Sunday, May 26, 2013

Media Feeding Frenzy

I have a Twitter account. You can see the feed just to the left of this post. It's 100% public and anyone with access to the internet can see every Tweet I've sent (all 7,300+ of 'em). You won't see anything terribly salacious though as I have implemented some strict rules over the last couple years; the two biggest being: no f-bombs and nothing derogatory/defamatory toward an individual. In other words, try as often as possible to use my nice words and don't make it personal. In spite of this, you have no reason to believe that anything I post is even remotely true and because of that I do my best not to give you any reason to doubt me.

When I see tweets out of context that (in my opinion) cross some lines I mostly just ignore them. I certainly can't be the defender of everybody on the Internet, nor do I want to be, but when one or more of my friends is involved I tend to take notice. This happened recently and until I was able to gain access to the appropriate context things looked pretty crazy, like something out of a fake news magazine. However, I got the appropriate context and have since chosen to stay the heck out of it and let the system and people directly involved do what they do. I just wish that proper context had been made available along with all the other tweets that were being tossed around.

I've written about being careful about what you tweet before and in today's world of instantly mass distributed information it's more important than ever for people to be cautious about what they publish. Sadly, most do not. Instead, they just get angry, type, and press send. You may have noticed that news outlets tend to lag when it comes to the release of information. This is because they are supposed to have a little something called journalistic integrity. They are supposed to fact check and double, sometimes triple verify before publishing. Supposedly, they require proof, but we all know that not every news outlet has the same definition and not every one goes about obtaining it the same way (or at all in some cases). As a friend pointed out to me recently, "your credibility and integrity are directly tied to the media organization who signs your checks." I had made a reference to The Toronto Star in comparison to FOX News and we were speaking of course on the recent scandal that has rocked the mayor's office in Toronto.

There used to be a clear difference between an organization operating completely above board and one of lesser integrity. It used to be really easy to differentiate between The Toronto Star and FOX News. After what I've seen over the past 10 days I'm sad to report that it's not so easy any more. As far as I can tell, once the Rob Ford story broke every media outlet in Canada (and some in the U.S.) started behaving like someone on Twitter with no followers, tweets with links to questionable websites, and an egg for a profile picture.

If I was able to draw, there'd be a picture of Rob Ford in the ocean with a bunch of shark fins circling him, each one with the name of a media outlet tattooed on it (the largest fin being the Toronto Star). There'd be a dude in a life raft looking all shipwrecked and scraggly and holding binoculars. On the side of his boat would be "S.S. Gawker". Until I can take some art lessons, this will have to do:

There's a certain irony to me utilizing an image stolen from FOX in this post

Listen, I'm not a Rob Ford fan. I've shamefully made a comment or two at his expense this week. A good many people, however, have done a lot more than just crack a joke, and with less evidence than there was to support the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

At least I will give Mr. Ford the benefit of the doubt:

No proof = didn't happen.

Don't get me wrong, I'm also not a fan of any jerk who abuses power and uses money and influence to do nefarious, morally reprehensible, or illegal things. But is this what it has come to? Has the rest of the world given up on demanding proof? Has the age of instant information whet our appetite to such a degree that we have finally shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused?

I certainly hope not, but more and more it's looking like that's the direction it's headed.

Welcome to the Court of Twitter:
Trial by Internet with traditional media judge presiding over a jury of your social media peers; thumbs hovering over the send button and salivating at the thought of hanging the accused in 140 characters or less.

~ Andrew

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