Saturday, March 30, 2013

Merc falls for joke on Twitter

The risk of using Twitter posts in reporting was illustrated Tuesday when Mercury News sports reporter Elliott Almond incorrectly reported that President Obama had offered U.S. World Cup soccer player and former San Jose Earthquakes star Landon Donovan a ride on Air Force One.

Almond’s report was based on a Tweet by ESPN reporter Dana Wessel, who joked about Obama offering the ride to Donovan.

Wessel Tweeted: “Obama to Landon Donovan: ‘You wanna take Air Force One to Mexico City? We can still make it. Just say the word.’”

Almond repeated the information in the Tweet with no attribution to Wessel or ESPN. He apparently didn’t realize it was a joke. Almond’s story begins:
    The soccer fan in President Barack Obama wants to see Landon Donovan return to the U.S. national team for World Cup qualifying. 
    “You wanna take Air Force One to Mexico City?” Donovan was asked Tuesday during a visit to the White House. “We can still make it. Just say the word.” The injury-depleted Americans could use the former Earthquakes star in Tuesday night’s showdown against favored Mexico at famed Azteca Stadium …
ESPN’s Wessel soon sent a second Tweet clarifying his joke.

Wessel told MediaBistro’s Fishbowl DC: “I told the guy on Twitter it was a joke and he responded to me acknowledging that he had been duped but apparently he never bothered to change his story or file a retraction … Pretty sloppy.”

On Wednesday, the Merc posted a story saying its original reporting was incorrect:

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