Mike Wise thought he had a cool idea. “The Washington Post” sportswriter tweeted a phony scoop this week saying that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, suspended by the NFL over an accusation of sexual misconduct would be out for five games. Wise did it for his Washington radio show to show how “anybody will print anything,” and the Twitter posting was picked up by several newspapers and sports sites carefully attributed to Wise. He later apologized on the air.
— Howard Kurtz, CNN, “Reliable Sources,” September 5th, 2010
I don’t use Twitter. I heard about it in 2007, but didn’t think the concept was for me. However, I understand what it is and how it works. Therefore, when Howard Kurtz had sportswriter Mike Wise on his show, “Reliable Sources,” this past Sunday, I knew I wanted to watch the entire interview. (Click here to read the transcript of the Kurtz/Wise interview, which you must scroll down to find since the link will lead you to a transcript of the entire show.)
Wise appeared contrite during his interview, where he accepted responsibility for the mistruth he tweeted about Ben Roethlisberger, which appeared like this, “Roethlisberger will get five games, I’m told.” Even though Wise was trying to prove a point about how quickly media outlets can pick up and run with news that aren’t true, the point was lost since Wise, who is a trusted sportswriter for The Washington Post, is considered a reliable source. Now, Mike Wise is suspended from The Post for a month for his actions. Luckily, for him, he didn’t lose his job. However, it’s going to take awhile for him to earn back his good name since he lost a lot of people’s trust with this stunt.
I think Mike Wise’s Twitter mishap is a great learning tool for our students. Most of the time, children do not censor what they post online, whether it’s on their Facebook Page, Twitter Account, or on a blog. As writing teachers, we can choose to ignore this (hoping that our students’ parents will teach them about what they should or shouldn’t post online) or we can choose to make this a teachable moment. While it’s really not a teacher’s job to teach web ethics to students, we should take some time to talk to kids about what is and isn’t okay to post online. A fabrication or mistruth, no matter how small or funny one thinks it is at the time, can be damaging (as evidenced by what’s happening with Mike Wise). Perhaps sharing the story of Mike Wise will help older students who use technology regularly understand that there can be consequences to writing, even if it is 140 characters or less.
Finally, if you’re uncomfortable with sharing the Mike Wise incident with your students (i.e., you don’t want to touch Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual misconduct with a ten foot pole), then consider sharing “Yelling ‘Bedbug’ in a Crowded Festival,” which a short piece from this past Sunday’s New York Times Week in Review Section that also deals with a false Tweet.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.