Un-Wise Decision

September 2, 2010

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only one tweet to destroy it. That’s what Washington Post reporter Mike Wise is finding out after an ill-fated social experiment using social media.

Wise thought he was going to pull a clever little ruse. He’d send out a tweet with falsified news – saying he was told Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would have his NFL suspension reduced from six games to five – and then watch the media and blogosphere run with the report as if it were fact.

Now, we all get to sit back and see if Wise will have his one-month suspension from the Post reduced.

Wise wanted to shine light on the slippery slope we’re heading down with today’s journalistic standards – where anyone can quote unnamed sources and break a story in 140 characters or less. The problem with that logic is that Wise isn’t just anyone, he’s a respected journalist.  At least he was.

Wise’s Roethlisberger “news” did get picked up by some credible outlets, but they all attributed the report to him and his paper – as in “according to the Washington Post’s Mike Wise – ” – making both look terrible when this unfolded as a hoax.

In my opinion, Wise is very lucky to walk away from this with a relatively minor suspension, although I’m guessing the story hasn’t fully played out yet. After this misstep, I don’t know how any readers can trust his stories and I don’t know how his employer can trust his judgment.