Goshen News, Goshen, IN

TGN Bloggers

June 25, 2014

BLOG: Internet vetting has long way to go

“I saw something on the Internet…”

I now dread these words whenever I have a conversation with my mom. Whether it’s informing her that the speech she saw wasn’t by Bill Cosby or calming her nerves about letting the dogs have ice, Facebook and the Internet have become the bane of my existence.

I can’t blame my mom. She grew up in an era where most of the information she received came from newspapers or TV. I’ll concede neither medium is 100 percent accurate. But at least with newspapers and TV broadcast the information is vetted before it goes to print or on air.

The Internet is like the Wild West for information. And that’s a dangerous thing.

Just Facts is a non-profit institute that did a study in 2011. The determination: A staggering amount of voters aren’t just uninformed, but misinformed. Many are quick to blame the media for not doing it’s job.

I’m not going to be a shill for the media. But I will say it’s not helpful that there seems to be a cottage industry of made up garbage that makes its way onto social media sites.

Too many people seem to think that since they saw it on the Internet it must be true. I think of that car insurance commercial where an attractive young woman is talking to her insurance agent. She informs the agent “You can’t put anything on the Internet that’s not true.”

She then says she’s waiting for her date who is a French model. At that point a fanny-pack wearing lummox walks up with a haircut that makes him look like a deranged circa-1964 Paul McCartney. He gruffly utters “Bonjour” then he and his date walk off screen.

We have grown so cynical as a society, yet we too often lap up everything people put on the Internet. Recently I was talking to my folks and my dad says “Charles Manson is being paroled.” This struck me as odd and outrageous.

His source?

My mom read it on ... drumroll please ... Facebook.

So I go to the website Snopes.com that makes its bones by figuring out whether stuff posted on the Internet is true or false.

I quickly found that the story originated from Empire News. I never heard of Empire News. I went on to read the site publishes fictional news. The Manson story is bogus.

What does it say about our culture where we don’t trust what established outlets like the New York Times or Washington Post reports, but we have no problem with a seemingly outlandish story coming from a website most people have never heard of?

Everyone looks to bag on the “Lame Stream Media” but at least we attempt to get things right. We don’t aim to intentionally misinform our readers. We make mistakes. But we’re only human. And we always do our best to fix those mistakes.

Another whopper of a story that Snopes debunked was that the Obama administration was going to implant microchips in every U.S. citizen. I think most people with critical thinking skills can look at such a story and realize how crazy it is. The problem is there are a rising number of people who believe in such conspiracies.

We can blame the government for being inept or even corrupt. We can blame the media for falling short when it comes to doing its job. But when do we start holding ourselves accountable? When do we decide that being well-informed is a good thing?

If we continue along this path of lazy thinking and not looking at things with a critical eye we’re going to produce a generation of dullards and dopes.

And they’ll grow up to run governments and work at newspapers and TV stations. At least I think so. I read something like that on the Internet.

So it must be true.

 

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Daniel Riordan has been writing for newspapers since he was 16. Previous newspaper stops include Warsaw and Plymouth. He joined The Goshen News in March 2013 and is enjoying getting to know the city. He has up to this point been able to resist any urge to watch cat videos on YouTube.

I am a journalist for The Goshen News in Goshen, Ind. I handle regional news and am the digital content editor.

Shelly Wilfong is the director of the International Baccalaureat Degree program at Goshen High School in Goshen, Ind.

David Vantress is sports editor at The Goshen News. He is a 1994 journalism graduate of San Diego State University. David has opinions and isn't afraid to share them.

Sam Householder is the chief photographer at The Goshen News. He is a 2010 graduate of Ball State University, with a bachelor's degree in photojournalism. He lives in Goshen with his fiancee, Ashley, and their cat, Rascal.

Roger Schneider is city editor for The Goshen News. He enjoys bicycling, fishing and photography.

Scott Weisser is entertainment and emergency services editor for The Goshen News.