The world was stunned to hear last week that Prince Philip died. Probably not as shocked as Philip was to hear it considering he was alive and well. But naturally online reports declared the 95 year old dead when he was only just retiring – not expiring.
It was late in the evening when I had just finished taping my celebrity entertainment headline show for the next morning when Philip and the palace were both trending on social media and the news ticker was hinting at some sort of announcement. And what did people do in a situation like that? Scoured the Internet and found any sort of leaked information just to appease the curious mind before going to bed.
Indeed, some people who probably didn’t give two poops about the prince were losing sleep not knowing what the story was. It prompted random people to declare he was dead and that spread like wildfire only for people to hear the next morning that it was a false report.
Of course, this type of “fake news”, as Donald Trump would call it, happens all the time. How many times has Betty White died already? She’s still kicking and is as feisty as ever.
But reports like this and the impatience of the public needing to know now-now-now is what seems to be tarnishing the news business.
Remember a time when you had to wait until tomorrow morning to find out what happened in town? Reporters actually had a chance to research and gather thoughts, and editors had time to proofread. And thankfully in the community newspaper business we still have time to do that (to a point).
It’s that immediacy we as a society have become accustomed to that is what makes the sloppy reporting continue. Media outlets know that if they don’t report it first, people will search and find someone else to confirm the story – be it right or wrong.
Unfortunately, it’s the news seeker that doesn’t feel he or she needs to wonder if what they are reading is true. They assume the media has checked its sources and got it right. How does that saying go? “I read it on the Internet so it has to be true.” (Tell that to Prince Philip. Yeah, he can still hear you. He’s alive.)
The new saying should be “reader beware” just like they say “buyer beware” when it comes to shopping. Now more than ever you need to check the source of information and ask yourself if the content is legit.