the aforementioned satirical post as fact. The author of the story, Niki D’Andrea, even went so far as to include a quote from the joke post supposedly from NBA Commissioner David Stern: “We feel it is important that our players not scare the bejesus out of affluent demographic groups with gangsta-style tattoos.”
Scare the bejesus out of… that’s funny! So is the rest of the post- and so clearly a joke it’s hard to understand how a professional journalist could think otherwise. Very quickly other journalists noticed- and reacted with horror. After a couple days a retraction blog post went up on the New Times website- but the author tried to play it down, saying they were “punked” by a “hoax.”
But they weren’t punked. No one set out to deceive the New Times. And it wasn’t a hoax- it was clearly satire.
California-based sports editor Alana Nguyen wrote extensively about the incident on her website:
[D’Andrea] told me that she had “heard” about the tattoo cap, couldn’t get the NBA to return her calls about it, did a Google search and found the FoxSports “article” and… decided to go ahead and print it. Questions still unanswered include: 1) Since when does one Google search yielding one satirical blog post constitute adequate reporting? 2) Where was her editor? 3) Where was the fact-checker? 4) Where was the guy who takes out the trash who occasionally watches Sports Center who might have leaned over her desk and caught a glimpse of this story and realized right away that it was completely unbelievable?
Still no comment from Phoenix New Times editor-in-chief Rick Barrs, a fellow not generally known to be shy. Barrs is the former editor of the now-defunct Los Angeles New Times, where he wrote the muckracking column “The Finger”. Just last month Barrs said of his former rival paper (and my former employer) the LA Weekly:
I got laid a couple of times from the personals, but otherwise it was pointless.