Being the sporadic sporting games fan that I am (I only really pay attention if our country's reputation is at stake, like in the World Cup or the Olympics), it should come as no surprise that I'd never heard of Mike Wise until yesterday. Apparently, he's a sports columnist for the Washington Post, or at least he was until his editors decided to suspend him yesterday for a month after he reported false information on Twitter. And while perhaps his editors would've forgiven him if it was an honest mistake (i.e., his multiple sources happened to be wrong), Wise admitted he didn't have any sources to blame. That's right, he basically just made some sh*t up. However, he immediately claimed to have done so on purpose to experiment with the idea that false news posted on social media can spread like chicken pox in a kindergarten classroom.
Well, duh. Twitter is like the herpes of the Web, an echo-chamber of rumors rarely to be trusted. After all, it takes just seconds to retweet whatever bullsh*t someone posts, literally, just the push of one button. Didn't we all learn our lesson earlier this year when Twitter was all atitter with rumors of pop sensation Justin Bieber's death? However, of course it's important to keep in mind that when that was going around, the main spreaders were people with usernames like @Buttscratcher69 or @AnotherAnonymousDickWhoOnlyTweetsAboutStupidSh*tHeShouldKeepToHimselfOrHandleOnGchat. Clearly, there are many "sources" on Twitter that are not to be trusted. And just for the record:
However, turning away from high-pitched pop stars back to lowly reporters, here's the deal: Someone like Mike Wise a.k.a. @mike_wiseguy (ha, clever), who describes himself on Twitter as a "Washington Post sports columnist," should probably realize that whatever he says is going to be taken more seriously than the @Buttscratcher69s of the world. That is, whatever, @mike_wiseguy journalist, posts on his Twitter is going to be taken as news reporting -- as in he didn't just pull some information out of his ass and post it, but is reporting it via a reliable source that he checked to confirm, then checked again to confirm the confirmation.
See, there's this unspoken contract between the people and the Fourth Estate. This silent agreement gives reporters more credibility than the rest of us, so whatever Wise says under the label of journalism -- no matter if it's in print, radio, television or ether -- is going to be taken as true because we all implicitly trust that he's doing his f*cking job rather than f*cking with us. I mean, really, Mr. Wise, were you smoking the good sh*t? Because you pretty much thought of the worst idea ever.
And really, let's talk about the piece of false information that he decided to post.
Uh, really? That's it? That's the big juicy rumor he decided to spread? Jesus. If he was going to lose his credibility, at least he could've done so with pizzazz. Make up something better, something more jaw-droppingly shocking, like "Haynesworth set to apologize publicly for being a huge asshole, I'm told." Or "Johnny Weir will cut a bitch with his fierce triple sow-cow, I'm told." Or, "Ovechkin to meet Putin and engage in a shirtless tag-team, tiger-wrestling match, I'm told." Honestly, ANYTHING would've been more exciting that lying about some rapist getting suspended for one less game than he was originally supposed to. I mean, yawn-to-the-max. Which is probably why only seven people took the bait and retweeted it. Besides people like me who could blog about it, no one really even cared! To give you a comparison, @AndrewWK's tweet, "PARTY TIP: Light something on fire!" was retweeted more than 100 times, including once by me. Now that's social media at work!
And so I guess that just leaves us here, a sports columnist short and a lesson to be learned by us all: Next time you decide to "experiment" on-the-job, don't do it with your credibility. Instead, light something on fire!