Thanks to social media and the Internet, everyone is a citizen journalist. The problem, though, is journalism requires proper training along with experience in the field. Regular folk, as well-intentioned as they may be, don’t have the same information resources as reporters on the ground and in a race to be first, they may often get it wrong. And then even the big news organizations can get it wrong.
Take the Tom Petty situation. Confusion about his condition on Sunday and Monday led to a premature announcement of his death. Once CBS New started spreading the news that Petty was dead, everyone started piling on, quoting each other on the same information, giving the appearance that the information was accurate. TMZ, Rolling Stone and many others were sucked into the vortex.
And that was just the untimely death of a rock star. The situation with the Las Vegas massacre is even more complex. Wired takes a look at how the bad information flows.
SUNDAY NIGHT, A gunman on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas fired ammunition into a large crowd at a music concert adjacent to the hotel. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 were wounded. The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was found dead when law enforcement entered his hotel room. That sums up most of what we know. Any information beyond that? Be very, very careful before you believe it.
It’s an unfortunate reality that every tragedy breeds not just misunderstandings but outright conspiracies and lies. This has always been true, a collision of imperfect information and the impulse to rationalize, to make the previously unthinkable square with what we thought we knew about the world.
You could see it in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, when Reddit wrongly identified college student Sunil Tripathi as one of the attackers. You could see it during and after Hurricane Sandy upended New York, when Photoshopped images of sharks and a doctored shot of a scuba diver underwater in the Times Square subway station consumed Twitter.
And you can see it unfolding now, just hours after the Las Vegas shooting.
Read more here.
Be very, very careful. Conspiracy theorists are already all over this (“False flag!” “Government-sponsored attack on the Second Amendment!” “There were multiple shooters!”), while hoaxes abound (“Here’s Stephen Paddock’s secret social media account!”).
Patience, people. It’s more important to be right than first. Meanwhile, here are a few stats on US gun ownership.