Tell me why you can’t trust bloggers again

by Carl Natale on August 30, 2010

Everyone knows bloggers are lazy. Either we’re just making this stuff up or we don’t bother to do any real reporting.

Today, Mike Wise of the Washington Post proved it. Wise is a real journalist. His columns get printed onto paper and thrown into puddles in people’s driveways. So he has to be practicing the most holy of all writing – journalism. Plus he goes by the wonderful Twitter handle @MikeWiseguy

So when he writes on Twitter:

Roethlisberger will get five games, I’m told.”

We believe him. I mean everyone believes him. Even though us Steelers fans believe that Ben Roethlisberger only will miss four games this season because of an NFL suspension. (Ben has publicly been accused of rape twice. Presumably the suspension is for being a lowlife.)

Actually the suspension was for six games but two games off for good behavior. Since Ben has been behaving himself and trying to prove he’s not a lowlife any more, it is assumed he will only miss the four games.

So when a real journalist “reports” that it’s going to be five games, some of us panic. Four games means Ben is being good. Six games means there’s something wrong. Five must mean there’s something kind of wrong that we don’t know about, and Roger Goodell is doing a decent Solomon imitation.

Or someone is lying:

During his show on 106.7 the Fan in D.C., Wise admitted that he fabricated the report in order to prove that “anybody will print anything.”

Think about that for a second. To prove that “anybody will print anything,” a guy who supposedly is a journalist made something up and published it for general consumption.

via Mike Wise admits to Big Ben hoax, offers lame explanation |

Those two paragraphs are from Mike Florio, a blogger at He gives an interesting account of the “experiment” in how much truth is in social media. But Florio is just a blogger so we probably shouldn’t take this too seriously. How do we know he isn’t making this stuff up?

Well Wise admits it in Twitter that he was experimenting with how easy it is to make up something that everyone will believe. It’s supposed to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of social networks.

This one of those times when we can say the National Rifle Association has it right: Social networks don’t tell lies. People tell lies.

I say this because people have been lying in print for centuries. Any criticism you have about electronic media can be said about print. Don’t get me started on book publishing.

Wise did show how quickly a “report” could make it around the room. Writers of all sort quickly repeated the report and attributed to him. They also reported the retraction just as quickly.

This really wasn’t a great test case. The five-game suspension sounded plausible enough. Real journalists took the story and started to dig into why five not four. Should they have waited?

I say no. This is the kind of story that needs to get out fast. I know, it’s not exactly life and death stuff. But it’s incomplete. And it gets to complete more quickly when thousands of people start asking what’s going on.

We learned a valuable lesson today about who we could trust. And it really does surprise me to see who just fell off that list. Come on. The Washington Post. They have standards and a reputation.

It makes me wonder if Wise will suffer any consequences. Will WP management just shrug it off because it was on Twitter – not in a real publication? Or will they realize that one of their journalists lost a lot of credibility today?

Wise does sum it up nicely.

“But 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.

If after all this you’re not sure what to believe – I say Wise is half right.

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