Friday, July 17, 2009

Doug Shackler and the Erin Andrews Hotel Tapes

At first I thought Deadspin's late Friday story that Erin Andrews may have been illegally taped in her room, was just filler, or that week's deleted scenes. However, turns out that Erin Andrews really was videotaped by a scheming pervert. What frustrates me about the situation is that Doug Sheckler, the owner of the site that posted the video, is a fellow sports blogger. He had the vision to help start Epic Carnival, which was a great chance for some smaller bloggers to write back when Fanhouse and Deadspin seemed to control everything. I knew him in passing only--he promoted and linked to a few of my stories here and there, which I really appreciated. I did know he was a hard worker. He always was tweeting more stories he had just posted. I in fact finally unfollowed him, as too many of the numerous tweets were NSFW links to some actress on one of his "other" blogs. Lots of good that did me while sitting in my office!

Yes, that "other" blog...let's be honest. Sports blogging gets some views, but it is nothing compared to porn. I've watched with equal parts disdain, irritation, and amusement as several colleagues decided to add more pictures of women with few or no clothes or ads to NSFW material in their blogs. I understand the rationale. If you're trying to make money off your blog, nothing brings viewers like women. But my views on ethics and posting photos of hot women are rather prudish...and yes, I'm proud of that now."

But unfortunately, Doug worked too hard. I found the following short e-mail from him in my folders. It's two years old, written after I had complained about his site's comment section in a comment on the site. He followed up with me (click to enlarge)

At first glance it's great--the editor of a big sports blog site was willing to hunt down a commenter just so he could improve his site. But no, "always looking to improve" was exactly the problem! Unfortunately, the path Doug followed in trying to improve made him commit a crime. The traffic and money from sports blogs apparently weren't enough for him. He kept branching out, going just a little farther with each new blog...and went way, way, too far. There's a lesson there for some of us sports bloggers. Ambition and hard work are not pure virtues.

The very mundane nature of the videos is what makes them so sad. Erin is curling her hair before work. Like many a woman, she's preparing herself for the harsh scrutiny of a world that tends to judge women on their looks first. And so, the violation seems more offensive because of it.

I'm ending this rambling with a few quotes from some old Erin Andrews interviews that seem sad now. Click to read the complete interviews.

Q: What about the attention you receive for being a sports personality when you're not an athlete?

E.A.: It's flattering...I know that there's a window of time where people think, "Oh, she's a big deal." You know that's going to run out. You kind of just look at it and laugh. I grew up in the media; my dad is in the industry as well. I know there's a time frame and this will all go away and I'll go, 'Wait a minute! What about me?' I know it's nothing to get freaked out over.

OMDQ: ...I think a lot of it is the sense that they’re waiting for a mistake, waiting for a slip-up somewhere.

EA: ...I remember one of the first times I ever saw something on the Internet that was written about me I ran out into my parents’ living room and I started to cry. Somebody had written about the size of my nose and that I needed a nose job. And my dad is in television, and I grew up in the industry, so I never found it weird to see my dad on the six o’clock news because that’s what he does, but when I came out crying - and this is when I first started - he just said, “Look, do you want to do this?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he’s like, “Suck it up, because this is what it’s about, and because you’re a female, people are gonna take notice more than anybody else,” so…it’s a fantastic job, it’s an amazing thing to be a part of, I have the best seats in the house, it’s what I want to do, so to me, those little things are worth it.

OMDQ: I think you’re right on in that because it seems like lately that there has been more focus on you. It’s like every blogger (including me) has to write something at some point.

EA: I can’t do anything on the sideline without somebody making a big deal out of it. So, you know what? At one point, I can look at it and be like, “Oh my gosh, why do people care?” But at the same time, it’s so flattering because who am I? I’m nobody...

I'm afraid that Erin Andrews is indeed crying tonight, over something much worse than a cruel comment about her nose. I feel bad. I can't really think of a good way to end this. I hope sports blogs won't be crucified for one man's sin. But I worry we may deserve some of that blame and shame. Eh, good night all, I'm done.


  1. Smart, savvy writing. I don't think making this into some parable about Doug is the storyline that will get play (more the invasion of privacy on public figures), but you make your points well.

  2. I don't understand this part of the article --> "money from sports blogs".


    Caught wind of this on your Twitter stream - weird stuff.

  3. When it comes to making money you always get into, "If I didn't do it, someone else would and make money from it."

    Because of that, I can't blame Doug, who has always been a good guy in my book. Sure, his sites aren't exactly 'my thing' but I can't fault him for trying to make money.

    If Sheckler actually shot this video then it's a different story but I don't think that's what happened.

    You've written previously about what's OK to put on the net as far as private lives so I understand your point of view but let's not shoot the messenger just yet.

  4. Thanks, Hef.
    Rockabye, you're certainly right--there's a place for a nice 2000 word article on blogs, our expectations of celebrities and willingness to invade their privacy, and, while we're at it, the death of Cronkite and the lessening of respect for the media. But I wasn't up to it last night. I decided to go for the angle no one else would use--it's my blogger bias, would rather be original than on target, tbh.

    Brian, thanks for commenting!

    Cobra, Doug has always been a good guy in my book too. He'd rec my stuff on ballhype and stumbleupon even though he barely knew me. If it were someone else, I would have been much harsher. And I do think there was some attempt on his part to do the right thing--he didn't even use the term "Erin Andrews" in the original blog. BUT--he had to know it really was EA, and that's what makes it so wrong to me.

  5. It goes back to if he didn't do it, someone would have and since that is how he makes his money i can't blame him.....Page hits equal advertising revenue.

    Let's wait and see who the person was who actually committed the crime and then lay blame there. People are all too much in a hurry to blame someone and sometimes it's the wrong person.

    To me, what Doug did was the equivalent of putting up a picture that was asked to be taken down.

    You have 9 posts with labels, 'Random Sports Crush' and I've had discussions with people who feel that's pretty creepy. Personally, I don't but everyone has their own point of view.

  6. I'm trying not to rush to judgment on this. But answer me this, Cobra. Would ANYONE have found out about the letter from ESPN if Doug didn't publicize it? Don't be so naive. Sure, it's just like taking a pic down...if you or I rushed to Deadspin right after and screamed bloody murder so we could still get our page views from it.

    You're the first person to tell me that someone thinks that there's something creepy about the RSC series. I'd ditch additional entries tomorrow if I heard more feedback like that. I have real doubt "people" care enough to discuss any part of my blog, but if you say so.

    For the record, RSC was the female equivalent of which I did for male athletes. I was just trying to make it sound a little cooler.

  7. Yes,people would have heard about it from others. Word spread like wildfire. Also, with it being EA you know people are going to hear about it one way or another. Better to produce the information yourself so that you can control the flow.