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Howard Kurtz finds there are news nuggets in the tough, often tacky blog world

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It took one day for the Favre allegation to land on the New York Post's front page. The New York Times went with it the day after that, tied to the National Football League opening an inquiry into the matter. That also put it in the ESPN zone. By Oct. 10 and 11, the story had hit all the network morning shows. USA Today backed in by reporting that "TV networks partnered with the NFL" had pounced on the controversy.

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The Washington Post first took note of the Favre fiasco last Tuesday with an Associated Press wire on Page D3, reporting that he had apologized to the Vikings for causing a distraction (Favre has yet to comment directly on the matter). On Wednesday, Post columnist Michael Wilbon weighed in, saying he cared about the story only if it involved sexual harassment.

"If there were no Internet, we never would've known about it," says Christine Brennan, a USA Today sports columnist. "No newspaper, no network would have reported it. The non-traditional media are now driving these stories."

At the same time, she cautions, "we don't know how Deadspin got the information. We don't know if it is Brett Favre. And yet we've been going full throttle, not knowing exactly what we're talking about. It's very unsettling."

It is also the biggest scoop in the five-year history of Deadspin, now owned by Gawker. The blog is provocative, funny and sometimes sophomoric, featuring such items as "Do the Baltimore Ravens Hate Lesbians?" and "Byron Scott's Swastika Tie Becomes Latest Slap in the Face to Cleveland Fans."

Gawker founder Nick Denton has taunted critics of the Favre piece, tweeting that his ethics policy was "to publish the real story, the one that so-called sports journalists have spent their careers avoiding."

Sure, some sportswriters might be a bit too cozy with the athletes they cover, but there's also the question of proving the rumors that inevitably surface about stars behaving badly.

The danger, as sleazy stories ooze from the depths of the Web, is that traditional news outlets will find themselves spreading unsubstantiated garbage. But in a growing number of cases -- the Enquirer's John Edwards takedown comes to mind -- the allegations unearthed by tabloids and blogs turn out to be true. While it's clearly troubling for a publication to fork over cash for trash, the condescending media elite are often forced to play catch-up.

In the end, I don't want the New York Times devoting its resources to quarterback sexting. The paper, and others like it, should investigate campaign finance abuses, dig into city contracting, cover the war in Afghanistan -- all the heavy lifting that need not concern the Deadspins of the world. But a professional athlete hitting on a team employee is also news, regardless of who breaks it, and those of us in the so-called respectable press had better get used to it.

Correction of the year

"This blog post originally stated that one in three black men who have sex with me is HIV positive. In fact, the statistic applies to black men who have sex with men." -- Amanda Hess, TBD.com.

Parting words

After 29 years, I am leaving The Post to become Washington bureau chief of the Daily Beast Web site. This does not mean, as some overheated media speculation has it, that I have soured on the future of newspapers -- far from it. They will continue to play a vital role, even as the digital world, still in its adolescence, generates more excitement and more quality reporting and writing.

I confess that I enjoyed David Carr's New York Times line about my job switch prompting the most gasps since Dylan went electric in 1965. But that ain't me, babe. While I would not have made such a leap even two years ago, it is an evolutionary move, not a revolutionary one, as we all grasp for ways to sustain and reinvent journalism.

I want to thank everyone who has followed me in these pages, or online, over the years. I've always felt a special connection to Washington Post readers, a real sense of dialogue, especially in the era of e-mail and Web chats. I am excited about my new challenge, but I leave a part of me behind.

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."


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