Mike Wise Will Accept One Month WaPo Suspension For Dumb Twitter Stunt

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courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Yesterday, Mike Wise of the Washington Post and The Fan wanted to prove a point about how people use Twitter, and how people will believe anything a credible source tells them on the social network. For his experiment, he tweeted out some fairly believable rumors that he had fabricated, and watched as several respected sources ran with the news. Then he had to apologize (“I’m sorry you felt that way”) for his irresponsible journalism and being an idiot.

Abusing the trust of his followers and the Post’s social media guidelines does in fact have its consequences, as Wise just announced on his radio show that he will accept a one-month suspension from his employer. He was trying to point out that the Twitter universe has a different sense of credibility; all that he proved was  that many journalists still don’t get how this culture works.

Dave Levy is a PR guy by day, a media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek. He blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing digital media world at State of the Fourth Estate. You can follow Dave on Twitter for various updates about everything from sports from his previous home in Boston to eccentric and obscure pop culture references. Read why Dave loves D.C.

16 thoughts on “Mike Wise Will Accept One Month WaPo Suspension For Dumb Twitter Stunt

  1. He made his point. People ran with his story. Others propagated it across Twitter knowing it was false but trolling other groups with it. It was hilarious for about 90 minutes. Then his colleagues started to ridicule him, on Twitter. He got into a bit of a pissing match with one, on Twitter.

    Any or all of the above happening in his real life world, like on his radio show, would have gotten him fired. That is illustrative of the cultural difference between big media and Twitter.

  2. The people suspended should be those that ran a story based ENTIRELY on a twitter post without corroborating facts and checking sources. Said differently, the people suspended should be those that aren’t real journalists.

  3. I think he made his point very well. Those that consider Twitter a real news source are fooling themselves. First, it’s almost always opinion – not news. Secondly, there are no standards. Don’t get me wrong, I love blogs, and some “gossipy” websites, but those sources are not in the same category as real news sources. There’s a reason that the Wash. Post and the NY Times have editors, researchers and fact checkers. There’s a place for all, just know what you’re reading and act/ react accordingly.

  4. @Jill I’ll give it you, I let some of the other comments go because I thought they were pretty mundane and just trying to get a reaction. But saying that Twitter isn’t a news source and no more than opinion is pretty far off base, especially when the same real journalists with editors, researchers and fact checkers use it to spread news. His point was that if he posted a news story (not opinion, by the way), people would believe the fake report. He left out that people believe him – not the story – because he’s a respected journalist.

    And to say that blogs don’t fact check is ludicrous. The blogs that you trust and consider credible absolutely do, and those that earn that respect work hard to do it. We’d like to think people trust us for local news, and we are diligent around here to make sure we are posting stories that have been verified by several people.

  5. I’m with you, Kevin. If believing that journalists should actually checks sources and facts rather than running with stories based on Tweets is akin to being a bitter old man — as Tom seems to imply — then call me Mr. Wilson.

  6. Fact checking is frequently a function of the copy desk, and copy desks have been decimated as the newspaper business has gone into decline. It’s nice to imagine that “real” news sources still have them, but they largely do not. In fact, the reason this stunt spread is because people still mistakenly believe that everything a professional journalist says has been vetted, which it is not.

    Twitter itself is not a news source. It is a communication tool. The people who use it are news sources, and like all news, one has to consider the source before deciding what to believe about it. The story here is that a columnist for an established newspaper spread a made-up story; Twitter was just the medium he used to do it. Blaming Twitter is like blaming the printing press.

  7. @Dave: What part of the following statement do you disagree with: “journalists who represent something as truth/fact based ENTIRELY on a single twitter post/source without checking sources or facts DESERVE to have egg on their face if the original twitter post proves false.” Hmmm?

    I don’t disagree that twitter has very significant value in disseminating news. The protests in Iran are a perfect example. But we’re talking about hundreds or thousands of posts from an equal number of sources that more or less corroborated each other; not posts from a single individual. Moreover, stating that “… the blogs that you trust and consider credible absolutely do [check facts]” is ridiculous. Are you claiming that simply believing a blog to be credible means that they absolutely check facts? Faith is causal? If so, who’s opinion of blog trustworthiness should I be paying attention to? Yours?

    I’m sure that SOME blogs check facts and get corroborating sources just like I’m sure some blogs simply spread gossip without a second thought as to the veracity of their post. Blogs — like newspapers — get credibility by making sure they don’t spread misinformation. Accountability exists by not being duped the way that people were duped by Mike Wise. You might not be the quickest to report a story, but you’re less likely to get it wrong. Many of us value accuracy over speed.

    Has Mike Wise sullied his reputation or credibility by this stunt? Probably. People will probably second-guess his tweets from now on. But he also proved his point. Some journalists (including some bloggers) place higher priority on being quick to report rather than on being right. Or maybe they’re just lazy. Who knows? The way you’ve got your panties in a bunch at Jill’s posting leads me to believe that you think she (and perhaps the rest of us in the comments) are attacking WeLoveDC in general or you in particular. I don’t see that in any of the comments but whatever. I could be wrong. After all, you thought my comment was “mundane” or I was “just trying to get a reaction.”

  8. The point is that a Twitter post is no different from a radio report or TV news story if the poster is a professional journalist. Would you have believed him if he’d written about the rumor in the Post? If so, you’d be doing the EXACT SAME THING as the people who believed his Twitter post, and you’d be no less dumb or gullible. (Or are you so charmingly naive as to think that the Post has fact-checkers?)

    Credibility rests on the individual, not the method of broadcast. Mike Wise was in the wrong, he was stupidly in the wrong, he was contemptuously in the wrong.

  9. Good thing Dave knew she’d write… four days later. But Charlene comment was well written and on point. Perhaps she should also write Dave’s posts and insult Dave’s readers.

  10. Nobody’s been insulted here other than folks who have made it their goal to be insulted.

    Claims of ageism are specious since we can’t tell if any of you are 18, 81 or a golden retriever. “Get off my lawn,” is a common joke about resistance or dismissal of new technology or social trends a la “twitter is overrated.”

    Honestly, I don’t know what’s in the water today that everyone seems to think they need to use their opinion as a cudgel and are entitled to have a conversation go on as long as THEY want it to. You had your say and nobody else was interested in following up. Is it really necessary to have the last word twice?

    I’ll add that you’re going to have a lot more luck in life getting people to continue to engage with you if you leave off things that make assertions about other people’s mindsets (ex “panties in a bunch”) and stick to your own mindset and opinions. Aside from it being condescending, why should I bother to have a discussion with someone if they know both what they are going to say and what I think? They can just have the whole discussion without my involvement.