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Washington Post columnist Mike Wise suspended for fake Twitter report

A Twitter experiment that went awry has landed a sportswriter for the Washington Post with a one-month suspension. Mike Wise, a respected Post columnist, was suspended by the newspaper on Tuesday, a day after he posted a fake report on his Twitter account.

"Roethlisberger will get five games, I'm told," Wise wrote on his Twitter feed, @MikeWiseguy, on Monday in a reference to the length of the suspension handed down to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In fact, Roethlisberger's penalty for an offseason incident in a Georgia nightclub has not yet been determined.

Wise told the Post that he "tweeted" the made-up report as a social media experiment to to see how widely it would spread in the media, a move he said later was a "horrendous mistake."

"I'm not a journalism ombudsman," Wise told the Post. "And I found that out in a very painful, hard way. I need to take my medicine and move on, and promise everybody this will never happen again. I'm paying the price I should for careless, dumb behaviour."

Here’s the full transcript of what Wise said on Tuesday’s radio programme:

Many of you tuned into this show yesterday and heard a bit in which I tried to showcase the absurdity of bad journalism. I could give you ten reasons why I did this and explain what went wrong in the execution. But none of it matters today. I made a horrendous mistake, using my Twitter account, which identifies me as a Washington Post columnist, to come up with an unsourced sentence about the length of Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension. I didn’t put ‘kidding‘ in that sentence. I didn’t put ‘just joking.’ I could even say I thought I corrected it within five minutes and didn’t realize my Twitter server was busy 30 to 40 minutes later. But the truth is that if I waited one second to make my intentions and sourcing clear, I waited too long.

Integrity, being right before being first, is the only thing genuine journalists have left in this world. It pains me to say my own stupid, irresponsible experiment ironically, has cost me a chunk of my own credibility today.

I’m sorry, especially to the good, smart people at the best place I’ve ever worked. Even those angry and livid. I know your heart is with the paper and its reputation. I will say you find out in times like these who cares about you beyond a blog post. I’ll also say it would be wrong to judge the people calling for my head.

I always say our worst moments should not define us. I just didn’t think I would be talking about myself today.

The bottom line: I’m paying the price I should for careless, dumb behavior in the multi-platform media world. Sadly, I always believed that things said in a stream of consciousness or typed on a whim for a shtick in a radio show, would somehow disappear in the ether and fly away in cyberspace. But everything I say and do on the air, on my Twitter, on TV, or at The Post, has some ephemeral qualities. The radio studio, my computer, everything is a big echo chamber. It’s self-contained and it’s reviewable for scrutiny.

My bosses at The Post feel I need a month to think about the severity of my actions. I agree and will serve a one-month suspension beginning today at The Post.

I don’t want any debate over my actions and the punishment received. Please do that on your own. Just know that the most sacred thing in my business – the business of journalism, not radio shtick – is getting readers to believe that what you are telling them is the closest thing to the truth you can ascertain. And I didn’t do that yesterday. Again, I’m sorry. And if it’s OK with everyone out there, I’d really like to move on, reflect on this for a while, before any bits or jokes, and have a good show today.

Date posted: September 1, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 174