Always beware of fakes
Busy sports news days are like holidays for the internet trolls who masquerade as reporters on Twitter. The jokesters behind accounts with names like @w0jespn and @JayG1azer really shine around trade deadlines, draft days and free agency openings. On the NFL’s “Black Monday,” the trolls had one of their biggest coups to date when ESPN fell for a Twitter user posing as one of the network’s own reporters.
On Monday afternoon, ESPN.com’s news desk published a brief item saying the Dolphins had fired offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, per a source of Adam Schefter’s. Shortly thereafter, ESPN published a retraction. Gailey hadn’t been fired.
“ESPN published an incorrect story on Monday involving Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey,” the retraction read. “The story has been removed from ESPN.com, and replaced with this correction. The story was also mentioned on the 1 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter.”
So how did this happen? I had assumed it was simply a case of somebody inadvertently hitting “publish” on a pre-written story, a classic mistake in digital media. The more likely explanation is much funnier.
At 1:21 p.m. ET, the Twitter account @TuaNeedsHelp, which had changed its display name to “Adam Schefter” and its profile photo to the same image Schefter’s real account uses, tweeted “Dolphins have parted ways with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, per source.” At 1:45 p.m., ESPN’s news story was published.
ESPN didn’t say how the erroneous story came to be published on its website but it seems clear, to me, at least, that the impostor’s tweet is responsible. Somebody at ESPN really got duped by a Dolphins fan account pretending to be the network’s most famous news breaker.
Every news reporter of the Twitter era has been (at least temporarily) fooled by one of these fake accounts. Hell, for about one minute on Monday, our news team thought the Falcons were interviewing Florida’s Dan Mullen for their head coaching job. But then somebody took 10 seconds to see that the “news” came from an account posing as an Atlanta reporter. No harm, no foul.
What boggles the mind is that it was ESPN of all places that got bamboozled by a fake Schefter. What’s the process for publishing Schefter’s scoops? Maybe somebody should check with the actual Schefter first?
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