Yesterday, JaVale McGee, decent center for the Denver Nuggets, punked the media. He claimed via Twitter that he had bought a pet platypus, then tweeted an image of two adorable little platypi.
The JaVale McGee-loving media ran with the story. Indeed, multiple news outlets and blogs represented his monotreme acquisition as true facts. But the joke was on them! McGee later tweeted that in fact it was all a ruse. He sensibly pointed out that, while he expected fans to fall for it, journalists should have known better. And as he said, it only would have taken pasting the image into Google Images to reveal the hoax.
Now, deliberate fraud involving Orinthorhynchidae is one thing. It’s a jest, as one might expect in the court of a king. But I think McGee has a serious point, or as serious as a point can be, when derived from larks about venomous beaked egg-laying mammals. Journalists probably should not be falling for this stuff. Not without a phone call to McGee or his representation, or the aforementioned “let’s see what Google Images reveals” maneuver, which takes all of 15 seconds.
Personally, I kind of think that, self-hagiography aside, the blogging revolution has essentially given us the worst of both worlds. Professional bloggers were right to point out that elite journalism is a hotbed of influence peddling, patronage, and petty corruption. Traditional journalists were right to point out that far too often, bloggers don’t bother to actually get out there and get the facts, content to take wild guesses from behind their Macbooks. We could potentially have gotten the best of each. I would contend we’ve gotten the worst: professional blogging now has social circle capture and petty corruption to put the world of traditional media to shame, and reporters constantly fail to do even minimal due diligence or fact gathering. And without a functioning media, there’s no functioning democracy.