You may have heard the story of the recent hoax announcing the death of singer Gordon Lightfoot. Someone called a friend of Lightfoot’s claiming to be his grandson and passing on the news that Lightfoot had died. From there, the friend, a trustworthy source, passed the news on to his wife, who told others… eventually the story ended up in major news papers and news services. For the full details and links to the coverage and after coverage, head over to Steve Faguy’s blog.
Hoaxes of this sort seems to be occurring with greater frequency. In a race to get our attention, news media have decided to cut corners on fact-checking to get the story in front of us. Ad revenue is what counts here, not the truth of what they are reporting.
What this means is that we shouldn’t be trusting *any* breaking news coming out of the major media outlets. We probably shouldn’t trust any breaking news whatsoever. In today’s networked world, most stories take a day or so to be validated by the network of blogs, twitter posts, comments, etc, so maybe we need to give all breaking news a day or so to cool off, to gel into something resembling accurate information.
For example, if this is the first you heard of the Lightfoot story, after a day or so the only news item you could find would be focused on the hoax. If you searched, you’d probably come across blog posts like Faguy’s setting the reocrd straight.
This may seem trivial to those of us who spend a large part of each day sifting through posts, feeds, and news. We have learned, probably the hard way, to be skeptical of most information. We have developed trust networks based on our experiences, people and organizations that we trust to provide us with accurate information. I know that my network still contains several newspapers and major media sources.
So this is if anything a note to myself: take what you read on the major media sites with a grain of salt. Research the stories of interest and give the news some time to cool in order to get a more accurate version of the story.