2018-06-13 / Editorial


Martha Chalker

When we look around and make observations everyday - and we all do, I wonder how different people deal with carelessness, ignorance and downright stupidity. That’s how this column began last week. This week we’ll include how we react to certain information offered on social media. Once tweeted or shared on FaceBook, a total fake news story or the spreading of misinformation can cause a frantic news cycle to churn and be repeated, retweeted and re-shared absent of fact checking.

A few weeks ago the social media in Manhattan went into a frenzy when an explosion rocked the area. One tweet alleged it was a car bomb, another claimed it might be a transformer that blew out and a few hours later some speculated it could be a terrorist attack. With each tweet and claim so many "breaking news" reporters repeat are “I’m hearing”, “seems like”, and “initial reports”. It reminds me of our old game of telephone at youth group in church. As we sat in a circle and whispered, the beginning message might be “Janice Doe sat on a red balloon” and by the time the last person heard it, it was “Mr. Crow sang in a bad bar room”.

Social media is amazing in so many ways. Sharing family pictures, encouraging children and grandchildren from afar, sharing recipes and amusing videos with friends. One of my video favorites, one my daughter Leslie shared with me is Megan Trainor singing “It’s All About that Change” with James Corden on The Late Show. But Beware! Social media also spreads rumors, deception, gossip, lies, misinformation, false reports and hearsay. The explosion that day in Manhattan turned out to be a manhole cover that blew off. Another example of unfortunate fake news is the recently circulated photo of a Parkland shooting survivor. Her name is Emma Gonzalez who has become a gun law activist. A photo of her tearing up a paper shooting target was edited to appear she was tearing up the Constitution instead. The photo spread like wildfire on social media and the fact that something like this can happen is scary. Should we tolerate this behavior?

I have no patience with those who share without knowing where the information came from, if it is actually true or just something a friend shared that one is predisposed to believe or agree with anyway. Responsible people should care enough to educate themselves and get the facts and the truth before sharing on Twitter or FaceBook. Visit fact finding websites like Snopes or Politifact to check the facts before you share. Be a part of the solution, not the problem of “fake news”. No patience here from me. If there is even a chance that it’s fake and you post it anyway I say it’s irresponsible.

Even the smallest of newsrooms like The True Citizen should be prepared to jump in on social media but need to practice the strategies necessary to produce quick and accurate news gathering. Newspapers are fighting harder than ever against the spread of misinformation. Our reporters just do what they do – get information and confirm it.

Martha Chalker is a life and business coach with over 20 years of experience. She can be reached at 706-564-4458.

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