Quite a story has developed in Washington D.C., where Mike Wise of the Washington Post tweeted on Monday that Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers would have his six game suspension reduced to five games.
Mike Florio of the very credible ProFootballTalk.com saw the tweet and ran with it, as did the Miami Herald, the Baltimore Sun, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The only problem was that the report was a hoax. Hours later, Wise admitted that he sent the tweet to see how many people would run with his report. He completely fabricated a story about a player on a team he doesn’t cover to see if people would run with it. Several did, and Wise admitted his scheme only AFTER word had gotten out around the country. In fact, Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the report in his post-practice press conference.
Apparently, Wise doesn’t recognize the realities of journalism in 2010. If a credible journalist (which he was) puts something up on Twitter, lots of other journalists follow him. And they are going to report what he says. Not steal it, but point out that Mike Wise is reporting the Roethlisberger is going to get a five game suspension. Because of the report on ProFootballTalk.com, we reported Wise’s report in The Fast Lane.
Wise was suspended by the Washington Post for a month, although no action has been taken by the radio station that employs him. He made himself, the Post and his radio station look bad, in addition to each of the outlets the ran with his tweet.
Journalism has changed. Almost every day, I get texts at 101 ESPN with tips about players and stories. So many, that I don’t have time to chase them down. And because they come from generally anonymous sources, I’m not going to run with them. I also won’t go with a story that somebody has on Bernie’s Press Box at STLToday.com.
But if BERNIE tweets something, or anyone from the Post-Dispatch, we’re going to report it on 101 ESPN. Those are credible journalists with enough cache that if they write something, I trust it. And they know that. We all have to tweet and report with good intentions. Twitter is to society today what the Associated Press has been for years. For breaking news, those journalists that once had their stories picked up by the AP now simply tweet them.
Wise apparently forgot that journalism’s first obligation is to the truth. Twitter and the Internet are not a joke. The Internet is where most people get their news now. To intentionally send a lie out over the internet to see who’s paying attention and who’ll run with it is disingenuous at best, and an affront to the profession and a fireable offense at worst.
The moral of this story is…cover the story, don’t be part of it. Apparently Wise doesn’t get that.