Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Suspended? He should be fired and sued. Do journalists have a death wish?

Washington Post suspends columnist for Twitter hoax

The Washington Post has suspended veteran sports columnist Mike Wise for publishing fabricated information on Twitter. Heannounced the one-month suspension on his radio show Tuesday.

Wise claimed Monday that he wanted to prove a point about how reporters will run stories in today's fast-moving news environment without independently verifying the information. So Wise tweeted that Pittsburgh Steelers star Ben Roethlisberger, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia college student, would get a five-game suspension. Of course, since Wise is a respected sportswriter, other news outlets went with the apparent scoop and cited his reporting.

These days, reporters routinely break news on Twitter, only to follow up on blogs, in newspapers or on the air. Understandably, Wise encountered a backlash from his peers, and the Post's sports editor responded by re-circulating among his staff the paper's guidelines on correctly using social media.

Wise wrote on Twitter after the incident that he's "an idiot" and offered "apologies to all involved." But the columnist still didn't appear to grasp just why Twitter users (including other journalists) assume respected journalists are publishing accurate information on the medium. "I was right about nobody checking facts or sourcing," he added along with Monday's apology.

However, Wise acknowledged on his radio show Tuesday he "made a horrendous mistake" and that the hoax cost him some of his "own credibility."

The Post would not confirm Wise's suspension. "We take these matters very seriously; however, we do not discuss personnel issues," a spokeswoman told The Upshot.

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