Did Deadspin Libel Arizona State Baseball Coach Pat Murphy?
Deadspin is known for pursuing stories other outlets would probably ignore or at the very least report on differently, as evidenced by its coverage of Josh Hamilton, Steve Phillips and Sean Salisbury.
Although those certainly caused strong reactions, Deadspin remained unapologetic and stood by its reporting in each instance.
The case of Pat Murphy, however, is a different matter. The Arizona State coach was "featured" in Drew Magary's series on run-ins with "A-Hole Coaches." A reader anonymously submitted an account of Murphy, who is known to have a bit of a temper, allegedly threatening the fan at a charity event.
Deadspin posted the story, later finding out it was false, and removing the original post from the site. Editor A.J. Daulerio also offered up a combo explanation/quasi-apology for what happened, while at the same time reinforcing the fact Deadspin will still run one-sided stories because it's just part of what they do.
While legal issues are nothing new for Deadspin/Gawker media (Salisbury is currently suing them), could this incident possibly lead to more legal action?
Noting that it would be hard for Murphy to prove libel as a public figure, Sports Journalism Today asked whether or not he would have a chance to win should he decide to.
Ultimately, while publishing the e-mail without properly vetting it was definitely a mistake and poor judgment, I don't think that's nearly enough to prove malice, especially since Magary did run a rebuttal and removed the original post. Not that removing a post does anything to help a libel claim, as SJT points out.
Libel or not, I'm not sure how positive it is for new media when the flagship sports blog is continually involved in controversies like these.