In the hours and days immediately after the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, we given a preview of something that we are now seeing more and more regularly on our social media, raw, unfiltered information. Specifically to Boston, there was rampant misinformation about the possible identity of the bomber, a Brown University student who someone thought they recognized on a surveillance video. Long story short, both Twitter and Reddit took the story and ran with, with seemingly non-credible sources adding to and re-tweeting the hashtag, #BostonBombing (TheAtlantic). The unfortunate aspect of this story is that the Brown University student, was actually a missing person and the subsequent follow ups from reporters and bloggers not only gave the family of the missing student false hope of his status, but also forced the family to re-live the past few months of not knowing the condition of their son. The student was later found dead in Rhode Island (NYTimes). If you read the article, once it was confirmed that the suspects in the video was not the student, apologies from news agencies began to come in. One of these was from reddit, who had a subreddit devoted to news of the Boston Bombing.
(on a side note, please take the time and find a good article on the timeline of just how horribly out of control this mistake became. It is outstandingly eye opening.)
Like I mentioned in the opening, this lack of any constraint of raw and unfiltered previewed what we are seeing more and more often. And even though we haven't seen anything like the scale of what transpired after the Boston bombing, in my opinion, we are seeing way to much of it.
We live in a time where this is possible, even celebrated. More and more websites that have the appearance of journalism and the ever increasing need for cable media to increase their ratings, have led to and explosion of bad sources. These websites seem to have very little if any editorial oversight. And why would they, we live in a fast pace world with the winners of information war usually being the ones that can post first, even if it is slightly wrong (anyone remember when CNN reported for more than 2 minutes that the Healthcare law was stuck down before actually reading the opinion?). This has consequences. Any stroll through Facebook and you will see any number of shared articles. Some of these may be reputable, most are not. The problem is I don't know if we are ready to handle this feed of raw information, often very raw information.
The traditional news process was that articles were sent through editors. With so many "news" sites, it seems that there are not enough editors to go around. Remember, we are just talking about the news sources. There are just as many that purposely do not have editors or that have editors with agendas. I am not addressing those sites here, I am simply referring to the current news climate. It seems that we have entered into an era where we speculate first and verify late, if at all.
But all of this brings me to the crux of the point that I am trying to make. It seems that with there being so much raw information out there, that if (more like when) misinformation is released there is no consequence to that action. By merely speculating on an issue, whether from an unverified source, a tweet, or a random comment., the door is left wide open for others who do have neither the desire nor will to put in the due diligence into the accuracy of the article, to run with the contents. Often misstating the contents or even twisting it for their own agenda. Simply put, they can't, or don't want to, handle the raw nature of the news coming out. And I don't think this is a good thing. It seems now that the new crop of millennial journalist are embracing this new strategy, trying in vain to reach younger readers. A strategy that is being embraced by those readers, further fueling the fire of raw information.