Monday, November 14, 2011

Spreading Bad Stuff

Anyone with an Internet connection is a potential reporter these days. Reporter, not journalist. There is a huge difference.
Millions of people are daily reporting, or re-reporting, what someone has passed to them, through email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media connections. Most of what they report is not checked out for accuracy, or put into any context.
Flander Fields Memorial
An example was seen last week with the wide distribution of the email titled I Am Honored to Do This, a text and photos intended to have people bow their heads in memory of those killed in wars. Nice effort for Remembrance Day week, but the message contained seriously inaccurate information.
It said that the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to have all cross-shaped military headstones removed from cemeteries. That’s not true. It is one of many falsehoods spread around the Internet about the ACLU.
Journalists must check out this kind of stuff before they publish or broadcast. Not only do they face law suits for what they might distribute, their careers rest on accuracy and fairness.
The Internet is the Wild West when it comes to passing along information. It needs to be civilized. All of us, when we receive this kind of information, should at least stop and ask a few questions before hitting a key and passing it along. Where did this come from? It is true? The ACLU misinformation has been has been around for at least a couple of years. A quick search of the Internet would have revealed quickly that it is false.
The email was well-intentioned but wrong. Our society does not need any more wrong information. We get all we can handle from our politicians.

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