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OPINION: Social media failure – The Chatham Voice



A tragic event in Chatham brought out two ugly sides of folks recently.

On July 6, a freight train hit and killed a woman on one of the rail lines. She was struck between the Princess and Murray street crossings.

Local media outlets worked to deliver the story to readers and listeners. In tragedies such as this, information can be slow, as police seek to notify next of kin first and foremost.

As a result, that afternoon and evening, we did not have the information of gender and age to share with our readers. It was the same with other news outlets.

However, that did not stop the social media armchair reporters from spreading rumours. One person shared a post off another news outlet’s website, with the information they knew the person killed was an eight-year-old boy.

Others saw that and shared and shared the post.

An adult woman is not a young boy.

Such speculative sharing only serves to put temporary fear into the hearts of local parents. Imagine if you lived in the East Side of Chatham and were a parent of a young boy, one who was out playing with friends that afternoon. Most eight year olds don’t carry cell phones with them. It’s possible that a few parents had their worst fears floating around in their heads briefly last Wednesday afternoon, until they managed to track down their children.

Wait for the facts. Rumours serve no one, especially when they are not identified as such.

That same afternoon, as the long freight train was stopped in Chatham for hours, rail cars blocked north-south intersections from Princess Street to Merritt Avenue, all but dividing the city. Highway 40 and Keil Drive were the only ways to get around from north to south.

Drivers became particularly impatient.

This is a community that prides itself for pulling over for funeral processions. Aside from that kind act, our drivers are as selfish as any big-city commuters. Cars blocked intersections, as their drivers demanded the right of way, traffic signals be damned.

Others sped through parking lots to try to reach an intersecting street faster.

Who cares if your actions ultimately slow everyone else down? The rest of us do.

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