UPDATE: Wise was suspended by The Post for a month. His full statement and apology from Tuesday's show is here.
The sad part about this item is that the only point of Twitter hoaxes is to gain attention for their originators, and as a non-fan of Twitter hoaxes, I'd prefer not to aid that pursuit. But Mike Wise is sort of a big D.C. sports media figure, and I write about the D.C. sports media a lot, and many people are writing about Mike Wise right now, and you can only do so many items about hyperbaric chambers.
So Wise, as you might have heard, took to Twitter on Monday and wrote about a few NFL news items he had learned, most prominently that Ben Roethlisberger's suspension would last five games. Big news, that. This was to test an idea he's been interested in for several months: that in 2010, one sentence from one writer is enough to create a cascade of news stories published without any real vetting or sourcing.
Of course, many of us reporter types put news on Twitter, and we do so with the understanding that readers will trust us and believe our news, and then do with that news whatever they like, up to and including putting it in their own blogs or stories. We want you to believe us, even if you're a rival news gatherer. We think that's a good thing.
So, naturally, at least a few people believed Wise, leading to this Pro Football Talk item, which said in part
It would be a surprise if Roethlisberger gets more than four games. According to Mike Wise of the Washington Post, however, a surprise could be coming. Wise says, via Twitter, that Roethlisberger will get five games.
That's pretty well couched, but Wise did get a news organization to post about his made-up news without attempting to verify it, which I guess was the point. So then Wise revealed that he was sort of hoaxing, and then people got mad.
Pro Football Talk: I thought the old-school newspaper types were anal retentive about, you know, accuracy and credibility?
SB Nation DC: Whatever Wise's motive, though, there's no reason for him to stoop to this level. I hate to go all Mark Jackson on everyone, but Mike Wise, you're better than that.
FanHouse: What we're left with is Wise proving a point that everyone already knew: When a member of the media reports something noteworthy, other members of the media pass along that report to their readers. The only thing we know now that we didn't know before is that Mike Wise won't hesitate to fabricate a story if he thinks it will help him make some obvious point.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, that's right, in order to prove that NFL bloggers will link to anything no matter how unreliable the source, Wise decided to make himself into an unreliable source, thus guaranteeing that NFL bloggers can't trust anything he writes in the future.
Jason LaCanfora: If I'm the Washington Post, I'm thinking seriously about suspending a sports columnist. No surprise the Big Ben tweet was a hoax. I called it the moment I saw it, which is why I never mentioned it. Not a surprise considering the source. Trite joke; bad journalism
Sports Business Journal's John Ourand: You [aren't] right about "nobody checking facts" on Twitter. People trust you and WaPo and figure your "news" is accurate.
WaPo social media producer Katie Rogers: Why would you take your platform for granted like that, especially when thousands of people would kill for your job?
Dan Hellie: Luv ya wise but you have to figure out who you are in the twitter land. Bloggers can do that, respected columnists can not.
And so on and so forth. And Wise, of course, apologized, writing "in the end, it proved two things: 1. I was right about nobody checking facts or sourcing and 2. I'm an idiot. Apologies to all involved."
And then The Post's sports department and CBS Radio sent out reminders about social media policies. And The Post's executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, said "Mike did not follow our guidelines and has since apologized for it." And Wise gave an extensive interview to Press Coverage's Dan Levy, saying "Bottom line: I picked a lousy way to show we have no credibility in this medium, in the social networking medium, and that nobody checks these things out. It was just not a good way to do it."
And then we all lived happily ever after, promising you, our readers, that what we write will be true, to the absolute best of our abilities.
(Oh, and then we sat back and waited for 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, just in case any orange-hued fellows decide to weigh in.)