Favre Story Is a Win for Journalism

10/12/2010 11:03 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I don't think it's that much of a shock that Brett Favre was allegedly trying to hook up with women other than his wife while he was a member of the New York Jets.

We are so jaded about athletes these days, we assume they are promiscuous. That lead is buried because it's no longer a headline.

What is a shock about this story is how it trickled from an internet curiosity -- Brett Favre penis shots? "I'll take a glance on my lunch break" turned into a full blown media story. While others are shouting about a journalistic Armageddon, I believe this is a victory for all media, especially for those that have staked their footprint on the web.

The source of the Favre revelations is They have developed their business model around digging up dirt on the personal lives of athletes and media celebrities. Using anonymous sources -- a common practice by such legacy outlets as The New York Times or Time Magazine -- they have generated hundreds of thousands of page views on the bedhopping exploits of ESPN employees. So you can imagine the level of interest garnered from one of the most famous football players of all time allegedly acting like a horny college student. And in this case, they knew the main source of his affection, a former Jets employee.


I was skeptical of the viral nature of the story, as, while read by many, Deadspin's 15 minutes had come and gone. Buzz Bissinger saw to that a few years ago.

But when ESPN ran a story by Chris Mortensen about NFL commissioner Roger Godell investigating the incident, there was a "Are you serious?" moment -- although ESPN did wait to blast it out on all platforms until there was some enterprising news they had generated from the piece; a very common practice by the WWL these days. It legitimized the story. It became nutritional breakfast food. And for all online start-up content ventures, it was the equivalent of one of your teammates getting in on scholarship.

How they get the full ride is irrelevant. It's the fact they got it that counts.

Soon, more legacy media outlets ran the story, with one reporter asking Favre about it at a press conference Friday. Consider this: the rugged Wrangler man felt compelled to apologize to his teammates for the "distraction." All of this just further validates the authenticity of the whole saga, with all its sleaze and scandal. And it proves that web content providers -- without a printing press to show on their resume -- can affect the news cycle in a meaningful way.

Maybe we should all take a deep breath from this Favre fiasco and ask ourselves what was really accomplished. Was this journalism or was it just pay-for-play reporting? (Deadspin did admit they paid for the voice mails and photos.) Sure, the story got mentioned on the "Today" show, but at what price? I'm open to that debate.

And anytime these discussions are hatched, it's a win for journalism.