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When Twitter Reporting Goes Wrong

CNBC sports reporter and man’s man Darren Rovell wanted to do a story last fall about the NBA lockout, so naturally he took to Twitter. “If you are losing a paycheck/business because of the NBA, I want to tell your story,” he wrote, providing an e-mail address for potential sources, like when the AP wanted to find those ever-elusive dog owners. It’s a common tactic for reporters these days, if not quite shoe-leather journalism, but as Deadspin reports today, it’s basically daring every bored, vindictive, and rabble-rousing person on the Internet to mess with you.

A not particularly convincing high school senior e-mailed Rovell claiming to run a New York escort service catering to players. The kid just made up some figures about his bogus business (“I didn’t even Google it,” he told Deadspin) and after a brief correspondence, ended up in Rovell’s story (which has since been amended).

All these months later, the fake source went to Deadspin with the anecdote at the urging of a friend because Rovell is “just such a douche on Twitter all the time.” True to form, Rovell took to his blog today to say sorry, sort of. “He duped me. Shame on me. I apologize to my readers,” he wrote, but couldn’t resist adding smugly, “As a result I will do fewer stories on the real life impact of big events which I do think the public enjoys.”

It’s not that Twitter reporting should be shunned completely — it can be an effective and efficient tool — but it can very easily encourage laziness. Caught very clearly not doing due diligence, Rovell could at least not be dick about it.

When Twitter Reporting Goes Wrong