EDITORIAL: Even in the Internet Age, Reliable Sources Matter
Nov 15, 2012 (The Chronicle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The online age, in which nearly everyone can post information -- true or false -- for the whole globe to read, has both benefits and perils.
The recent superstorm that slammed into the East Coast provided more examples of how the age of light-speed communication still needs the fact-checking that comes from reliable sources such as newspapers and legitimate news websites.
Even before Superstorm Sandy made landfall, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, photos from smartphones and text messages helped people get valuable information and stay in touch much more quickly and efficiently than ever before. That's clearly a good thing.
However, with that "perfect storm" of information came people posting false information or photos that looked legitimate but were Photoshop fakes.
No, sharks did not swim through a shopping mall, despite a convincing photo making the rounds online. That photo, it turns out, was created five months ago and purported at the time to be from a flooded Kuwaiti science center.
Plenty of other photos blazed through Twitter, including a dramatic photo of waves crashing against a partially submerged Statue of Liberty. That photo, which included a "NY1 Live Cam" television-style logo, was a fake, taken from a promotional still from the 2004 weather disaster film "The Day After Tomorrow."
There are plenty more examples of "fauxtography" from Superstorm Sandy. For an amusing collection, check out http://www.snopes.com/photos/natural/sandy.asp, produced by a reputable urban legends debunking website.
In this modern media age, there are several realities.
First, the consumer of information must be skeptical. In the marketplace of ideas, the buyer must beware. That's particularly true when information comes from online sources.
Second, newspapers and authentic news websites matter.
There's a reason that we pay our reporters, and you pay for the newspaper, website and mobile apps that we produce. We don't have a dog in the fight when it comes to reporting the news. We simply work as hard as we can, using our training and collected resources, to find out what's happening and why it matters.
When information comes to us, we don't mindlessly report it. We confirm, expand and explain.
In this time of instant information, there's value in newspapers like The Chronicle that verify the information, check photos for alternation and stand behind their work.
If we make a mistake, we admit it and publish our corrections for all to see.
You can choose to blindly trust the latest email forward you receive, or you can trust your local newsroom that exists for one reason: to give you credible, useful information that can withstand today's superstorm of falsities, rumors and misinformation.
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