Monday, July 13, 2009

Who's your filter?

It wasn't that long ago when MSM was our main filter (and source) for news. And it was usually quite reliable. Sure something outrageous might slip through and cause a stir, but generally what you read in the paper was considered to be accurate.

Then along came blogs, the rise of citizen journalists and Twitter. Now, credibility is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

And as the old Johnny Carson show used to ask, 'Who Do You Trust?'

I thought about this again after reading an article in the NY Times that noted how the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson spawned a spate of false celebrity deaths including Jeff Goldblum, Harrison Ford, George Clooney and Miley Cyrus. All were quickly denied. But only after the word had spread on Twitter.

It sounds like the rumours emanated from the same source, a somewhat macabre website, where people can plug in a celebrity's name and various details and the site will generate an article speculating about their death.

Now I do like practical jokes and humorous hoaxes (and, full disclosure, have been involved in a few myself). However, in a world where silliness can instantly morph into news, I think it's up to all of us to establish our own system to filter truth from idle gossip.

It's easy to do. When something juicy comes across our stream (of consciousness), instead of simply hitting RT (or posting it on Facebook or another social site), take a moment to research the veracity of the item.

As communicators, we should know how importance it is to dig deeper, analyse and verify; and not simply believe/repeat everything we read, see or hear.

In other words, look both ways before we tweet.

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