For the second time in less than a week, there was a false report regarding a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After the Rashard Mendenhall “broken arm” news that came from Mark Madden on Friday, Mike Wise, a columnist for the Washington Post and a sports talk radio host in D.C., Tweeted that he had been told Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension would be five games.
We’re still not sure why Madden reported the Mendenhall (non)injury (bad information, something lost in translation, he just felt the need to swat at the hornets nest and cause a stir, etc.), but we do know what was behind Wise’s reporting: He made it up.
Seeing as how Wise had (key word) some level of credibility as a journalist, other websites passed along the report, citing Wise as the source of it.
Among them was Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk.
We like to lob our share of verbal grenades at Florio on some subjects (like, say, Dennis Dixon and his role with the Pittsburgh Steelers) but most of us (Wilson and I, anyway) respect what he’s been able to do with the site by turning it into a legitimate clearinghouse of NFL news. We may not always agree, and at times question his overall sanity when it comes to the X’s and O’s of football, but the guy works his ass off.
Of course, the Wise Tweet was greeted with instant skepticism, seeing as how Roethlisberger and Roger Goodell aren’t even scheduled to meet with one another until after the preseason, so any report of a decision at this point is a bit sketchy. Still, Wise rolled on with it, before finally revealing on his radio show that he made the whole thing up to prove a point.
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.
Yup. And the credibility of Mike Wise now goes the way of Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove. up in flames, baby.
Now, I don’t want to turn this into the four millionth chapter of the tired and played out Blogs vs. Mainstream Media tickle fight, but if a site like Deadspin or, hell, even PFT, had done what Wise did today, he would have been one of the people throwing all blogs into the fire and roasting them for their lack of integrity, standards and ethics. (And he still kind of did that, pointing out how his exercise “proved” his point because PFT mentioned the report, citing Wise as the source. That doesn’t make PFT look bad, it makes Wise look bad because his name was, and forever will be, attached to it … and he doesn’t seem to grasp that).
It’s been said many times by many different people, but the growth of Twitter and Social Media has changed the way news (not just sports) is reported, and it’s a tremendous tool if utilized correctly, which is true for any medium. At the end of the day it isn’t the tool that’s the problem (which was the point Wise was trying to prove) … it’s people like Mike Wise. It also proves that Bloggers and people on Twitter aren’t the only ones that struggle with ethics and integrity.
Fortunately, Wise is taking it on the chin for his idiocy. One of my colleagues at FanHouse, Michael David Smith, offered up this nugget on the subject:
If Wise believes his own tweets qualify as “anything,” then maybe he had a point about that. It’s true that several media outlets, including the Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Pro Football Talk (where I also write) passed along Wise’s tweet. Those outlets attributed the information about Roethlisberger to Wise, while also noting that the NFL had made no formal announcement of Roethlisberger’s suspension, and no one else had confirmed the report.
And so what we’re left with is Wise proving a point that everyone already knew: When a member of the media reports something noteworthy, other members of the media pass along that report to their readers. The only thing we know now that we didn’t know before is that Mike Wise won’t hesitate to fabricate a story if he thinks it will help him make some obvious point.
Meanwhile, Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network thinks a suspension wouldn’t be out of line for Wise, Tweeting, “If I’m the Washington Post, I’m thinking seriously about suspending a sports columnist. No surprise the Big Ben tweet was a hoax.”