By Dan Shanoff
How does the "story" about Brett Favre being "rumored" to be on the new season of "Dancing With the Stars" go mainstream? Let's dig in, working backwards:
*I first saw reference to it on ProFootballTalk this morning: "Rumors fly of Brett Favre landing on 'Dancing With the Stars," saying Favre is "rumored to be a candidate...."
PFT is reputable, and they cite USA Today -- also reputable...
*...So I clicked through to USAToday.com's report, published yesterday afternoon: "Brett Favre Joining 'Dancing With the Stars' Season 12 Cast?"
But all it cited was "The biggest rumor bubbling up is that Brett Favre will be joining the show." And so I clicked THAT link...
*...and it took me to a local TV-news web site, KCCI Des Moines, which yesterday morning published a 62-word "report" -- "Brett Favre's next big step?" -- that says, without a sourcing link, "BleacherReport.com reported there are rumors..."
*...And so I went to BleacherReport.com -- not exactly the most reputable news source -- and found a Feb. 9 opinion column by a "featured columnist" named Ryan Rudnansky that merely cites ANOTHER source...
*...Popeater, an AOL entertainment site, which has a column from Feb. 7 called "Naughty But Nice" with Rob Shuter, who wrote this, in a column headlined "Brett Favre is Kurt Warner's Pick to Join 'Dancing'":
"Let me think on what old retired NFL guy should join the show," Kurt pondered when I asked him at the GQ-Lacoste-Cadillac Super Bowl party who he thinks should join the cast. After a moment, he said, "Brett Favre. That's a good idea. Plus controversy is good for ratings."
Shuter then went on to do some actual reporting, contacting a "show insider," who said blankly:
"No way would 'Dancing' want any part of Brett."
So let's review, from the origin of the story through this morning:
- On Monday, an entertainment gossip columnist asks Kurt Warner his opinion about which ex-athlete should join "Dancing With the Stars." Warner offered up Favre -- just a suggestion, mind you. The columnist makes a quick call and debunks the idea as anything more than a fanciful -- even clever -- idea from Warner.
- On Wednesday, a Bleacher Report contributor writes about the Warner quote, doing nothing but citing it -- and even agreeing that Favre wouldn't make a good choice. The B/R writer makes no claims about Favre's ACTUAL STATUS.
- From there -- perhaps Googling "Favre" and "Dancing" -- a KCCI-Des Moines web reporter sees the Bleacher Report opinion column at the top of Google News, then twists it into this, yesterday morning:
"BleacherReport.com reported there are rumors that ABC is considering..."
But -- to be fair to Bleacher Report -- its columnist did no such thing.
And so, like a game of "Telephone," KCCI tweaks the situation just enough to spin it into a new orbit.
- Presumably with the imprimateur of KCCI as a "legitimate" news source, USA Today cites the WCCI story as evidence of Favre on "DWTS" as the "biggest rumor bubbling up."
- Under USA Today's presumptive credibility, ProFootballTalk cites: "Per various media outlets including USA Today, Brett Favre is rumored to be a candidate for the next season of "Dancing With the Stars."
PFT is so widely read that this will undoubtedly make its way to other news outlets, to sports talk-radio, to blogs, to TV.
And let's be honest: As a topic to spend a blog post on, or a talk-radio segment on, or an Entertainment Tonight segment on, or a sports-TV debate-show minute on, or anything else -- it's kind of fun to discuss the prospects of it.
But it is like saying, "What if Michael Jordan was on Dancing With the Stars? What if Charlie Sheen was on Dancing With the Stars? What if Barack Obama was on Dancing With the Stars?" It's the same level of "Why not?" based on...nothing.
This is not an indictment of ProFootballTalk. They were relying on USA Today. Who was relying on KCCI. Who was relying on BleacherReport.com. Who was relying on an AOL blog.
Which actually -- even ironically, as you track back up and down the chain -- did the actual reporting to show...
...Brett Favre is NOT a contender to be on Season 12 of "Dancing With the Stars."
These things happen. And at least all of these outlets cited their sources -- plenty of page views have been generated from far less.
But it really is "telephone": An actual piece of reporting gets cited, then twisted ever so slightly. Then twisted again. Then given the imprimateur of a news organization's high reputation. Then picked up by an amplifier. Then repeated often enough -- like a mobius strip -- that it becomes its own reality. Again, no judgments. This is simply how it works.
But when you follow the trail back to its original source, it turns out it's just Kurt Warner's off-the-cuff opinion on some red carpet. It's not "reports." It's not "rumors."
It's not anything but a fun topic of discussion with no more basis in reality than you sitting with your buddy Kurt Warner at a bar, throwing out ideas for who would be fun on Dancing With the Stars.
Dan Shanoff is founder of Quickish, a real-time news recommendation service featuring editor-vetted "tips" about the biggest topics, with an initial emphasis on sports. You can reach Dan at dan[at]quickish[dot]com.