VICIOUS BLACK BEAR ATTACKS STUDENTS AT LOCAL COLLEGE


THAT HEADLINE IS NOT TRUE. But pretty amazing that from my apartment living room I can fabricate any headline I want and just simply click a button & the potential for lots of people to see that headline exists.

This cover of Star Magazine exploded across the checkout lines of grocery stores nationwide just a few months ago. That title is incredibly misleading- first of all, there is no hard facts behind this story other than the fact that some 20 year old girl is “claiming” (merely by word of mouth) that the teen pop-star and her had quick one night stand in a bathroom that resulted in her pregnancy. When this headline ran there was absolutely NO paternity test or hard facts or enough sources to verify such a claim- terrible journalism. Accuracy is vital in the world of journalism, without it there is no credibility & the people are misinformed and journalists have violated their duty to the people.

Now Star Magazine, isn’t exactly famous for its accuracy and in depth news pieces, it’s a juicy celeb-gossip magazine that serves as a purely entertainment medium. Which is fine, I suppose. I mean I can’t lie, I have to disclose that sometimes I indulge in a little guilty pleasure by reading magazines like this one- but as an example of journalism it is way off!

So, here is my transition- the emerging world online is making it SO VERY easy for headlines like this to be published at a much faster rate and reach a much wider audience than this. And quite frankly, that’s a tad bit scary…actually it’s really scary. That means people are much more prone to indulging in news that is inaccurate, fabricated, sensationalized, biased and misleading. News dissemination should be an honest, truthful, informative and helpful process for people. This Justin Bieber story wasn’t just at checkout lines, it erupted across the web- individual bloggers picked it up, entertainment sources picked up the stories- it went viral. And all of this went down without any fact-checking or reliable source feedback. Hundreds of thousands of Americans (even people outside the states) were reading this headline and gasping that the teen pop-star was now a father of some young girl’s baby and all those shocked Americans went to their friends and blabbed the headline. This story probably spread like wildfire across the states.

That is exactly the kind of platform the internet has created. It has created a medium that does not have the roadblocks of editors and fact-checking, nope, with a few quick typed out words and a click of the mouse anything goes public. It’s so fast.  Nothing online is safe. Within the last few days CNN reported on a solider who posted on his “private” facebook page some slandering remarks about current President Obama. The soldier is now facing dishonorable discharge-mind you such a discharge strips a solider of any veteran’s rights or benefits. Of course, the solider and his lawyer are claiming that he was merely just exercising his right as a U.S citizen to freedom of speech- but that is not the point. The point is, this solider believed that his private page was safe- not accurate. Nothing online is private, if somebody wants access to something bad enough- there is a way to get it.

Similar to the Justin Bieber pregnancy scandal, Drudge Report ran a story about former President Bill Clinton fathering a boy with another woman (other than Hillary, obviously) in Arkansas. Just the click of that “publish” button put this story online for millions of Americans to read. A story based on inaccurate and insufficient reporting posed the potential to permanently damage an official’s entire career. That is alot of power and influence in one bloggers’ mouse.

It’s pretty disturbing the ease that now exists in publishing stories without accuracy. And this is the problem and challenge that so many online publications, particularly Independent Media outlets, need to be incredibly aware of  and ready to combat. Sometimes indy media sites don’t have the access to sources like mainstream media does, so ensuring accuracy is essential in gaining credibility and truly  informing the public. The potential to misrepresent, mislead and publish inaccurately is immense and very accessible. Video editing tools, photo editing tools and recording devices are becoming accessible to anybody who wants them and the portability of such tools are making it very easy for anybody to capture occurrences. The increased ability to capture footage or still images and then edit them without the help of someone trained in such programs is causing even more potential for inaccurate material to go viral online and misinform hundreds of thousands of people worldwide- sometimes on incredibly important and prominent issues.

Accuracy is a vital element of journalism and it can not get lost in the shuffle of accessibility, the growing need for immediacy and the increasing growth of untrained “journalists”.

 

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