Social Networks: The downside of getting breaking news on the social network platforms
I am always interested in finding out what is going on, not only in my little corner, but throughout the world! Like many of you, I find myself always trying to balance my source of information, whether it be a radio/television broadcast or the daily newspapers. I am always on the lookout for any newsworthy item and this quest is never satisfied in a day, instead it grows stronger each day.
The social platforms have provided, what I call, instant gratification; for there is nothing satisfying as reading a story in print media or electronic media that you already had received directly on your computer or mobile as it broke. This keeps one ahead of his/her pack and it makes for an interesting talking point during interactions with friends/colleagues.
But the social network platform is new and therefore its pitfalls have not yet been fully tested, so it is advisable that one navigates it with caution.
This point was made clear last week when the Daily Dispatch reported a story that was doing rounds on social networks about a kid snatching ring operating in the East London area. This sent panic in everyone in the community and schools were particularly on high alert. But after a day, it was soon established that this piece of information was not true as none of the school principals and teachers have seen or heard anything untoward during the day of this so-called kidnapping story. None of the parents reported any of their children missing both with the schools and with the local police. Assurances were given by the police that they were monitoring the situation but stated that the validity of the information/details given in this story, were being disputed in every angle.
The events that followed thereafter prompted me to write, because it seems, there is an urgent need to educate our communities that social networks cannot be taken as the authority in breaking news stories for the following reasons:
1. If the article comes from an unreliable source, that is, not from an account of a reputable news agent;
2. Private individuals who may report their ‘observations’ but fail to state them as such;
3. Private individuals who pick up a story from an unreliable source and convey it as if it is a first-hand experience
4. Rumours conveyed as facts to the public.
News agent around the world have one thing in common: editors whose function it is to safeguard the public by ensuring that every piece of information received, be it via an anonymous tip-off, is thoroughly investigated, details verified as facts, and content reliable before it is released to the consumers (readers, viewers, listeners).
Without this ‘filter’ it is distressing to think what could have made its way into our homes and our TV screens, radios and newspapers.
Newspapers are guided by legislation in their work of gathering news stories, identifying witnesses and verifying information before publishing. It is this mandate and responsible they have, that makes news agents, reliable sources of information because if they fail in any aspect of this legal mandate and responsibility, their credibility is at stake and they need to make a public withdrawal or apology.
Unfortunately, some of the creators of these rumours and chain letters are faceless cowards who cannot be traced. They have no reputation to defend and maintain and they enjoy in causing mayhem and misery for others.
What happened in the East London story, two young men are nursing terrible wounds infiltrated by an angry crowd accusing them of kidnapping children. Fortunately, they were saved by the police in the nick of time. It was not to be for Mbulelo Mtati, a 23 year old who was beaten to death by a group of women who ‘thought he was snatching children’ (Daily Dispatch, 5 November 2013).
Let sanity prevail.
Those who are on social networks, subscribe to reliable news agents’ accounts for information that is trustworthy and informative.
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