Washington Post's Mike Wise Fabricates Story to Prove Point
Washington Post columnist Mike Wise had a point he wanted to make about the declining standards of the media. He made that point in the worst way imaginable: By making up a phony "scoop" and posting it on Twitter.
It all started early Monday afternoon, when Wise tweeted that he had been told the NFL would suspend Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for five games.
"Roethlisberger will get five games, I'm told," Wise tweeted in a short missive that would have been major news in the NFL, if it were true.
About an hour later, Wise revealed that it wasn't true. He tweeted sarcastically that his source was "a casino employee in Lake Tahoe" (a tasteless joke about the fact that a casino employee in Lake Tahoe has accused Roethlisberger of raping her), and he said on his radio show (which was airing at the same time that he was tweeting) that he made the whole thing up.
His reason, Wise said, was to prove that "anybody will print anything."
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.
Wise seems to realize now that he made a mistake. In a tweet a few hours after he got the whole thing started, Wise offered his "apologies" while also declaring, "I'm an idiot." But he still seems to think he made some important point about "nobody checking facts or sourcing."
He's wrong about that: Everyone who passed along his Tweet sourced it properly, by attributing it to Mike Wise of the Washington Post. We just didn't know how unreliable a source that was.