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Attack of the Poorly Sourced Piranhas

As a twist on the old saying goes, reports of my firing have been greatly exaggerated.

Or else they were just flat out wrong. But why let facts get in the way of a good story?

On Friday I took a day off. Vacation and comp days aren’t exactly a strange phenomenon. But Rebecca Schoenkopf, publisher of Wonkette who has been known for reporting and writing while on the sauce, and for making no sense whatsoever, on Friday published a story saying that “a source” had told her I was going to be fired. “Betsy out at Fishbowl as of this afternoon,” she posted on her site. Rebecca didn’t spell this out, but her “source” was a guy makes it his business to pass around a bogus naked Craiglist ad of one of my writers.

This is the kind of “sourcing” Schoenkopf (pictured at right) used to write her “story” Friday afternoon. Schoenkopf never called or wrote me to ask if it was true. She never even called my employer until her story was out and clunking across Twitter like an elephant with severely bruised shins. There’s nothing worse in journalism than being sloppy and wrong.

Regular reporters took awhile to give the “news” any merit. Meanwhile, some on Twitter called Rebecca “powerful” in that she could make something happen that well, wasn’t happening. And oh boy, there was Mediaite‘s “White House” Correspondent Tommy “Carl Berstein Jr.” Christopher hot on the case. He called. I never answer his calls. He wrote, “Betsy, I just got a tip that said you’re leaving FBDC as of this afternoon. Is that true?” I asked to go off record. He said OK. I wrote him back, “No, Tommy. Not true. I know it’s unheard of, but I’m just taking a simple day off. I do get vacation and sick days. Do you?” Like an eager porpoise, he promised to write me back and fill me in if he heard anything more. Gee, thanks Tommy! How kind of you to inform me on my own life via a man who creates phony X-rated Craigslist ads. What no preachy trial race reporting today? Oh, that’s right. His editors scolded him a few weeks back on his George Zimmerman “coverage” and told him to tone it down. Bernstein Jr. really muckraked on this one. He phoned and emailed my coworkers, who, of course, had nothing for him. Good work Tommy!

Next up to the plate: Washington City Paper‘s Will Sommer. Sommer wrote, “Hey Betsy, So, people are saying you’ve been ousted at Fishbowl. Any truth to that? I’m getting it from the same guy who sends around photoshopped nude pics of one of your writers, so I’m not sure how seriously to take it. Thanks.” I also requested to go off record with him. He agreed. I told him I was taking the day off. Sommer did not write a story.

The last of The Three Stooges… Read more

BuzzFeed’s Malinowski Defends Himself Against NYT Magazine

Talk about not getting it.

Yesterday we highlighted a NYT Mag piece calling out several prominent journalists for helping spread false information via social media in the days following the Boston bombing, information that incorrectly labeled an innocent, missing kid as a terrorist.

One of those named was BuzzFeed sports reporter Erik Malinowski.

Later on Monday, Malinowski posted a defense of himself on Tumblr in which he manages to not only not take a single ounce of responsibility, but to cast himself as the victim. He says he’s been dragged “unfairly and falsely” into the story because NYT made a “major error”—they got the time of his first tweet off by a couple hours. This is apparently more of a bad thing than the “major error” he committed when he spread the false information in the first place because even his Buzzfeed editor felt compelled to contact NYT to explain this to them. In Malinowski’s world, these couple of hours mean he had absolutely nothing to do with the entire debacle.

Let’s take a closer look at just what role Malinowski played, shall we?

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NYT Mag: Journalists Share Blame with Reddit for Boston Bombing Mistakes

New York Times Magazine has an article out this week by Jay Caspian Kang that should probably devastate a few journalists we all know—or at the very least, make them think long and hard about themselves.

You know this story. It’s about how, in the information void after the Boston bombings a bunch of internet sleuths took to Reddit and fingered an innocent kid—Sunil Tripathi—as Suspect No. 2. What you might not know much about is how a few journalists on Twitter fueled the fire by taking Reddit’s accusation and building a bridge from “take this with a grain of salt” to “absolutely credible.”

Whether it was a desire to be first or just part of a really big story, whether it was a lack of experience or training or oversight or naivete or some combination of all of these, these few journalists took absolutely unverified bits of information from Twitter posts and republished them as facts without, at least according to NYT Mag, barely even a second’s thought.

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AnonymASS Tipster of the Week

Okay, so a little pet peeve I have in the Fishbowl is when complainers write in and don’t explain what story they’re talking about or what specifically they’re referring to. They throw out some insulting nugget that’s supposed to stop us in our tracks and make us ponder something. But what? Come on, tipsters. Be as insulting as you want, but at least explain yourselves.

A writer writes in this week…

“How did this Austin Price get the job with you? He must’ve flunked the bad taste and banality test?”

Hey there, ASS: So nice of your to write in and share with us. Your comments are really constructive! Austin Price is our summer intern and a tasteful, talented one at that. So above anything else I will say here, STFU and maybe go take up knitting or Parchisi? The larger matter here is that this is Intern Abuse, which we don’t allow (too much) here in the Fishbowl. I suggest you take the matter up with WaPo‘s Pulitzer prize winning “humor” columnist Gene Weingarten, Washington’s unofficial Intern Police. He provides wisdom and guidance on all intern matters, except when they, of course, pertain to abuses as his own newspaper. Those are fine. (Some may recall last summer when we were squabbling with Gene over one thing or another. We wrote about a WaPo intern who tried to explain to colleagues who the head honchos at WaPo were in an internal statement. Gene was up in arms! How could we stoop so low? He later affectionately called us “noxious little dirtballs.” But low and behold, WaPo was, at the time, soliciting readers to submit their “questionable”  intern experiences on its Facebook page: “Tell us about the questionable interns you’ve encountered and we’ll meme-ify your experience.” And suddenly Gene fell silent. (Smart thinking. You can’t trash your own paper, right?)

HMOW: Weiner’s Wilson

Welcome to FBDC’s new feature “Hot Mess of the Week,” an award of sorts designed to celebrate a special someone who’s acted a fool in the press each week.  The HMOW could be a guest on cable news, a pol, DC journo, or anyone else who’s making hot mess headlines.

Today’s HMOW is the breakout star of Anthony Weiner‘s press conference yesterday – Creepy Cubicle Guy.  This special snowflake reached millions of households in America while doing his best Wilson W. Wilson (*see “Home Improvement”) throughout the “happy” couple’s remarks.

We applaud you Creepy Cubicle Guy! You not only amused us with your hot-mess antics and mid-conference wardrobe change…you managed to connect our favorite 1990s sitcom with Anthony Weiner, giving a whole new meaning to “Tool Time.”

Yahoo Gets Inspiration From Now This News

On Wednesday morning, Yahoo published this piece on Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). The headline is “What is it like to be a Muslim in Congress?” It’s no secret that Ellison is one of the only two Muslims in the U.S. Congress. The other is Andre Carson (D-Ind.). He’s an interesting character. Young, extremely liberal, African-American, and he’s in the middle of Ramadan. During the holiday, observing Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, which can be a drain on Ellison. He tells Yahoo that he limits his physical activity during the day while celebrating the month.

On top of all that, he plays guitar. Yahoo made sure to get video of Ellison jamming in his office. While he cranks out a little “This Land is Your Land,” ABC’s Jeff Zeleny, who conducts the interview, awkwardly watches on.

It’s rare that we get to see members of Congress cut loose like this so, it’s refreshing. Except for Yahoo, this isn’t such an original idea.  Read more

Editor Laments Turning Down TV Hit for Honeymoon

In what may be the most obnoxious use of Social Media comes this morning, as Fran Chambers, editor of Red Alert Politics and a Washington Examiner contributor, took to Twitter to lament the fact that she couldn’t do a TV hit on Trayvon Martin because she was on her honeymoon in the Virgin Islands.

From start to finish, Chambers spent her wedding week on Twitter. Only two days passed with silence as she tweeted her way through her beach nuptials and honeymoon. In her exhausting coverage, she revealed that her new husband ran into the ocean with his cell phone in his pocket and will “REALLY” be offline for the week. Too bad the same didn’t happen to hers (but no doubt she likely has a few backups).

 

 

Yeah, that really stinks that we can’t have yet another journalist weighing in on George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin because we don’t have enough Washington journalists discussing the case this week.

Read more about her week because yes, there’s more. Read more

Fournier Gets Parenting Book Deal

National Journal’s Ron Fournier wrote about his experiences as the parent of a son with Aspberger’s last year in this piece, which had people coming out of the woodwork to tell him what a wonderful piece he had written. Fournier even tried getting the hashtag “#lovethatboy ” up and running on Twitter. When Fournier was trying to connect with his son, he did what all fathers do: Take them to visit two former Presidents of the United States!

That piece has now led to a book deal, according to Politico’s Mike Allen, who wrote in Monday morning’s Playbook that the book will be called. “A Father’s Journey to Understanding My Son And What is Fair to Expect of Our Kids.” Allen explains that the book “grows out of Ron’s National Journal cover story about his struggle to connect with his mildly autistic son. It will use this story of father-son bonding to explore what it means to accept our kids on their own terms, rather than trying to push them to fit societal norms and expectations.”

Sorry, did anyone bother reading Fournier’s piece? To me, it reads like a what NOT to do with your children.  Read more

Morning Oopsy: HuffPost Wrecks Charlie Sheen Tweet

Cupport. Support. Who cares, right? HuffPost‘s tweeter celebrated his or her Fourth of July in style with this promo that might be clickbait-worthy had it not been so butchered.

 

Early Morning Hashtag Blather

Ever get bored when you’re home alone and start rambling to yourself about nothing particular or even that funny? But there’s no one around to hear what you say, so it’s totally, like, okay? Ever do that on Twitter? Yes, some of you do that all the time.

We don’t want you to stop, though. It amuses us endlessly.

Take Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler.

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