Friday, August 22, 2014

Rush to get Boston Marathon scoops meant wrong details

4/22/2013

A twin bombing at last week’s Boston Marathon forced many Americans — once again — to face their vulnerabilities.

In the wake of such an attack, people demand answers and a quick resolution. Technology can help.

A twin bombing at last week’s Boston Marathon forced many Americans — once again — to face their vulnerabilities.

In the wake of such an attack, people demand answers and a quick resolution. Technology can help.

Some Boston-area residents might have felt a sense of control because of their ability to aid with the identification and eventual apprehension of the suspects. Technology — surveillance cameras, as well as personal digital cameras, mobile phones and camcorders — no doubt, played a significant role in assisting investigators in seeing the scene for themselves and getting successful leads on the suspects. That same technology helped quickly spread word about the description of the suspects before and after they were identified. Publicity was so widespread that some Bostonians were able to provide the names of the two men who apparently were involved in the bombing.

With speed and demands for immediacy, of course, come a higher potential for missteps.

From social networks like Twitter and Reddit to typically reputable TV newscasters, false and misleading information was spread in their haste to fill the news void and get the scoop first. Such inaccurate information included everything from “news” of a “Saudi” suspect being arrested to a missing college student being a part of the case and more. Reputations were damaged, and the public became more skeptical — all because of the rush to report the news first without independent verification of the facts.

It’s timely reminder that speed comes with a downside: little context to help judge and understand a situation. Anyone can look at a chaotic crime scene and see what they want to see — just like staring at a cloud or an ink blot. Without an educated explanation of what’s happening, people are just guessing or inventing their own reality.

Did you know NASA recently captured a photo of an angel?

Images reportedly taken by NASA from a Solar and Heliospheric Observatory show an image resembling an angel — or so says Share International USA, a nonprofit group advocating the emergence of Maitreya, the World Teacher, and his message of hope for the future. Photographs and associated videos have been widely distributed showing the phenomenon. It’s another instance of people seeing what they want to see — in this case, an “angel” about half the size of the Earth. Context from scientists could aid the public’s understanding of what the image might really be, but that will take time to discern.

The truth takes longer than a guess.

Developing news stories are called “developing” because the story isn’t complete until an adequate amount of research, reporting, independent verification and even brainpower is used to connect the dots. Time provides context to understand agendas, strategies, legal ramifications and possible outcomes. Those things often can’t be done on the fly. Nor should they be done quickly.

Those who accept unverified news at face value should know the consequences of doing so. Namely that it might not be news at all.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher

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