Alan Saunders hack

One of the strangest media feuds in a while popped up Thursday, with Pittsburgh-based reporter Alan Saunders accusing former employer Dejan Kovacevic of spying on his Twitter direct messages. Saunders, whose profile indicates he currently writes for The Associated Press, The Beaver County Times, and a couple of other sites, tweeted Thursday that he was fired from Kovacevic’s DK On Pittsburgh Sports site (Kovacevic, a former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter and columnist,  started that site in 2014) last April, and that he’d recently learned someone at the site was still reading his direct messages on Twitter. First, here’s Saunders’ key accusation:

Kovacevic responded publicly by saying he wasn’t going to get into it:

When asked for comment by Awful Announcing, Kovacevic provided the following statement:

The entire thing is a wholly unsubstantiated, ridiculous lie coming from a vocally disgruntled former employee of ours. He’s spoken other lies in public, as well, notably about why he was fired. I don’t have the interest, the motivation or the wherewithal to go through the DMs — I’ve actually had him blocked on Twitter for more than a year — of anyone anywhere. Heck, I don’t have the time to check my own DMs, never mind possessing elite hacking skills. And neither does anyone on my staff. To be honest here, it’s incredible to me that anyone would take this seriously enough to write an article about this.

When asked for comment by Awful Announcing, Saunders said he obtained this information through a private conversation he can’t divulge:

Presenting proof isn’t possible without burning the very people that helped me find out what was happening, so that’s kind of a non-starter.

I believe they somehow acquired access to my account while I was working there and maintained it over time.
I sent a DM on Wednesday and someone at DK Pgh Sports had that info within 30 minutes. I then checked with the person I DM’d, talked to some people involved and found out what had happened.
…I’d be pretty hypocritical to complain about someone reading my DMs and then start revealing my other private conversations just to make my point.

Saunders was unable to provide suspicious IP addresses or suspicious app logins to substantiate the hack. He told Awful Announcing he believed his account was accessed by someone at the site through Tweetdeck, which he had authorized.

Here’s the whole set of public tweets, starting with Saunders:

Kovacevic reacted to this on Twitter by saying he wasn’t going to get into it:

A further development? Saunders’ story went to the wider world partly because NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport quote-tweeted it with the further comment “Wow this is scary right here.” Someone pointed that out to Kovacevic, who said Rapoport has a vendetta against him based off an old feud over a Rapoport report on Ben Roethlisberger that Kovacevic shot down (details of that from a Pittsburgh blog can be found here):

Also, fans of Kovacevic’s site tweeted at Saunders to provide proof, and he said it wasn’t “the time or place”:

We’ll see if there are any further developments here.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.