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The Washington Post suspends Mike Wise for a month

Aug 31, 2010, 12:01 PM EDT

Yesterday I beefed about Mike Wise of the Washington Post making up news and then mocking bloggers for trusting it.  Turns out his employer wasn’t a fan of that behavior either, as the Post has suspended Wise for a month. Yikes!

More background here, as Wise tries to explain what he was doing with all of this.  My takeaway after reading that and other things and thinking about it a bit since yesterday: Wise is not a jackass or anything, but he’s someone who truly doesn’t understand social media or its uses in a breaking news context, and understanding such things has to be a prerequisite for the job in this day and age.

And while Wise has certainly stepped on it here, I don’t think he’s alone in his misunderstanding on this score. There are tons of writers out there who dismiss Twitter and its significance, but the fact is that while you can’t get the whole story of anything out on Twitter, relaying news there is functionally no different than relaying news in a paper or on the radio or on a website. When you’re reporting news there, you should be accurate (and when you get it wrong, you should cop to it and correct things as necessary). When news is
reported there by someone with at least something of a reputation for
getting things right, it should be trusted.

I get why this is hard to fathom for so many because it’s so easy to go back and forth between conversation, jokes and news on Twitter. Hell, I spend a big portion of my day there just being a wise ass. But just because it’s a multi-faceted medium doesn’t mean it’s one that should not be taken seriously. Yes, by all means you should expand on anything you write there with a
larger post on your blog, but what is there is not meaningless just
because it’s only 140 characters. In this way Twitter serves the same
function of a news boy yelling “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”

Wise decided that, rather than try to understand this, he’d mock it based on his ignorance, and that is why he’s suspended today.

  1. John_Michael - Aug 31, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    I believe the issue here isn’t MSM vs. Basement Dwellers, or Print Media vs. Electronic Media. I think we should look at the situation through the lens of journalistic standards and ethics. As a writer, you are held to the same standard regardless of the medium you use to publish/transmit your work. Today’s writer is always impacted by speed to market, yet that does not forgive them for not fact checking. Case in point: The difference in the linked article and with Mike Wise is that no one takes Wikepedia as ‘gospel,’ whereas Mike Wise has spent a career building up credability. When you portray yourself as a trusted news source, you cannot ‘JKJK, LOL’ yourself out of a breach of journalistic standards. Should it be a writer for a major newspaper or a blogger, the bar is set at the same level and the Washington Post does a great job demonstrating this with their suspension.

  2. Buccofan - Aug 31, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    If it turns out that Commissioner Goodell reduces Ben’s suspension to five games, does Wise’s suspension then become invalid? Just a thought.

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 31, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    No, because he admitted he made it up. So even if he ends up being right, it doesn’t matter. He’s an idiot.

  4. Paper Lions - Aug 31, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    Wise certainly “stepped on it”? So, he was going really fast?

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