Tuesday, July 24, 2012

BREAKING: Twitter Sucks Sometimes

Welcome to the Route 30 Detour! US Route 30 intersects at I-95 in Philadelphia and goes from coast to coast, including passing through Pittsburgh and the home of Drexel University SMT student and blog contributor, Bryan Fyalkowski (@fyalkowski)...

I have very particular expectations of the sports accounts I follow on Twitter; accurate and quick information. Above other sports, I want to know about everything that is happening in the MLB. I also follow handful of other accounts to cover the basics of the other sports, but since it is offseason for all the other major sports, MLB is the most prudent information for me at this time. I only follow approximately 120 accounts in total and they usually get me the information I want.

In the past two days, there have been occurrences of false breaking news on my Twitter feed, which is very upsetting. It is not only upsetting that I got the wrong information at the time, because I obviously was able to find the correct story later on. What is most upsetting is in the hunt for being the first to report a story, these reporters had no regard for the ethics of Twitter journalism.

In the afternoon of July 23, Mark Bowman, MLB.com beat writer for the Atlanta Braves, announced Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster was headed to Atlanta for pitcher Randall Delgado. This was not some kind of misunderstanding. In the tweet, Bowman "Confirmed Ryan Dempster is coming to the Braves..."

Apparently "confirmed" is an awfully loose word. Less than 100 minutes later, Dempster tweeted from his foundation's official account that "THERE IS NO TRADE..." Well, it seems like something was lost in translation.

The issue with the potential deal was that Dempster is a 10/5 player. For non-MLB bylaw know-it-alls out there, it means Dempster has been in the MLB for at least ten years and with the same team for at least the last five years. Therefore, he has the right to veto any trade. Since, Dempster has exercised his right to veto and the trade to the Braves is no more.

For Bowman, his tweet was RT over 700 times, although some of those could have been due to it being a laughable report. In addition, the MLB's official account tweeted the news with Bowman as the original source. @MLB has over 2.3 million followers and this specific tweet was RT over 1,200 times. It is astonishing how many people got the wrong information with just one tweet, but that is the way breaking news works nowadays.

In an article titled "Braves reach agreement to acquire Dempster," which was posted 40 minutes after his original tweet, Bowman mentions the 10/5 rule and Dempster having the option to veto the deal. That is all Bowman needed to say in his original tweet. If he just posted "Deal in place for Braves to acquire Dempster..." or something along those lines, he would have been able to confirm later while still getting credit for being the first to report the trade.

In this instance, Bowman did not think clearly before he tweeted and made a huge mistake to MLB fans in general, more specifically Braves and Cubs fan bases, while offending Dempster in the process. Meanwhile, Bowman has not apologized about this on Twitter, just updated a post, saying "Braves close to deal for Cubs' Dempster..." Please.

The second instance involved Jon Morosi, a second-tier baseball reporter (behind Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, etc.) for FoxSports.com and the Pittsburgh Pirates on the evening of July 24. A trade for Houston Astros pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, was first reported by Tom Singer, MLB.com beat writer for Pittsburgh, and later confirmed by Heyman, with initial credit given to Singer.

However, Heyman did not name any players going from the Pirates to the Astros, which frustrated me at the time while I was updating my Twitter feed every 30 seconds trying to evaluate the trade. The first reporter to name names was Morosi, who said that AA-level outfielder Robbie Grossman was headed to Houston, about 25 minutes after Heyman originally confirmed the deal.

Pirates fans rejoiced on my feed because they thought he was the only one involved. Grossman is a solid prospect, but a 22-year old with a sub-.800 OPS at the AA-level does not necessarily translate to a great Major League player. Five minutes later, Morosi tweeted that 19-year old A-level shortstop Alen Hanson, one of the Pirates prospects with major upside, was also included.

Morosi then got his story mixed up by claiming there was "contradicting information on Hanson's inclusion." Wow, would you not want to sort out this "contradicting information" before you sent breaking news out to 53,500 of your trusting followers? A few minutes later, the Pirates official account trounced all rumors by tweeting the actual players involved in the deal: Robbie Grossman, AAA-level pitcher Rudy Owens and A-level pitcher Colton Cain.

In the end, even though Heyman frustrated me by not initially reporting who the Pirates included in the deal, it was the right thing to do because not all the information was 100% trustworthy. Morosi fell into the first to report trap and looked like a moron because of it. Since then, there have been no apologies on his feed and he faces no public repercussions other than the disappointment of the people who trusted him for solid information, myself included.

One thing I can say about Morosi and Bowman in these instances is that they did not go back and delete the incorrect tweets. Even though neither has come forward and apologized to this point, it says something that they will face the music and take some kind of public backlash for their mistakes. However, these situations go to show that journalism is first and foremost about accurate information, which is clearly much more important than having it be quick and false.

Enjoy your trip back to I-95 and I'll see you next week!

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you back Bryan. I completely agree with you. Unfortunately, journalistic standards seem to be lagging behind the pace of information. People post without the full story and people run with it from there and then we have an avalanche of wrong information. It's less than ideal. I wonder how it will progress. I'm thinking that it either reaches a tipping point and turns back to 'confirm your damn story with reliable sources' or people just become accustomed to not having the full story and accept the fact that what they are spreading may be wrong. God help us if it's the latter. Good stuff, Bryan.