FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 22, 2010
Common sense and caution are vital to separate online 'news' facts from fakery
Point out how professional journalists uphold credibility by quoting reliable sources.
What other aspects of reporting by this newspaper deserve trust?
Are there parts of the paper or its website where you don't necessarily accept every statement as a verified fact? How does the presentation differentiate staff news reports from other content?
There's good news and bad news about news online: Lots of it is available from all sorts of sources, but some are untrustworthy. Several recent pranks, hoaxes and widely spread rumors are a reminder that the Internet can be an information minefield where made-up statements hide alongside true ones. That's important to recognize before using social media to share "news" of a celebrity death or other drama not yet confirmed by professional media.
One stunt involving the new iPad tablet computer is the latest example of public and media gullibility. Technology executive Jason Calacanis claimed on Twitter that he previewed Apple's long-awaited product. Despite wild claims about a solar recharger, HDTV tuner and two cameras, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Wired, Macworld, ComputerWorld and others quoted some of the 21 tweets without talking to him or Apple. [See video below for his comments.]
In another case, the Huffington Post -- a five-year-old news and commentary site with paid journalists -- was tricked by writer pretending to be from a legendary European financial dynasty. This month the high-profile site yanked posts by "Stefan de Rothschild" and said he "had misrepresented himself and was blogging under a false identity, part of an elaborate online hoax."
Prankster's tweet: "I've been beta testing the Apple tablet for the past two weeks and it's amazing." -- Jason Calacanis, Los Angeles entrepreneur (@jason)
Bill Cosby says: "About 10 hours ago, an Internet hoax started that said Bill Cosby is dead. . . . And now, ladies and gentlemen, for my rebuttal: I'm alive!" -- Feb. 6, 2010 note on his website
Kanye West friend's tweet: "It's totally disrespectful to make up a story like this [his death]. . . . U wouldn't want someone to say that about u." -- Amber Rose, singer's girlfriend, October 2009
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