2010 was a banner year for controversy in the world of sports media. From the usual barrage of accidental profanity, to the fairly untrodden territory of Twitter faux pas, up to and including the cultural phenomenon that was athletes taking pictures of their penises and sending them to everybody, this year really did have it all if you enjoyed watching people make fools of themselves.
From now until December 30th we’ll be going through our favorite oopsies from the year that was. So come and join us, won’t you, as we count down the Top Ten Sports Media Gaffes of the Year! Today’s gaffe: Washington Post Columnist Mike Wise wanted to prove that people will believe anything on Twitter, so he throws his journalistic integrity to the wind to try and show he’s right. He failed.
Sure, the NFL season is just winding down now, but think back a few months ago and you’ll recall that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to serve a six game suspension for his bathroom digressions during the summer.
Some thought he got handled with kid gloves, some thought it was a just punishment. Then there was Mike Wise, columnist with the Washington Post and a local sports radio host in DC. He saw something completely different: a chance to prove a point. That point? That people will believe anything on Twitter. The background from our coverage at the end of the summer:
“…during his radio show on Washington’s FM sports net, The Fan, Wise thought it would be fun to toy with his Twitter followers by posting a few fake rumors. The fake stories were none too salacious (rumors about whetherDonovan McNabb would start the Washington Redskins first game, for example), but the one that did take hold and passed around plenty was a claim that Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension would be five games after his meeting with the commissioner later this week.
His motive was to test a theory about what is considered credible and believable on the social status network, that those who have a certain air of authority often are believed fully without further vetting.”
What’s kind of funny is that Roethlisberger’s suspension was eventually reduced from the original six games to four, but it didn’t change the fact that Wise kind of came off a little bit as a “Get Off My Media Porch, You Crazy Twitterating Kids” type.
The Post got a little egg on their face (after all, they did have in place certain rules against “fabricating stories,” regardless of which media channel a journalist chose to broadcast their story). Wise ended up getting suspended and apologized profusely to several people, including his Twitter followers and in an interview with Dan Levy after the fact.
We ended our coverage in September with the following point. Considering this gaffe, I think it’s worthy of a reprint:
I’ve convinced myself that Wise wanted to make the famed “blogger in pajamas” point. Instead, he made the “journalists don’t get social media point,” and the evidence of this to me is his “I’m sorry you feel that way,” apology:
Yep. He sure was.
The Top Ten Sports Media Gaffes of 2010