Mike Wise's Point Buried by Lousy Delivery
After all, the paper's reputation has been protected and the Post staff has received the Important Message that deception, even if used in the pursuit of a bigger truth, cannot be tolerated.
The problem is that the bigger truth that Wise was aiming at with his Monday Twitter stunt, namely the credibility of sports journalism, wasn't addressed with the paper's showy and excessive suspension.
A quick note of full disclosure: I know Mike Wise personally. While I wouldn't describe him as a close friend, we have been at some of the same social functions as well as sporting events and I've always considered him a good guy and a talented writer.
But, personal feelings aside, Wise, who posted a tweet that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would have his six-game suspension reduced to five games, then admitted that he had made it up to see who would run his item without checking it, deserved to be punished.
The one immutable tenet of journalism is that those who practice it cannot lie. Ever. It's the first thing and the last thing they teach you in journalism school, and Wise trampled over it.
In a much less important forum, Wise violated the sports journalism version of Article IV, Section I of the Constitution, more popularly known as the "full faith and credit" clause.
That's the one that says, for example, that marriage and driver's licenses issued in one state are recognized and accepted as valid in another.
Wise's transgression not only reduces the faith and credit that a reader extends to his work and that of his newspaper, but will also make other newspapers take a closer look at what he writes and reports from now on.
Indeed, a number of papers and websites immediately posted Wise's tweet without a second thought because he writes for one of the nation's best newspapers and because Wise, himself, is a proven commodity.
Oddly enough, Wise made his point -- and said as much in a follow-up tweet of apology.
Specifically, Wise was trying to cast a light on the increasing practice of giving immediate credibility to information delivered through social media, a la Twitter, Facebook, and to a certain degree, blogs, where the level of journalistic scrutiny is dramatically lower than from conventional sources.
Look, I'd be among the first to acknowledge that the world of journalism in the summer of 2010 is drastically different from the one I got into in the summer of 1985. The newspaper I started at, the Evening Sun of Baltimore, exists largely now only on microfilm in libraries and in the minds of those with long memories.
No one has to wait any more to read the next day's newspaper or even that evening's television newscast to find out what happened. If you have a phone, you have a mode of information delivery that gets facts, video and commentary to you in less than the blink of an eye. Overwhelmingly, that's a good thing.
What Wise was attempting to say, albeit in a ham-handed fashion, was that all of us, including those who gather and disseminate the news, need to seriously consider how we get that information, where it comes from and how much weight we ascribe to that information.
We live in a world where getting news out with alacrity is all too often more important than getting it out with accuracy.
Beating someone to a story has no value if the story you put out is riddled with incorrect information.
Mike Wise probably understands that lesson better than anyone today, and while his tweet joked at a reduction of Roethlisberger's suspension, the Post should seriously consider reducing Wise's suspension to two weeks.