After the most recent homicide about two weeks ago now, rumors and misinformation twirled around social media and at least one local website that purports itself to be a news outlet.
Fact is, most all of the information was wrong.
We are often slammed by folks on social media because we don’t immediately update readers on our Facebook page about breaking news incidents. There is a reason for that. It’s called gathering the facts.
Too often in today’s world, folks value instant gratification and gory details above a factual account of what happened. We are committed to facts here at The Commercial, and we will never report on something until we are certain that we have enough information to print or post the truth.
The rumor mill decided to rear its ugly head again late last week with a message circulating around social media warning people to stay out of Pine Bluff because of pending gang activity.
We spoke with the police chief and other officials. It was all bunk.
As social media becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, more and more agencies, both news and otherwise, are having to address the situation.
The National Science Foundation said that “Our research has shown that the general public is not very good at differentiating truth from rumor related to disasters. The public tends to spread rumors and is unlikely to correct false information, even after it has been debunked. On the bright side, our research also shows that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other official governmental accounts have the power to stop rumors, especially when these agencies act quickly.”
Darrell M. West, vice president and director for governance studies and a founding director of the Brookings Institute Center for Technology Innovation, said in a 2017 article that “Fake news and sophisticated disinformation campaigns are especially problematic in democratic systems, and there is growing debate on how to address these issues without undermining the benefits of digital media.”
West went on to surmise that “In order to maintain an open, democratic system, it is important that government, business, and consumers work together to solve these problems. Governments should promote news literacy and strong professional journalism in their societies.
“The news industry must provide high-quality journalism in order to build public trust and correct fake news and disinformation without legitimizing them. Technology companies should invest in tools that identify fake news, reduce financial incentives for those who profit from disinformation and improve online accountability. Educational institutions should make informing people about news literacy a high priority. Finally, individuals should follow a diversity of news sources, and be skeptical of what they read and watch.”
Readers should be especially skeptical of social media, we say.
Although we are a very small news organization, we are deeply embedded in the fabric of this community, which means we have trusted sources who will bring us information about big news events.
We hope that you, our readers, will continue to trust us to bring you the facts, and only the facts.
We only wish we could convince everyone that there’s a difference between journalism and online/social media “news.”