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:
- Sunday: Animals in a French farce.
- Tuesday: Gene Weingarten writes about Jeffrey MacDonald; Skylar Grey works with Eminem.
- Wednesday: The latest age edict: we can’t wear knee-high boots past 45.
- Thursday: Kanye West’s skirt is old news.
- Friday: Conservative Versace; Yoko Ono’s gun-control billboard from 2000.
- Saturday: Cat stuff; hugs-and-kisses earrings for the holidays.