Yesterday I beefed about Mike Wise of the Washington Post making up news and then mocking bloggers for trusting it. Turns out his employer wasn’t a fan of that behavior either, as the Post has suspended Wise for a month. Yikes!
More background here, as Wise tries to explain what he was doing with all of this. My takeaway after reading that and other things and thinking about it a bit since yesterday: Wise is not a jackass or anything, but he’s someone who truly doesn’t understand social media or its uses in a breaking news context, and understanding such things has to be a prerequisite for the job in this day and age.
And while Wise has certainly stepped on it here, I don’t think he’s alone in his misunderstanding on this score. There are tons of writers out there who dismiss Twitter and its significance, but the fact is that while you can’t get the whole story of anything out on Twitter, relaying news there is functionally no different than relaying news in a paper or on the radio or on a website. When you’re reporting news there, you should be accurate (and when you get it wrong, you should cop to it and correct things as necessary). When news is
reported there by someone with at least something of a reputation for
getting things right, it should be trusted.
I get why this is hard to fathom for so many because it’s so easy to go back and forth between conversation, jokes and news on Twitter. Hell, I spend a big portion of my day there just being a wise ass. But just because it’s a multi-faceted medium doesn’t mean it’s one that should not be taken seriously. Yes, by all means you should expand on anything you write there with a
larger post on your blog, but what is there is not meaningless just
because it’s only 140 characters. In this way Twitter serves the same
function of a news boy yelling “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”
Wise decided that, rather than try to understand this, he’d mock it based on his ignorance, and that is why he’s suspended today.