There are times when I look at the dynamics in our current news cycle and just throw up my hands and laugh. Since the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, there has been a steady relaxation of what constitutes "news"--there has to be, because at the end of the day, there's just not enough real hard news to actually fill 24 hours of TV and radio (not to mention internet) airtime.
As a result, more and more "rumor" and "speculation" is being reported as news, with little effort to retract those rumors on the back end when they prove to be false. To see how ridiculous this rumor-as-news dynamic can get, look no further than injured Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who has been all over the news lately despite doing... exactly nothing.
With the Colts struggling mightily to an 0-10 record in Manning's absence, there has been wide speculation that the Colts may tank the season in order to secure the first overall draft pick, widely expected to be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck--a potential replacement for Manning upon his eventual retirement. Given that speculation (remember, we're technically at two levels of speculation--or "expectation"--already), ESPN reporter Adam Schefter idly wondered whether the quarterback-starved Washington Redskins might then be interested in trading for Manning--you know, if the Colts indeed got the first pick, and indeed drafted Luck, and indeed thought he could start right away. You still with me?
Well, somewhat inevitably, the folks in the blogosphere took this one and ran with it, and before long we ended up with this:
Oh boy. Of course, this isn't the first time we've seen the internet run wild with an original item, turning it into something completely different. In fact, the internet version of "telephone" has a long and storied history, and I've remarked on it here and here. Even my main man Thomas Jefferson hasn't been able to avoid getting dragged into the mess that is the internet news cycle.
But of course, our news cycle wasn't done with Peyton Manning just yet. Not content with simply naming him as the next ex-Redskins quarterback, our friends on the internet also felt the need to link Manning with the recently-vacated Ole Miss head coaching gig--never mind the fact that Peyton has shown no interest in retiring, let alone starting a coaching career, any time soon.
All of this would be at least slightly less ridiculous if we hadn't also read--less than two weeks ago--comments from Colts owner Jim Irsay that indicated that Manning might even be able to return to playing this season. From returning this season, to being traded to the Redskins, to coaching his little brother's alma mater--all in the short space of two weeks, in which he did nothing but rehab. Yup, this is our news cycle.