Schreier writes about following the flying rumors on the night the NFL lockout ended. He saw the Twitter feed @NFLDraftInsider repeat a rumor that Schreier knew was false, then “decided to run a little experiment.”
Schreier writes that he tweeted a made-up rumor about former Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin signing with the Arizona Cardinals, then watched that rumor fly around Twitter, eventually ending up as reported, though unattributed, fact on such sites as SBNation, CBS Sports’ Twitter feed and even the official Cardinals website.
Then Schreier made up a player, tweeted a rumor about him and watched a similar process.
Schreier seems to blame Twitter for this mess, concluding, “There’s just one problem with Twitter: People are stupid.”
The problem isn’t Twitter or people being stupid. The problem is people using Twitter—which is nothing more than a tool—to repeat unsubstantiated rumors without attribution.
Basic journalism ethics don’t get thrown out with every new medium. We don’t have to, or get to, start over with a blank ethical slate every time some new tool is invented.
If it’s wrong to repeat unsubstantiated, unattributed rumors in print or on the radio or on a “traditional” website—which it is, for what should be obvious reasons—then it’s wrong to do it on Twitter, on Facebook or on whatever the next new thing is.
Good workers don’t get fooled into blaming their tools.