In the aftermath of last week's Brett Favre saga revolving around the disclosure by virtually every member of the NFL media that Favre had texted teammates of his imminent retirement, the expected occurred. Rather than merely acknowledging that they jumped the gun on a story that was not a story, those reporting the story resorted to two old tactics--revisionism and blaming their audiences. Neither is very flattering.
On local networks, those covering the Vikings have been in full offensive mode, pouncing on listeners and numerous straw men in an attempt to save face. The gist of the argument has been as follows: "There is nothing wrong with reporting a story and Vikings' fans that are upset over the reporting are only upset because it casts their new hero in a negative light."
For a select few, that logic might hold. Most, however, likely regard the journalism as falling well short of the standards expected of those who earn a living reporting.
The problem with last week's reporting on Favre's "imminent" retirement is not that it proved inaccurate in at least some important respects or that it cast a shadow over Favre's legacy (one that he hardly has had time to build in Minnesota). Rather, the problem is that those reporting relied on purported tangible evidence, text messages, as the basis for their reporting, yet nobody bothered to produce, or even to review any text message. And, to date, nobody has yet shown that such texts existed, even though such an effort ought to be relatively easy, if, in fact, the plethora of such texts actually existed.
What makes the defensive position of some writers even more suspect is their chosen defense: "We provided a caveat that we should wait and see because we all know that Favre has a history of wavering."
That's a preposterous defense on numerous levels. Most notably, it is no defense, even if true, for not identifying the texts upon which one purportedly relied in breaking a story and, more damning, if, as is surely the case, Favre's history of wavering is well known, as that history clearly ought to caution greater care in the reporting of such stories. Finally, if the story is one of caution, the headlines and the lead-ins ought not to be about Favre's departure.
The truth of the matter upon revelation that Favre had not retired is that everyone who reported the story as fact is now embarrassed for having done so. That is as it should be. Rather than taking that frustration out on the reader/listener, however, a bit of introspection might be in order. For sooner than most likely dare to admit, even internet and radio journalism will survive or fail based on the credibility of those doing the reporting. If the most recent Favre story were the measuring stick, there would be a whole slew of new journalists finding jobs this week, and an equal number searching for jobs in new fields.
Up Next: Sage Looking for An Out. Plus, too many injuries?