Obviously I’m not interested in examining the football stuff too closely here, but on the specifics; clearly Wise is in the wrong, and his explanation is unpersuasive to say the least. A reporter making up a story, for any reason, used to be the sort of thing that would get you fired immediately from a publication like The Washington Post, and, call me old fashioned, but I still think that, at the very least, someone who does what Wise did at least deserves to be stigmatized for it. And while his explanation could be plausible, given the actual circumstances it’s really not. If Wise had tried to prove a point about the lack of fact-checking or context on the internet by, say, publishing this report anonymously on a well trafficked website or putting some sort of signifier that the story was false on Twitter which everyone then ignored to run with the “news” on Roethlisberger, I could at least see where he’d have some sort of a point. But that’s not what happened. Rather, Wise published it on his Twitter account under his name which is backed by The Washington Post brand. I’d like to hear Wise explain why he believes people should not trust that professional journalists working for major newspapers won’t fabricate reports. And that’s really what this goes back to; to the extent that the story got traction, it didn’t do so because “the internet” is irresponsible, but rather because someone who presumably has (or had) credibility reported it. As anyone who has ever followed hot stove baseball knows, it’s really hard to sort out various rumors, and the easiest thing to do is try to judge which reporters have credibility. Being employed by a major organization is good for that, since presumably they have a check on them. All Wise has managed to do here is prove that people still look at employment with major papers as a sign of credibility, whether it’s warranted or not.
And to take a very brief moment to defend Florio, Wise’s attack on him makes even less sense. PFT, like HBT, is basically a news aggregater that adds commentary to stories. Picking up the report, Florio just didn’t pass it along unsourced as though it were hard fact, he sourced it to Wise. His story was basically, “Mike Wise says…” Again, this doesn’t say anything about Florio. After all, Wise really did say that, so Florio was totally accurate in his posting. We just keep coming back to the fact that it was Wise who decided to make up a story and put it out there with his name behind it.
How does this affect us in the baseball/Yankees media world? I’m not sure. There’s always a bit of tension present between new media and the mainstream media, and there’s probably going to be for some time. The most obvious conflict has been over the use of statistics, but frankly I think that one is just about done with. For the most part, the mainstream media is already embracing stats like OPS, and as a new generation of media talent comes up, they’re much more familiar and comfortable with other new statistics. Sure, things like WAR haven’t gotten widespread acceptance yet, but that’s largely the sabermetric community’s fault (and a topic best left for another post).
But on the topic of credibility? That gets a little murkier. As far as new-media goes, I think it’s an individually based thing. Some blogs have earned a level of credibility, others are hard to take seriously. And, I suppose, the same can be said for mainstream reporters too. I generally don’t really assume there’s something to a Yankee rumor until Joel Sherman has something on it. That’s less a knock on everyone else and more of an observation that Sherman seems to have the best sources with the Yankees and can usually be counted on to have the goods. On the other hand, I don’t believe anything Jon Heyman says unless someone else independently corroborates it. And even with the good reporters, you have to sort through the mis-information people are throwing out to the press, so it’s generally best to take things with a grain of salt until someone you trust slaps the word “confirmed” on something.
Anyway, there’s really no larger point to this other than these observations. Blogs are taking up a larger and larger portion of the sports media, and I think that’s generally a good thing, in part because they’re not really crowding out beat writers. To the extent there’s a competition between bloggers and the MSM, it’s mostly with columnists, as there’s really no way for most blogs like this one to do what Joel Sherman or Marc Feinsand or Buster Olney do. And I think that seperation of roles is what more or less allows bloggers and reporters to co-exist pretty peacefully in the baseball world. It will be interesting to see what happens if and when blogs start moving more towards original reporting of stories, but that’s probably pretty far off, at least in the sports world.
Update: The Post has suspended Wise for a month. That seems pretty light to me, all things considered, but I’m just a silly blogger who doesn’t understand the journalistic ethics of an upstanding enterprise like The Washington Post, amirite?