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Sunday, December 16, 2012

When are people going to learn that “reporting” based on lightning-fast readings of Twitter and/or Facebook feeds isn’t real reporting? I was aggravated at the beginning of this month when at least a dozen gossip and news websites wrote that a quasi-celebrity was tweeting insults about a major celebrity. The story even made it to New York City local television news. (I’m not going to repeat the names of the folks involved because none of it was true.) Along with many other people who protested in comment sections and got no response, I knew that the quasi-celebrity’s Twitter feed was merely one of multiple fake profiles created for that person. I also knew the story wasn’t important enough for most of the offenders to correct it — it was just entertainment, after all — and that the hostile hoax tweets would stick in many minds as fact.

That kind of lazy faux-reporting was in full effect in a much more serious context this week, in the wake of the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and seven adults dead. Websites and news organizations incorrectly identified the older brother of the true murderer as the shooter, pulling photos and information from the brother’s Facebook account, obviously without speaking to him. (The brother used his Facebook account to deny involvement.) This is not only the fault of poor journalism but of social-media users in general.  You know, you can take two seconds to try to find an original link before you start retweeting Morgan Freeman’s nonexistent “statement.” It’s not that difficult. I’ve done it with fake retweets of CNN stories many times, when the “story” struck me as fishy. As I was repeatedly told in my first journalism job, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” You can apply that to everything from gossip to investments to a hot deal on a Hermes Birkin bag. (Here’s what Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance had to say about misinformation spread via social media.)

Obviously, the Newtown tragedy was the big story of the week. I’ve been in favor of gun control  since John Lennon was shot 32 years ago this month. Lots of people are arguing that gun control wouldn’t prevent every crime. Of course, it wouldn’t! It’s not the complete solution. It’s merely part of the solution. Why is it so hard to believe that there are multiple ways to tackle the same problem, all of which should be employed at once? Gun control plus better mental-health care plus … you name it. I’m open to suggestions.

Here’s what was on my blog this week:

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9 Responses to “Wendy’s Week in Review: December 9 – December 15”

  1. stacy says:

    Holy cow, what a week!
    Can you imagine being the older brother?
    Noooo, it wasn’t me!! But then you have to say… “It was actually my brother.” I mean,
    that’s marginally better…

  2. Megan Mae says:

    You outline perfectly why I don’t trust news sources, why I don’t auto-retweet and why I hold back my comments. Everyone is rushing to break the news, but so much misinformation gets thrown around, and more people get hurt in the wake of an already tragic event.

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      I’ve been paranoid about retweets since I doubted a CNN retweet a while ago, clicked on CNN’s feed and found they’d reported nothing of the sort.

  3. drollgirl says:

    it is so irritating that people want to get the JUMP on a story before getting the facts straight. there is so much pressure to be the first one to report a story, instead of pressure TO GET THE STORY RIGHT. sometimes the consequences are minor, but sometimes they are devastating. i blame journalists, 24-hour news networks (THAT ARE SO BORED THEY WILL COVER ANYTHING), social media, and people that just want to absorb quick and easy soundbites. so i guess we are all to blame in one way or another. it is frustrating.

    more/better gun control could only help. and dealing with mentally ill/troubled people has to be part of the solution. could you imagine if you had a troubled kid that you suspected MIGHT get violent and cause such destruction? it is a terrifying thought.

    did you ever see that movie “we need to talk about kevin”? it was horrifying. in some ways it relieved me that i never had kids. nobody wants a kid like that, but sometimes it happens.

    i am babbling. these issues are complicated. stressful. and devastating. but we need to find ways to prevent tragedy — so much and so often is an indication that intervention is needed.

  4. That poor brother. He had the right comment for CNN.

    Speaking of citizen journalists, I’m currently reading a book covering the period of U.S. history from 1789-1815, roughly the first 25 years of the constitution, and you wouldn’t believe the proliferation of newspapers, pamphlets, and what not circulating to shape public opinion. It was quite exciting and not necessarily at all accurate!

  5. Marti says:

    I actually remember that Versace ad, and yes I can believe you still have that 1991 issue of Vanity Fair. I remember the issue well, it caused such a stir. I never noticed your theory Vocal Artists vs Actors but now I will.
    Marti