Yesterday, West Virginian sportswriter Chuck Landon confessed that he got “punked” by a fake Twitter account. Landon reported on a story involving formal Marshall and current UCF coach Donnie Jones and an alleged recruiting scandal, initially “uncovered” by Pete Thamel of the New York Times. Though no fan of Thamel’s past history of “throw it on the wall” journalism, it appeared he’d actually uncovered a slimy connection between Jones and a “street agent.” I even posted a note of congratulations to Thamel on my Facebook and Twitter account. It appears that may have been premature.
Landon confessed yesterday that the follow-up he wrote was based on quotes from a fake Twitter account attributed to Brandon Bender, a former Louisville player and central figure in Thamel’s story. Moreover, Landon asserted that his story was also based on “research” done by ESPN’s Pat Forde which also contained the fictitious Tweets. No retraction has yet been forthcoming from Forde.
Nor have we heard from Thamel. This revelation certainly casts some doubt on his original story as well. Thamel has a history of not completely investigating the veracity of his sources before publishing a story. It will be interesting to see if the Times ombudsmen look into this piece.
In any case, I should have known better to trust a “journalist.” Is this what they teach in J-school these days? One would think that a professional writer would check his sources a bit more thoroughly than Landon or Forde. Simply quoting a Tweet in a story that could possibly get a coach fired, players’ names stained, and a school in trouble with the NCAA without confirming the source is unconscionable. I don’t know Landon’s history with his paper, but once again the “World Wide Leader” is faced with one of its primary writers practicing questionable journalistic ethics.