The Great Ben Roethlisberger Hoax

Friday, September 03, 2010


Earlier this week, Washington Post sports writer Mike Wise sent a deliberately false tweet about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to prove to his audience that journalists will happily reprint rumors without confirming their veracity. But what did he really prove? Bob talks to Mike Wise and editor Mike Florio.

Comments [10]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

In regards to this and the previous story, I don't really care!

Sep. 10 2010 02:52 AM
Anne Jerome from New London, CT

OK. I've been thinking about this for a couple of days and it seems to me that while what Mike Wise did was stupid, Mike Florio should be held accountable for not checking up on the story. It takes a two minute phone call (or less) to get correct information, so saying there wasn't time to check is bogus. It seems to me that's what separates gossip and rumor mongering from journalism.
This story is related to the previous one about the crowds at Glen Beck's shindig. An AP article in my local paper had a headline stating there were hundreds of thousands of people while in the article they make reference to tens of thousands of people. Where are the editors and people checking up on this stuff???

Sep. 07 2010 08:37 AM
Mark from Charlotte

Mike Florio's and all other news repeaters are they are taking other peoples work and posting it. How many stories in the news echo chamber have turned out to be outright wrong or half wrong.
The bloggers or aggragators do not add to the news just past a news rumor along. They get mad when the original source wrong but they have not paid to use the info or done any footwork on the story themselves.
Besides the internet the AP did a lot of damage to the news profession because instead of developing reporters to many reporters just filled their papers and TV broadcasts with AP stories or stories that were just reworked wording of the original report.

Sep. 05 2010 06:21 PM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

I take Mike Florio's side.

Although I am only a news consumer, a genuine reporter or other reliable source should recognize the risks of rumor in the internet age. Sure, Mr. Wise meant to make a point about aggregating news, but since he knew that he was a real reporter himself, he should have remained satisfied to just give us his opinion.

Sep. 05 2010 08:41 AM
Potomacker from Nanjing, PRC

Sports news is by far the most inconsequential aspect of journalism and yet there is such an inverse relationship with the value and importance of the subject material and the importance that sports journalists grant themselves. I was astounded by the amount of airtime that OTM devoted to exposing this kerfuffle's causes and effects.
The investigation into how twitter has become yet another example of how poorly verified many news stories, which become news cycles, is admirable and worthy of time and efforts. On the other hand, does any aspect of the contract or work of Roethlisberger have any bearing on anybody's life? The causes and the effects of the inconsequential are still not newsworthy in themselves.

Sep. 04 2010 11:19 PM
Ben Hauck from NYC

cont. from above

I work as an actor. I've also studied general semantics. In working on the film called THE SWITCH that is currently out (formerly called THE BASTER), I worked with its stars. One star, Jeff Goldblum, had a rumor come out about a month after wrap that he'd died. It was striking to me the evolution of this rumor and the lack of verification as people passed it along. In general semantics, reacting so quickly is called "a signal reaction." In common parlance, we call it "a snap judgment." We make quick judgments about stories without checking them out, and then give them to others in such a way that they sound like accepted truth.

Are we moving into a direction lauding signal reactions about stories? It seems to me we know the problems of such behavior, but electronic media "is so cool and instantanteous" that we want to ignore past lessons and see it as having different rules than those of "old media." Florio should have pointed out, in my opinion, that Wise does not say who told him that Roethlisberger got five games, so the report is sketchy, even if it's coming from a reputable reporter.

About my personal experience of the effects of the Jeff Goldblum rumor, check out my presentation at Fordham University last fall, or read the published account from ETC: A Review of General Semantics, at the link below. If OTM strips links, just google "Ben Hauck" and "the day michael jackson died," which is the title of the essay. It's entertaining, but it's also a good lesson that the permissiveness of new-media behavior is coming at a disrespect for the caution we value(d) in old-media behavior.

Ben Hauck

Sep. 04 2010 08:31 PM
Ben Hauck from NYC

What is the difference between what Mike Wise tweeted ("Roethlisberger will get five games, I'm told.") and a rumor? Simple verification indicates no sourcing (Who told him?) More complete verification of the story would have shown it a rumor, a false one, and further verification would have likely revealed it as a hoax.

In other words, patience in storyforwarding is a virtue.

I have little sympathy for Mike Florio for headlining ("Report: Five games for Roethlisberger") what amounts to an unverified rumor. Florio says that Mike Wise has "no understanding whatsoever of how this new media world operates" but the understanding Florio seems to want to forward of "new media" seems to me to presuppose an acceptance of rumormongering, disrespect for verification, and finding it impractical to actually take time to check out a story for truth.

In fact, Florio's blog says, "Bang it here for the latest news & rumors ..." Florio's in a business of rumormongering, so I'm not sure I really even care for his outrage. Florio presumably was just doing his job.

(Granted, I concede Florio cites sources (Mike Wise and his tweet) and titles the blog post first with the word "Report." But he seems redfaced that the rumor he blogged wasn't true. *But his blog is partially about rumors, so what's the big deal?*)

What could Mike Florio have done that is reasonable in the case of floating an unverified story as a breaking story? If he wants to see himself as a reporter, it seems to me he checks facts, takes the time to do so, and *doesn't* just reactively blog. Based on my listening of this OTM piece, it seems Florio's more inclined to pull a trigger than to study what he's loaded in his gun.


Sep. 04 2010 08:30 PM
Darrel Plant from Portland, Oregon

Mike Wise says "The dog ate my tweet."

Sep. 04 2010 04:33 PM
Howard M Thompson

How is what Mike Florio did different from the way the media repeat crowd estimates? (see previous story)

Sep. 04 2010 07:53 AM
Paul Feilen from Wauwatosa, WI.

Two assault charges filed and Goodell folds, oddly right after Byron goes down. What a joke. What ever Ben learned about himself the rest of us already knew. Time will tell, but I doubt that leopard will change his spots. Just an embarrassment for a great organization and city.

Sep. 03 2010 06:59 PM

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