Ten Years of TLO: The Stories We Broke
6:48 AM EDT on April 26, 2017
One thing that surprises a lot of people is just how little thought went into the start of TLO. Once we got the idea, we poured our hearts and souls into it and it consumed our every waking moment (and, for one of us, that continues to this day), but the blog from the beginning was started by three guys who had never met that just liked writing about Oklahoma and who said "Let's start a blog about Oklahoma!"
The fun part about this ten-year retrospective project for me has been going back and reading old emails from when we were conceiving of the site. We were three people who didn't know each other, trying to work together to create something people might enjoy. We didn't know each other's personalities or views on politics or views on the world or even our favorite weatherman. It was a strange dynamic.
In that context, on May 19th, 2007 -- less than a week after TLO debuted -- an email arrived in my inbox titled "Uh." It was an oddly personal note from Patrick informing me that he was getting divorced and may take a few weeks off, but that he'd be back and really liked the direction that site was going. I guess the subject line was appropriate.
Basically, TLO was a bit of a rocky start for our man Patrick. I wasn't much better off: Patrick found me because I had started my own personal blog as a reaction to the breakup of a long-term relationship, a sketchy job situation, and a bout of soul-sucking, debilitating depression. Ironically, even though his online persona was that of a Charlie Brown-like sadsack, it was Clark Matthews who was the happy one with a great wife and a newborn son.
Given the circumstances of TLO's beginnings, it's kind of a miracle it ever got off the ground and didn't become just another one of the dead blogs littering the Internet. But it did! And even though none of us are journalists, and we certainly don't even think of ourselves as legitimate journalists, we're even able to break news stories before the actual professionals thanks to our great readers and members of the Ogle Mole Network.
On that note, I thought today that it would be fun to look back at some of the more popular and memorable news stories we broke over the years. Check them out:
In 2008, we leaked the Thunder's awful logo design a week before its official unveiling. It was so bad we weren't sure if it was legit or not.
When we started the site, I don't think any of us anticipated "catch a famous actress plastering sharks all over Bricktown" was high up on our list of things we expected to do. But here we are.
As far as I can tell, the first story we ever actually broke was the fact that the OU baseball coach's daughter posed for Playboy's Best Of The Big 12 issue... representing OSU. It was a popular post, especially for our four-month-old site (it's still the 7th-most-viewed post in TLO history). The "reporting" that went into this story basically involved reading about the fact that she did this on a message board somewhere, and then deciding we should post on it, and then thinking, "hmm, maybe we should get some sort of proof that this happened?" So we emailed a local sports reporter basically being like, "Hey we want to write about this, can you tell us if it's true or not" and getting an email in response that was essentially: "Yes, it's true. I don't want my name anywhere near this f*&*ing story, I'll deny it to my death if it's in the post." So we made the post. Journalism is so easy, you guys!
Our next piece of Pulitzer-worthy reporting was about a lawsuit in which someone alleged Braum's served them bleach instead of an iced tea. This involved Patrick acting on a tip and actually going to the courthouse and getting the documents, like a real reporter! Though I have to say it's not really a surprise when Braum's screws up an order.
In 2010, Tammy Banovac made news when she arrived at the TSA line at Will Rogers in a wheelchair wearing only a bra and panties. The story went viral and national. A few days later, we learned Tammy, a former dentist, once posed in Playboy in a "women in uniform" edition. That story also went viral.
Speaking of things happening at the airport, Wayne Coyne shut it down in 2012 when he brought an old grenade to TSA. It would be one of his first acts as New Wayne Coyne.
TLO has broken the comings and goings of lots of newspeople over the years (I think the first was the departure of Tyler Suiters? Remember him?) but none had the impact of Meg Alexander. Fun fact: people in Oklahoma City really, really, really like Meg Alexander. The post announcing her departure is the sixth-most-viewed post in TLO history.
So it turns out that Aaron Tuttle is a rather unpleasant guy to be around, and his poor co-workers, unlike us, didn't even have to get sued by him to find out about it.
Lots of awful stories over the years, but an Oklahoman reporter using his position as a reporter to prey on victims of the Moore tornado is about as bad as it gets. The more you heard about that story, the stranger and sadder it got.
I know, it's not exactly shocking to find out that a car salesmen are shady, dishonest hacks. Prepare the fainting couches. But what makes this particular story so hilarious and revealing is that this massive fine for deceiving the public hasn't been reported anywhere else in the media to this day, as far as I know. I guess when you've got money to advertise, the local watchdogs will turn their heads.
In September of 2013, we published a secret internal email indicating that Chesapeake Energy would layoff over 500 employees within 60 days. One month later, they got rid of 640 Oklahoma City employees.
Outside of Rick and Brad, nobody covers the Oklahoma porn star beat better than Patrick. We're not sure how the Mommy Blog thing worked out for Ashlynn. Perhaps it's time for another unfinished interview?
This is maybe the strangest and most surprising of all the stories broken here on TLO. Of all the Okie politicians I would have expected to get engaged on a bridge above the grotto at the Playboy Mansion, Mary Fallin would have been the last I would have expected. But it happened!
One of the things I think about from time-to-time is that in that in the late 90's I was listening to Jim Traber and he had some caller call in and mention something about Chelsea Clinton. Jim went on and on about how he didn't know anything about Chelsea Clinton except for the fact that she was one of the ugliest people he's ever seen. I don't know how old Chelsea Clinton was at the time, but she was a teenager. Fuck him.
So busting a cruel, loudmouth talk-show host for getting catfished may not exactly be Pentagon Papers-level journalism, but it's a pretty satisfying thing anyway. We know from the Ogle Mole Network that in the wake of this incident, Traber, behind the scenes, accused US of being the person catfishing him. Not true! Other people despise you, too!
Speaking of loudmouth talk-show hosts....
What happens when you're a pundit who goes on and on about Russell Westbrook not being a point guard and, to back up your point, talk about your own high school career as a shoot-first point guard that "started for your high school team that lost in the state finals?" Well, you better hope that no one is around that actually remembers your high school team? Fortunately for us, the Ogle Mole Network came through!
For my money it's the magnum opus of The Lost Ogle -- if nothing else ever came from this site, this would make it worth it. It also led to the classic video of Jalen Rose confronting Skip with our reporting and calling him "Water Pistol Pete, Jr."
That's all for today! I'll be back with more tales of TLO's first ten years next week.
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