merc-story

How a Twitter joke about Landon Donovan and Barack Obama somehow became a real story

Ever get into a dispute with someone basely purely on an exchange of text messages and then, at some point, you both realize that your messages were received in a tone that differed from what was intended?

The world of broadcast media has an advantage over the world of text-based media in the same way face-to-face conversations trump those that take place between smartphones. The problem is that words on paper or on your computer screen or on your BlackBerry can't really relay full context in regard to sarcasm and humor versus sincerity and seriousness.

Unfortunately for a San Jose Mercury News reporter who fell victim to a moment of gullibility, that resulted in a bad day at the office.

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See, Dana Wessel from 1500ESPN.com in Minneapolis made a joke on Twitter regarding something president Barack Obama might have said to Landon Donovan during the L.A. Galaxy's visit to the White House on Tuesday…

But then Mercury News reporter Elliott Almond took the artificial quote and ran away with it in deadpan fashion, failing to attribute — or follow up with — the source. The result? A hard-news story based on a conversation that never happened.

Wessel clarified that he was joking, and eventually Almond caught wind because his story has been removed. He has also addressed the mistake on his Twitter account.

Can we blame this on the 24-hour news cycle and the insatiable and constant need for fresh content in the world of online journalism, or is that just an excuse for shoddy work? 

(Hat tip to Media Bistro)

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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