There is a reason traditional news outlets are careful to the point of paranoia about ensuring the information we distribute is accurate. We know the consequences for disseminating inaccurate, perhaps dramatized or exaggerated information. It is important our readers know they can trust what we print.
But in the world of social media, there are no such standards. It is the responsibility of the consumer to determine whether the information they have received is accurate. Too few people take seriously that responsibility.
Earlier this week, Parkersburg Police felt compelled to respond to social media reports that a horrific crime had taken place in City Park. Widely spread rumors painted a dark picture, when the truth is nothing like what was being said on social media.
Police had to tell the public there was, in fact, no cause for concern at the park, though of course they asked the public to report any REAL concerns.
“This type of cooperation with the public is appreciated and is effective in helping the Parkersburg Police Department keep the community safe,” said a news release from the department.
What is not appreciated or helpful is the spreading of wild rumors that only instill baseless fear and make the job harder for law enforcement.
Be more responsible than that, ladies and gentlemen. If you don’t know something is true, don’t spread it around. Know the source of the information, verify what you can, and for goodness sake don’t embellish something that starts with a grain of truth until it becomes an outright lie.
Communication has become too easy and far-reaching for us to do so as irresponsibly as what took place this week.
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