9

October

DeadSpin, Brett Favre and Jenn Sterger: Is Real Journalism Dead?

It’s hard to know where to begin to criticize deadspin.com’s slanted, gossipy, uncorroborated reporting of Brett Favre’s alleged messages to Jenn Sterger. Let’s just get this out of the way right now: However distasteful it may be to see one of the most well-known athletes in all of sports at the center of a sex scandal, there are plenty of indications that that’s the case. But the story hardly ends there. Deadspin asks the reader at the start of its first post to “please suspend your disbelief for a moment”**, and apparently you’re never supposed to take it back.

If you, the reader, take two things away from this note, I would like them to be the following:

1) The knowledge that nothing has been proven against Favre to this point, that there is no conclusive evidence that Favre was the man in the voicemails, and none of the parties involved–Favre, Sterger, the Jets, the Vikings, anyone–have provided any supporting evidence for this conjecture, or even acknowledged it.

2) Full and complete understanding that whatever Deadspin’s pretensions in their various posts, they are nothing more than a sketchy, low-end, openly biased media outlet who broke a story and are now trying to milk it for everything they possibly can.

This is a cash cow story.

Let’s deal with the first point first. The Jets have told deadspin the following: “The Jets are working closely with the NFL on investigating this matter”* and Greg Aiello of the NFL has said only “We are reviewing the matter”^. And Favre said “I’m not getting into that. I’ve got my hands full with the Jets and am trying to get some timing down with our guys, so that’s all I’m going to discuss.”* And according to that last link, Jenn Sterger’s manager said “Jenn did not provide Deadspin with any information”. The messages, voicemails and pictures all came from an unnamed third party, not Sterger herself. So there’s little in the way of corroboration to be found here.

Now, Deadspin has two posts that contain most of the relevant facts, which are Links D and E down at the bottom. The first deals with the Myspace messages that Deadspin paid the third party for. Here are the three images from that post.

The person never identifies himself as Favre, but gives clues that would make it easy to infer it was him, such as “i’m new to team with grey hair”. Deadspin blanks out the seven-digit phone number but allows us to see the area code, which is 601 and does indeed cover the area where Favre’s house is (Sumrall, Miss). There is also the charge, presumably from Sterger, that someone approached her and asked for her number on behalf of someone else (which would be Favre in this scenario). The name Jared Winley, who is a Jets PR person, is mentioned as a possibility for that person. Winley also appears in the third message. Winley said to a Jets PR firm that “he never interacted with Sterger and never had a phone conversation with her”, according to the website (not Winley’s words). Deadspin also notes that in the voicemail, the caller says something like “I think Aaron came up and asked you”, so that’s open to interpretation.

The second post is noteworthy here mostly for the video. It contains both voicemails that Sterger received, some very blatantly biased editing and three pictures of someone’s penis. I’ll get to both the editing and the rest of the post in a minute.

You can find the video at Link E. Beware of the obscene pictures, which come right at the end at around 2:08 in. These are all the “strange messages” that Sterger received.

What do we make of this?

It’s a whole load of no proof, is what. If it is Favre behind all this, he never identifies himself. It seems implausible to me that Favre, having picked up and headed for a strange city and in the middle of a media firestorm, would pick that time to start harassing a Jets sideline girl. But that’s not proof, again, either way. Is there circumstantial evidence? Plenty. The “I’m new to the team with grey hair”, the mention of a hotel room in the voicemails, the 601 area code all point vaguely in Favre’s direction. However, the caller never says anything that would confirm it as Favre (for example, the room number in the hotel, which would presumably be known only to Favre). But with the total lack of hard evidence and the lack of any corroboration from a team source or Sterger, there’s not much at the core of this story. Favre himself brushed off the question in a press conference. And let’s not forget that in the original article, Sterger told the author that she had received “dick pics” before from other athletes. This was not an uncommon occurrance.

Deadspin purports to address the claims in Link E, saying that there is a possibility that someone was impersonating Favre. They then ask the reader to ‘look at the evidence’: “For an individual to put forth the effort to 1.) acquire a cellphone with a Mississippi area code; 2.) take some voice lessons; and 3.) implicate Jets handlers and perhaps other people, all within a very short period of time and for no discernible reason other than to mess with Sterger, well, that’s some very aggressive role-playing. Jenn believed it to be him. Others believed it to be him.”

This is specious reasoning. There’s nothing saying that an impersonator would’ve need voice lessons, or that he’d have had to take any special effort to get a Mississippi area code. It’s as simple as going to a phone store and changing it; I know, I worked at one over the summer. And anyone could’ve found the name of a random Jets PR person on the site to “implicate”. ‘Others believed it to be him’ is a wash, as they aren’t named and this is the first time they’ve been alluded to. None of this is convincing evidence that that was Favre on the voicemails and in the pictures.

Has anyone seen this man? He’s 6’2″, 225, known residence in Minneapolis…

Interpretative note: I’ve heard several opinions that Favre not openly denying the charge just makes it more suspicious. This is bullshit, for two reasons. One, it’s perfectly possible that his reaction was not “This is lunacy, I’m going to deny it”, but “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It is not worth my time”. Have you seen President Obama addressing the birthers’ allegations? The reasoning is probably pretty similar. Two, even if he had stood up and said the above, Deadspin would’ve spun it as “Favre Denies Sending Cock Shots to Jenn Sterger”. Either way, they can make him sound bad. That’s how biased journalism can work. Either way, I am not convinced that a nonanswer adds even infinitesimally to the suspicion against Favre.

Update: One more article mentions that a pair of massage therapists have their own charges for Favre. At Link F, you can read about how Favre allegedly checked out one girl’s ass. He then exchanged text messages with her and another girl, inviting them back to his hotel room to give him a massage. Obviously this sounds like a bad porno waiting to happen, but Deadspin (giving credit where it’s due here) does mention that masseuses often exchange numbers with players and do set up massages off-site.

This story has even less credibility than Sterger’s does. The masseuse and her husband came to Deadspin after they read the story in the New York Post (another paragon of unbiased reporting), which sounds a lot to me like jumping on a publicity bandwagon. There is no corroboration, as usual, and no text messages have been released. There’s no hard evidence here.

We’re all waiting for this.

The second thing to address is Deadspin itself. Let me just say this: I get it. Deadspin, being the low-end media outlet that it is, needs every scrap of publicity it can possibly accrue. So when they find something like this, however unsubstantiated, they will work it for everything they possibly can. So far, they’ve got three distinct angles that they’re working on:

1) Brett Favre is a dirty, cheating man. They’re working this angle because, hey, if there are two things the whole country pays attention to, they’re corrupt public figures and Brett Favre.

2) Deadspin is the crusading, wild, freelance, uncorrupted media outlet who’s mercilessly sticking it to the man. They’re working this angle because that’s the persona they try to cultivate for their fringe outfit.

3) There is a big, bad ‘man’, and it’s alternately Favre and the NFL. They’re working this angle because, hey, who doesn’t like stories about fighting the man?

This is the very first Google Images result for “fighting the man”.

Put this all together and you have Head-Spinning Bullshit +5. You have pretensions like “We are the Woodward and Bernstein of athlete dong”. You have the spin of Favre’s nonanswer at the press conference. And you have this idiotically self-gratifying Link G, which slobbers all over the reporter from the New York Post who, shock, asked Favre about the Sterger rumors. He is lauded as “an awesomely ballsy outsider” who is stirring up the pot. According to Deadspin, “there is no more captive and pliant segment of the sports press than the football media”, which doesn’t “[want] to fuck with the mise-en-scene”. The article then goes on to take a few shots at “the NFL’s PR juggernaut”, which will “try to pretend the bad thing away” and levied “the league’s best efforts to bowdlerize [the story] into oblivion”.

Hold on, let’s go to the instant replay! What did the Jets spokesman say? “The Jets are working closely with the NFL on investigating this manner”. What did the NFL spokesman say? “We are reviewing the matter.”

Oh, my bad, Deadspin totally has that right. The giant NFL machine is trying to squash the little guy and “bowdlerize it into oblivion”! Holy shit, run!

…wait a second…

What a pitiable attempt at self-promotion that is.

But it’s nothing compared to the drama the video of the voicemails and pics tries, and fails, to create.

Without background music and on a blank white screen, we see the following messages interspersed with video clips and photos (all punctuation is in the video):

“Brett Favre joins the Jets in August 2008…

He apparently finds something he likes…

(Photos of Sterger.)

She begins to receive strange Myspace messages…

including one that mentions the Jets’ media relations manager

She begins to receive strange voicemails

(Voicemail plays)

Jenn is approached by someone who wants to set her up with Favre…

She declines and jokes that if she were to get involved with someone like that…

…she might end up in a garbage can

The voicemails grow desperate

(Voicemail 2 plays)

Then, she receives cellphone pics

Is this Brett Favre’s cock?

(pics are shown)

Jenn Sterger leaves the Jets on May 7, 2009

for more visit deadspin.com”

Well? It’s Loose Change-style bullshit, cooked up and spun in such a manner as to make Favre sound like some kind of tyrant puppeteer. Maybe this is just me recalling the film Nosferatu, but it has that kind of silent-movie creepiness to it. But “…she might end up in a garbage can”? “The voicemails grow desperate”? “strange Myspace messages”? This is needlessly creepy language. They are intentionally trying to build a mileu for purposes of selling their story. There’s nothing conclusive in either the pictures or the voicemails, which you can watch at Link E. Make your own judgment about whether the voicemails sound like Favre.

It could also be this individual

So? In a week or six months or a year, we may find out that all this circumstantial evidence really does point squarely at Favre, and that he is guilty as alleged of harassing Sterger and the therapists via text, voicemail and picture mail. Or we may find out that Deadspin took unsubstantiated rumors and spun them into a tapestry of convincing but vague crap, or some combination of the above. All we know right now is what I said above: that nothing has been proven as yet, and you should treat it as such, and that Deadspin is exploiting the entire thing for its own advantage and in doing so, making a mockery of journalism by aspiring to it. Paying for stories, needless hyping and name-dropping, open bias in articles–this is in no way proper journalistic behavior. I urge the reader to recognize that as well.

Guess what you won’t find in here? Deadspin.com!

Links

*Link A: http://deadspin.com/5659431/jets-have-their-hands-full-with-favre

^Link B: http://deadspin.com/5659328/nfl-looking-into-favre-allegations

*Link C: http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/stories/F/FBN_FAVRE_SCANDAL?SITE=WIMIL&SECTION=SPORTS&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

**Link D: http://deadspin.com/5657512/did-a-jets-pr-person-act-as-liaison-between-brett-favre-and-jenn-sterger

Link E: http://deadspin.com/5658206/brett-favres-cellphone-seduction-of-jenn-sterger

Link F: http://deadspin.com/5659474/sources-two-more-women-who-worked-with-jets-received-lewd-texts-from-favre

Link G: http://deadspin.com/5659151/last-nights-winner-the-reporter-who-asked-brett-favre-about-his-wang

Link H: http://www.vikings.com/media-vault/videos/Favre-Presser—107/7869175c-c555-4fb1-b57d-40eeec27ca3f

Link I: http://www.facebook.com/notes/tisdels-tirades/brett-favre-and-the-deadspin-story-a-skeptics-take/148226688523313

46 Responses to “DeadSpin, Brett Favre and Jenn Sterger: Is Real Journalism Dead?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Packers Lounge, Jersey Al – Packers , Jersey Al – Packers , Cheesehead Nation, Jersey Al – Packers and others. Jersey Al – Packers said: DeadSpin, Brett Favre and Jenn Sterger: Is Real Journalism Dead?: On Brett Favre – Jenn Sterger: Deadspin asks the… http://bit.ly/bk7ZGg [...]

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  2. Ryan says:

    Thank you Al!!! As a member of the — ugh — mainstream media, I’m sick and tired of being denigrated for not resorting to linkbaiting bullshit antics like HuffPo and DeadSpin. There is a right way and wrong way to pursue this story, and DeadSpin clearly has no regard for what is fair and what is right. Thanks for calling “shenanigans.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      You can thank Andy for writing it. I just thought it was really well done and wanted people to read it…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

      • Iowa Chick says:

        Jersey Al: I appreciate your pointing out this story which is the most substantiated and logical I have read. It is also gratefully devoid of XXXX language.

        It is well known that when Brett was in his 20′s in Green Bay he was a bar crawler with some unsavory buddies. He did not marry until 1995. However, he has been clean of drugs since before the Packers won the Superbowl and quit drinking 12 years ago. In the tapes the guy talks about going to practice and back to his hotel. Brett had a rented house. Deadspin said the phone number is not Favre’s, and today they are saying the pics, may not be of Favre. When Brett was asked about this in the press conference, you could hear a guy say in the background, “that was great but you didn’t mention deadspin.” Publicity seeking? A last comment, Brett sometimes pulls his shirt up to wipe his face in practice. What you see is a pretty ripped athlete. The guy in the pics looks pretty flabby. The NFL says they are investigating, but what??? All they can investigate is deadspin. I hope this turns out to be a complete hoax. If it turns out to be true, I’ll be disappointed in Favre. But Favre’s guilty of what –attempted adultry? Will all NFL players who have attemped or committed adultry please raise your hand? Hope Goodall can count that high. Anyway, thanks for finding a decent analysis Al. Lord knows there’s plenty of the trash.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  3. Ryan says:

    Sorry. Great job *ANDY!* I’ll read the byline first next time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. toby says:

    Well, there are many of us who know of favre having these types of interactions from green bay. There are more to come, this will snow ball on him, ask Leroy Butler, he said it would all come out and I think this is just the tip of the ice berg, even if these allegations are untrue (which I highly doubt, deadspin would be in a load of sh1t if they made this up) you will see this southern country american boy (what an absolute load of crap, get mad at the media for making him someone he is not instead of proving who he is) be found as the fraud he is.

    Good riddance favre, you could have stayed retired, stayed married and had a good life.

    You dipped into the well one too many time and your ego will surely get wet here. No pun intended.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

    • Andy Tisdel says:

      All very plausible. But remember that nothing has been proven yet.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      If you talk to people that hung around Green Bay area bars, they have plenty of Favre stories to tell. But without any type of real corroboration from the parties involved, it’s all hearsay. yet, it’s accepted as fact. This is one of many big problems I have with our celebrity-infatuated society. I thought Andy did a great job dissecting this sordid mess for what it is.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  5. Hattisburg CrocShots says:

    Ever heard of Occam’s Razor? The one that says the simplest solution is often the correct one?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. bigfog says:

    couldn’t disagree with you more if I tried.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. John Rehor John Rehor says:

    Just an excellent analysis Andy. While I wonder if the truth will come out after the season, conveniently timed to coincide with Favre’s annual retirement drama, your post ties the allegations together nicely while stating the most overwhelming fact repeatedly: the IF this is indeed Favre part.

    Great read!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. j4a1 says:

    A very long, well thought out, rational article refuting a story that is almost certainly true. Any one who lives in Wisconsin has heard the stories of Favre’s exploits. And the truth be told, Favre was protected in Green Bay. Much like Tiger, sports journalist’s don’t often bite the hand that feeds them. I agree with you about the nature of journalism especially on the internet. But I think your refusal to accept this story may have more to do with your admiration of Favre more than anything else. If the stories that Sterger and the others contend prove to be true, (once the main stream media gets off it’s ass and starts asking tough questions), it is most certainly sexual harrassment. The penalties for both Favre and the Jets will be harsh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Andy Tisdel says:

      Well, there is a great chance that it is true. I just don’t think we can declare it as such yet.

      (Can you elaborate on the stories? I may very well be the one Wisconsinite who hasn’t heard them.)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I agree with you that Favre was protected in Green Bay (he still is, in fact). But I also agree that what deadspin has done here is setting a terrible precedent (although I wouldn’t call it ground-breaking). Where is Sterger in all of this. perhaps she wants to lend no credence to the “story” by commenting? Who knows, but that’s the point. We don’t know and what deadspin has done is just wrong. And trust me, I’m no Favre fan any more…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. j4a1 says:

    The stories I have heard involve Favre, Winters, and Chumura, lot’s of bars, and even a love child or two. I have no proof, but these rumors are numerous and have been around for years.

    You are lamenting the end of real journalism. My biggest lament is that it takes a unbridled outlet like Deadspin to get the “mainstream” guys to ask any questions. We all knew about this weeks ago. No one asked Favre about it. I wonder why? Well, could it be that Favre has become so big he was viewed as untouchable? Could it be that this happens more often than we think? Could it be that legitimate journalists like Steeger can be blackballed if they don’t keep their mouths shut? If she has recieved numerous shots of players “junk” what does that tell you? It’s sexual harrasement pure and simple.

    Favre is a money machine that has been protected. But he played his hand just alittle too long, and now, sadly, he will more than likely pay the price. The only good thing that can come of this is we may find it’s a huge problem league wide and fix it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Andy Tisdel says:

      The reason, I think, that nobody picked this up back when the original article came out is that they released zero proof of it. The only reason that it’s getting any play now is because the pictures and voicemails are actually out there to be studied. However, if this does turn out to be true, I’ll give credit to Deadspin where it’s due. Whatever their tactics, if it is true, they broke a story that the rest of the media completely missed.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. foundinidaho says:

    I don’t approve of Deadspin’s tactics, but if it’s true, SOMEONE should have been reporting on it. And now there seems to be a couple of other women ready to come forward. Methinks this guy protests too much. He seems to be defending Favre as much as the nasty tone of the reporting. And you know what? I think he did it. And I would say that even if he was still our QB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I understand your feelings, Ms. Idaho. But looking at it from a man’s perspective, all it takes is one such accusation, even if totally false, to ruin your reputation for life. While it’s entirely possible it was Favre doing this, his reputation is sullied for life, whether it’s true or not. That’s what I have a problem with. I really don’t care about Favre anymore, but I don’t like how easily a deadspin supposition is accepted as fact. If it did happen, then the women have to not be afraid to come forth themselves. Don’t be a silent victim. That’s how you put an end to it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Andy Tisdel says:

      I agree with Al. We’re still at the hearsay level here.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • iowachick says:

      Anyone commenting on Jenn’s complaints did not read deadspin very closely. She made no allegatons. The editor says a couple years ago she mentioned Favre. They show a film somewhere and she just mentions his name with other players. DEADSPIN is making ALL allegations based on information they purchsed from NOT jenn. This is as much a travesty for her as it is Favre. The sad part is other places are picking it up now and 1) they say this woman is making allegations. She is NOT, deadspin is without her coorperation or giving them any evidence and 2) CBS reported on it as though it all was a fact. Andy correctly has illustrated we have no way of knowing if either party was involved because only deadspin and a third party who produced the tape and video are saying this happened. the massueses that “have come forward” have actually not come forward. Someone told Deadspin but there is no identity to these supposed victims. This is deadspin speculation about something that could have or could not have happened. Too bad now even the NFL Network is reporting like it all really happened.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Great story Andy – You and I are in the same boat here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Wally says:

    Andy, I appreciate the effort you put into this & agree with you in regards to Deadspin in general. But to call Deadspin “jounalism” is an affront to journalists everywhere. The main issue I have with this though is at no point do you even take the time to consider what if the allegations are true? To me it reeks of you being a Favre apologist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Andy Tisdel says:

      It’s a legitimate critique, although I would disagree. However, my view is that Deadspin is promulgating the “Favre did it” unambiguous view as widely as they can. This is my way of trying to balance the scales, if only by saying “We don’t know yet”.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I don’t get the sense that Andy is trying to protect Favre here, just as I am not. However, I have a real problem with society just accepting supposition as fact. Imagine if someone made a false accusation that you improperly touched a child during some sporting event. Regardless is you did or not, your reputation is ruined for life. It happened to someone in my area. Accused for whatever reason by a 12-yr old girl, went to trial, was found completely innocent, yet he is now branded for life as a pervert and untrusted by anyone.

      So that’s my angle with this whole story. Believing any of this just based on what some slimy website says is wrong. If Ms. Sterger comes out to corroborate the story, then we can all spit on Brent.

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  13. j4a1 says:

    I believe the job of journalists is to investigate. Where is the “mainstream” media in this regard? They sat on this story. You say “deadspin” didn’t provide any “proof”. Did anyone ask Favre about it? Did anyone in the mainstream investigate? No. They chose to sit on it because Favre is a money machine. The new media has pushed the evolution of journalism. It’s the way it is.

    Let’s say Sterger had come out with this and the major media outlets sat on it. What would be the outcome of Sterger. Blackballing? The disturbing thing is that she chose to sit on it until she heard all the gushing over Favre when he unretired again. The non-stop NFL network/ESPN Favre-lovefest pushed her over the edge. Otherwise she just would have put up with it. She should be able to do her job without this harrassement. It’s a serious issue. The major media outlets should be looking into it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Andy Tisdel says:

      I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. It’s all well and good to say “Favre is a money making machine”, but to say that all news organizations held off because of that is, I think, inaccurate. You can look at ESPN and say, well, they print everything good about Favre and nothing bad. But other sports outlets? Local papers? Other bloggers? Local TV stations? Webzines? I don’t buy that everyone has that incentive to not report a story.
      We don’t know for a fact that they didn’t investigate it, remember. But my position is this, and it’s similar to the one that Conrad makes down below: Without proof, Sterger’s comments are rumor and hearsay. Nothing more. And if she won’t even talk to the guy who broke the story, how is it possible to get to the bottom of it, from a reporter’s perspective?
      Also, if you go back and look at the original story, she told the Deadspin guy about it back in January or February. It was Deadspin who sat on it–because it remained mere rumor–until there came a time when benefits would accrue to them (in the form of money and attention) if they published it, because there was a lot of attention being paid to Favre. Namely, when he unretired.

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  14. PackersThad says:

    Jersey, I am leaving a post as requested. I will be in Argentina for the next two weeks, but I will be back for the Jets game. I would love to tailgate together! You have my email address and I will be creating a Twitter account shortly so I can ensure that we meet up! Catch you soon! GO PACK GO!

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  15. Conrad Bilskey says:

    You make some good points here, but you whiff on one major point, and it’s more or less your thesis: Deadspin has absolutely no responsibility to aspire to, or engage in, “proper journalistic behavior.” It’s a blog. The same rules don’t apply as do to the mainstream media. Just as this is a blog. If you wanted to, you could cook up some fake voicemails and dong shots, post them, and tell everyone they’re Favre and that you got them from Jenn Sterger. Or maybe Jenn Sterger actually did give you voicemails and pics. Who cares? The only difference is that Deadspin has a far bigger platform than this blog so more people will read theirs, and it may gain some traction. Which in this case, it did. The first time they posted a story about it, it didn’t.

    I am by no means saying they did the right thing, or acted appropriately. And they for sure didn’t act with anything approaching journalistic integrity. But to hold a blog the the same standard as the mainstream media is a fool’s errand. Look at their tagline: Sports news without access, favor or *discretion.* (Italics mine.)It’s no secret what you’re getting. When people stop clicking on the types of stories they publish, they’ll change. Until then, they won’t. You may disagree with them on moral grounds — and I’m right there with you — but that’s the only grounds on which to disagree with them.

    You too benefit from a platform and the democratization of the Interwebs. Ten years ago, the only people hearing your thoughts would have been your buddies over a couple of beers. Now, some a-hole you’ve never met can disagree with you and you can argue back.

    In short: The Web 2.0 genie is out of the bottle, and it ain’t being put back — for better or worse. Sometimes the lines between what’s mainstream and what isn’t are blurred. In this case, they are. But that doesn’t change the fact that Deadspin absolutely does not have the same responsibility to act in the ways a reporter from the JS or GBPG is required to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Andy Tisdel says:

      Conrad, I would argue that Deadspin has every responsibility to act with integrity and to verify the junk they post before they do it, if they have any aspirations towards being taken seriously. People wonder why the so-called mainstream media didn’t follow up on this when it first came out. Well, the answer I’ve been giving is “because there wasn’t proof”, but the less charitable one is “because it was Deadspin reporting it”. If you sacrifice any semblance of standards, you can’t expect to have any credibility. That’s the trade-off that you make as an organization. (It’s important to treat them that way, by the way–they may be online, but they’re a moneymaking organization, a business. There’s a difference between them and a guy like me who does this for free, or there should be.)
      In short, I would argue that the same rules apply to anyone who wants to say they’re a journalist. The medium is irrelevant. Blogs, TV, radio, old-fashioned print–whatever. The way you establish credibility is to verify what you’re printing, to be truthful and account for biases in your coverage, to identify your sources and account for your sources’ own personal biases, and to report news, not mere rumor. Deadspin fails all four criteria just on this story; thus, I don’t take them seriously.
      And let’s be real here. They’re a fringe publication. These have always existed. Tabloid journalism, scandal-heavy sensationalist publications, have existed as long as organizations that aspire to objectivity have. The new platform of the Internet hasn’t changed that, except in number. There have been a lot of organizations that have traded credibility for scandal. So what? Journalism’s still here. And I would argue that it’s more important than ever to hold to journalistic principles, so that we keep it that way.

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  16. Conrad Bilskey says:

    But why are you presupposing they have aspirations to be taken seriously? Besides, I would argue they *are* being taken seriously. It may take a couple times for a story to stick, but what they did here caught they attention of the NFL. You can’t be taken any more seriously than that. I don’t think anyone can make the argument that the only reason the NFL is investigating this is because of the story Deadspin ran.

    They’re a Gawker Media-owned blog. They have aspirations of clicks and page-views. That’s it. That’s how their writers get paid. Reams of paper have been written about how Nick Denton operates. It’s not a secret.

    And I would agree with you: In theory the medium doesn’t matter. In reality, though, it does. Anyone can start a website with little to no money or training. With the exception of say, cable access, if you’re going to be on TV, radio, or featured in print, you are a professional. It’s just how those mediums work.

    Now then, everyone at Deadspin is, in fact, a pro. Founder Will Leitch now writes for New York Magazine, one of the most respected mags in the country. Editor AJ Daulerio came from a magazine background. Tommy Craggs has been featured in the Best American series. And so on. These people know what they’re doing and know how to write and report. But because of the medium in which they’re doing it now, and the culture that has sprung up around said medium, the rules have changed.

    Rue that if you wish. I sure do. And I am by no means saying that blogs, bloggers, and the blogosphere are the death knell of great journalism. It’s not, and anyone who says that isn’t thinking it through and doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But what you’re doing here is projecting your morals, and what you think journalism is and should be (and you’re right, by the way) on what Deadspin does. Fact is, they don’t play by those rules. They never have and never will. And they only way they’ll stop running stories like this is if people stop clicking on them. Who knows, maybe the pendulum will swing back. But I doubt it.

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    • Andy Tisdel says:

      I make no such supposition, and I’m sorry if I was unclear. My argument is if-then: If they wish to be taken seriously, then they have certain standards to follow. In the normal course of doing business, they do not, so they aren’t. But in their own bumbling, unwitting way, this time they managed to fulfill one of the standards, even if only by accident: providing (ambiguous) proof of their allegations. That, briefly, is why they have received any attention.
      This may be an ‘agree to disagree’ point, but I have a little more faith in the public. I don’t believe that anyone could mistake Deadspin for a professional outlet. The buzz this story has generated came from the subject matter, not from the people who broke it. The reason I spent so much time debunking them arose as much from personal disgust as from a desire to illuminate. And sure, that is me projecting my standards onto a medium that is indifferent to my ravings. But I like to think it helps a little, too.

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  17. Conrad Bilskey says:

    Yeah, I think you’re right — it is an agree to disagree thing. Because I don’t think they have to follow certain standards to be taken seriously. They’ve proven that here. I don’t like it anymore than you do, but I also know there’s little I or anyone can do about it. A fundamental shift in how news is being disseminated has occurred. There’s both good and bad that comes along with it. Here, we have to eat a crap sandwich.

    Ah well. It’s fun to discuss anyway.

    Interestingly, there’s a profile of Gawker/Denton in the upcoming issue of the NYer. How topical.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/18/101018fa_fact_mcgrath?currentPage=all

    Go Pack!

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  18. Cocoman says:

    Interesting story and it made some points that I hadn’t considered. Good Job.

    I do however disagree with one point and that is that Favre’s non denial isn’t fishy. IMO it is. Your Obama example is just wrong, he has commented on the birth certificate rumor on many occasions, the mainstream press has thoroughly investigated and proven it to be false. Just because the rumor persists doesn’t mean Obama hasn’t completely denied it. Maybe this proves that confronting rumors doesn’t completely squash them but this example is not true.

    Add to that how Favre reacted to what he perceived to be lies by the Packers in 2008. He went on many media outlets to get out his side of the story and his surrogates basically called Thompson a liar. In the past he has not been one to keep quiet when he feels he is being lied about.

    I completely agree that there is a shocking lack of proof here and that places like Deadspin are the lowest form of journalism but Favre’s reaction does give me pause. It seems really out of character to the Favre that I have followed in the past.

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  19. [...] for Deadspin itself, that gets very interesting.  They are not a legitimate news source and have done nothing to claim otherwise.  They paid for their sources, haven’t clarified [...]

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