Press Coverage: When is ignoring the story the right thing to do?

Every move Brett Favre makes, plenty of photographers and reporters are sure to follow.
Every move Brett Favre makes, plenty of photographers and reporters are sure to follow.

It’s usually not good practice to headline an article with a question, especially when the answer is unkown. But it seems like that’s the question that needs to be asked right now after an entire day of wall-to-wall Brett Favre speculation. At the time these words are coming out of my brain, through my hands and into my computer, there are no fewer than eight different Favre-related links on the NFL page of this site.

If you take every nugget of information on its own, each can make a pretty good – and newsworthy – story. Reports indicate that Favre texted teammates that he was retiring: That’s good news … in that it’s actual news, which in this media circus, is definitely good.

But wait …other news has grown out of that initial news, including the fact that Brad Childress, the Vikings coach who admitted in a press conference that he had talked to Farve within the last day, knows nothing about this decision to retire. More news, in that there’s no actual news.

At this point, it would make sense to realize that this whole charade is nothing more than Favre pining for (yet another summer of) attention from the national media. If he text messages a friend, hundreds of media trucks descend upon his gates. Nobody else can imagine that kind of power. LeBron James had to orchestrate an entire circus to get us to pay this much attention to him. All Favre has to do is avoid roaming charges.

Oh, but there’s more. Steve Mariucci reported that Favre hasn’t decided and is "trying to get my body healthy." There’s a report today that he’s out at a high school field, tossing the pigskin with the locals. "GET THE FILM CREWS TO THE FOOTBALL FIELD."

And more news of no news with Favre denying he texted anyone on Tuesday and saying he hasn’t made up his mind.

You almost can’t blame Favre. Sure, he could have stopped all this yesterday by putting out a statement or, gosh, actually making a real decision, but we need to realize that this issue isn’t so much with Favre as with us.

Eight stories on the home page most of Tuesday and early Wednesday, and we were likely the most understated national sports site in this race to cover the story. ESPN and NFL Network scrapped hours of coverage yesterday – and presumably today – to pile helping after helping of punditry and speculation onto the tiny scraps of news that were coming out. We’ve learned about his ankle, we’ve talked to his former teammates about whether Green Bay should "forgive" him, we’ve gotten comments from Tarvaris Jackson, who you just have to feel terrible for at this point. He’s like the rebound girl who keeps getting dumped but stays inexplicably loyal.

Really, nothing has changed from two days ago. Favre may or may not have told teammates that he was coming back, and they may or may not believe him. He told his friends in the media that he isn’t sure, certainly undercutting whatever he told his teammates that prompted those media friends to reach out in the first place. And, best we can tell, his own coach doesn’t know anything.

Right … I almost forgot that something did come out of this. Favre’s clandestine waffling did get him a raise, to – reportedly – $20 million.

Make no mistake that Zygi Wilf, et al, reportedly offering $20 million to a player in his 40s who may retire because his ankle is so mangled he doesn’t think he can play … is not only news, but fantastically hilarious news.

Hey, maybe I did answer my original question. If you separate each individual part as separate news – including Deadspin’s well-timed report that Favre is not just an old man, but a dirty old man, to boot – there might be a story here. There’s no answer to anything, and each nugget in some way contradicts the next, but there’s enough news that it has to be covered, even if it’s done with a modicum of reluctance.

Here’s the problem, though. It all goes back to LeBron James. We – meaning the media – destroyed ESPN for taking part in The Decision, allowing James to ostensibly buy an hour of time on their air for his own promotional event, all part of a never-ending need to feed his ego. How, exactly, is this Favre thing any different from that … with all of us deserving blame? Favre is in the news because he wants to be. If he wanted to be a farmer in Mississippi, we’d never hear from him again. If he wanted to wait until September to make a decision, he’d call a press conference over Labor Day weekend and get press then. He’s orchestrating this … not just with ESPN, but with NFL Network and every other sports and news organization in between. Heck, the Colbert Report led with Favre last night. The cable news networks had panels dedicated to this decision.

Favre hasn’t just worked ESPN like James did. He’s worked everyone (and I am fully aware that it includes me). At least James gave us the awkward payoff. We’re not even sure Favre will give us that. So while each separate nugget is news, the overall story is still a whole pile of nothing. Are we covering it because we have to? Because the next guy over is doing it, and if we don’t, we run the risk of losing readership/viewership/listenership? Or are we doing it because the lack of news, with Favre, is actually still news?

At what point does it become journalistically irresponsible to cover or not cover a story? And if we think the news is fake, is it even news? Bah … more questions.

You can read/listen to more from Dan Levy at OntheDLpodcast.com and follow him on Twitter @onthedlpodcast

Every move Brett Favre makes, plenty of photographers and reporters are sure to follow.
Every move Brett Favre makes, plenty of photographers and reporters are sure to follow.

It’s usually not good practice to headline an article with a question, especially when the answer is unkown. But it seems like that’s the question that needs to be asked right now after an entire day of wall-to-wall Brett Favre speculation. At the time these words are coming out of my brain, through my hands and into my computer, there are no fewer than eight different Favre-related links on the NFL page of this site.

If you take every nugget of information on its own, each can make a pretty good – and newsworthy – story. Reports indicate that Favre texted teammates that he was retiring: That’s good news … in that it’s actual news, which in this media circus, is definitely good.

But wait …other news has grown out of that initial news, including the fact that Brad Childress, the Vikings coach who admitted in a press conference that he had talked to Farve within the last day, knows nothing about this decision to retire. More news, in that there’s no actual news.

At this point, it would make sense to realize that this whole charade is nothing more than Favre pining for (yet another summer of) attention from the national media. If he text messages a friend, hundreds of media trucks descend upon his gates. Nobody else can imagine that kind of power. LeBron James had to orchestrate an entire circus to get us to pay this much attention to him. All Favre has to do is avoid roaming charges.

Oh, but there’s more. Steve Mariucci reported that Favre hasn’t decided and is "trying to get my body healthy." There’s a report today that he’s out at a high school field, tossing the pigskin with the locals. "GET THE FILM CREWS TO THE FOOTBALL FIELD."

And more news of no news with Favre denying he texted anyone on Tuesday and saying he hasn’t made up his mind.

You almost can’t blame Favre. Sure, he could have stopped all this yesterday by putting out a statement or, gosh, actually making a real decision, but we need to realize that this issue isn’t so much with Favre as with us.

Eight stories on the home page most of Tuesday and early Wednesday, and we were likely the most understated national sports site in this race to cover the story. ESPN and NFL Network scrapped hours of coverage yesterday – and presumably today – to pile helping after helping of punditry and speculation onto the tiny scraps of news that were coming out. We’ve learned about his ankle, we’ve talked to his former teammates about whether Green Bay should "forgive" him, we’ve gotten comments from Tarvaris Jackson, who you just have to feel terrible for at this point. He’s like the rebound girl who keeps getting dumped but stays inexplicably loyal.

Really, nothing has changed from two days ago. Favre may or may not have told teammates that he was coming back, and they may or may not believe him. He told his friends in the media that he isn’t sure, certainly undercutting whatever he told his teammates that prompted those media friends to reach out in the first place. And, best we can tell, his own coach doesn’t know anything.

Right … I almost forgot that something did come out of this. Favre’s clandestine waffling did get him a raise, to – reportedly – $20 million.

Make no mistake that Zygi Wilf, et al, reportedly offering $20 million to a player in his 40s who may retire because his ankle is so mangled he doesn’t think he can play … is not only news, but fantastically hilarious news.

Hey, maybe I did answer my original question. If you separate each individual part as separate news – including Deadspin’s well-timed report that Favre is not just an old man, but a dirty old man, to boot – there might be a story here. There’s no answer to anything, and each nugget in some way contradicts the next, but there’s enough news that it has to be covered, even if it’s done with a modicum of reluctance.

Here’s the problem, though. It all goes back to LeBron James. We – meaning the media – destroyed ESPN for taking part in The Decision, allowing James to ostensibly buy an hour of time on their air for his own promotional event, all part of a never-ending need to feed his ego. How, exactly, is this Favre thing any different from that … with all of us deserving blame? Favre is in the news because he wants to be. If he wanted to be a farmer in Mississippi, we’d never hear from him again. If he wanted to wait until September to make a decision, he’d call a press conference over Labor Day weekend and get press then. He’s orchestrating this … not just with ESPN, but with NFL Network and every other sports and news organization in between. Heck, the Colbert Report led with Favre last night. The cable news networks had panels dedicated to this decision.

Favre hasn’t just worked ESPN like James did. He’s worked everyone (and I am fully aware that it includes me). At least James gave us the awkward payoff. We’re not even sure Favre will give us that. So while each separate nugget is news, the overall story is still a whole pile of nothing. Are we covering it because we have to? Because the next guy over is doing it, and if we don’t, we run the risk of losing readership/viewership/listenership? Or are we doing it because the lack of news, with Favre, is actually still news?

At what point does it become journalistically irresponsible to cover or not cover a story? And if we think the news is fake, is it even news? Bah … more questions.

You can read/listen to more from Dan Levy at OntheDLpodcast.com and follow him on Twitter @onthedlpodcast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*