SBD/Issue 243/Media

Mike Wise Accepts Punishment; WaPo Ombudsman Says He Is Lucky

Ombudsman Feels Wise Is Lucky
Not To Have Been Fired For Tweet

Washington Post columnist Mike Wise yesterday apologized for "deliberately posting a phony scoop on Twitter" and said that he accepted his one-month suspension from the newspaper, according to Howard Kurtz of the WASHINGTON POST. Wise said intentionally posting a false report was a "horrendous mistake." He added, "I'm not a journalism ombudsman, 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." Kurtz notes "some in The Post's newsroom found the suspension to be harsh, while others saw the penalty as too lenient, but Wise did not challenge it." Wise: "I'm paying the price I should for careless, dumb behavior" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/1). WASHINGTON POST Ombudsman Andy Alexander wrote Wise is "lucky he wasn't fired" from the paper because "fabrication is a major journalistic transgression." After Wise's tweets "became known to his Post bosses on Monday, they quickly contacted Wise to seek an explanation." Washington Post Exec Editor Marcus Brauchli "settled on the 30-day suspension from the Post," which "does not affect Wise's broadcast work" on WJFK-FM. Post Sports Editor Matthew Vita said, "Clearly, we consider what Mike did was poor judgment on his part. He knows that what he did violates our core principles." Alexander wrote what Wise put on Twitter "wasn't reporting." He was "fabricating, which is the greatest sin in journalism" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/31). Meanwhile, a Comcast official said that Wise will not be appearing on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic's "Washington Post Live" while he is under suspension by the Post (THE DAILY).

A HUGE MISTAKE: FANHOUSE.com's Michael David Smith wrote Wise's Twitter post "wasn't an innocent mistake, this was Wise fabricating a 'scoop' because he thought it would be funny to see who he could trick into believing it." Smith added, "The annals of journalism are filled with the names of reporters fired for fabrications. Wise should spend the rest of his career thanking his bosses at the Post for not adding his name to that list" (FANHOUSE.com, 8/31). CNET.com's Greg Sandoval wrote Wise is "one of journalism's best sportswriters," but in addition to the "ethical questions, Wise also failed to correctly calculate Twitter's growing influence as a news source." On his Twitter account, Wise "identifies himself as a Post reporter," and thus he "must know that the Post's name automatically lends the information credibility." It is "not unreasonable for other journalists to assume that a report -- even in the form of a tweet -- from a Post writer was properly checked out" (CNET.com, 8/31). Columbia Univ. digital media professor Sree Sreenivasan said a journalist's reputation "is on the line with every tweet, for better or worse." Sreenivasan added, "People have a reasonable expectation that it’s accurate or the best of what you know at the moment" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/1). Comcast SportsNet's Ivan Carter said, "He messed up, no doubt about that. ... But I do hope that people pause and realize that Wise is a damn good columnist and an all-around good guy as well" ("Washington Post Live," CSN Mid-Atlantic, 8/31).

GREAT DEBATE: Wise's suspension sparked an interesting back-and-forth on Twitter between Washington Post reporter Dan Steinberg and SB Nation Senior Editor Chris Mottram. In an interview with TBD.com, Steinberg complains that "a big part of SBNation's mission is to steal our (stories) and repackage it -- they take other people's stuff too." Mottram took to Twitter, calling it a "pretty bold (and false) accusation." Steinberg, also on Twitter, responded, "I think it's legitimate to wonder whether it's good for journalism that so many sites subsist on borrowed items." More Mottram: "Pretty horrible choice of words. We don't steal content. We do link to content and properly source it, just like you do." Steinberg responded, "Well, that was a bad word, and that wasn't my point, anyhow. But I don't think 'repackaging' is a bad word" (THE DAILY). Steinberg later yesterday afternoon on his blog alluded to his exchange with Mottram and wrote, "In the process of attempting to point out that Wise has great value to our newspaper, I also said something stupid about another site, which I regret. Sorry to everyone. That was bad form" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/31). 

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