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Reminders of the importance to verify

It goes against our nature now. At one time the news appeared sporadically, with one installment around six in the evening or via the morning paper. Today, consumption never stops and every now and then were given examples of the potholes that can come because of it.

In the hours after the news broke of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. Conn., I heard several reports that ended up being false. The shooters parents were both murdered. His mother was a teacher at the school and it was her classroom he targeted. Ryan, not Adam, Lanza was the gunman. A following intentional string of hoaxes spread via social media became such a problem that police said charges could follow.

I even had a personal episode related to the story of not verifying concretely. Like many of you, I was trying desperately to find high-resolution photos for a Sandy Hook story to appear in The Christian Index. Florida Baptist Witness managing editor and BCA officer Joni Hannigan (follow her on Twitter and Facebook) came to the rescue with an email recounting her exchange with Erik Ogren, senior public relations specialist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The BGEA had a team of chaplains in Newtown and Erik was kind enough to make their photos available for publication.

After getting permission from Erik, Joni forwarded a Dropbox link of more than 50 photos to various members of Baptist media. I emailed Joni and asked if it was okay to post the link to the BCA Facebook page. Joni said that was fine with source information because it would be a good tool for BCA members.

What I forgot was that BCA Facebook posts automatically go to the BCA Twitter as well. So instead of the link being available just to friends of the Facebook page, I inadvertently put it out there to anyone doing a Twitter search for Sandy Hook. Oopsie.

After realizing my mistake I panicked and deleted both posts, but have since added it back to the BCA Facebook page.

Most recently, I posted on my personal Facebook page this morning a question asking if people were going to delete their Instagram accounts over the new Terms of Service slated to take effect in January. Basically, the ToS released Monday left the door wide open for photos on Instagram, and by extension Facebook, to be used by advertisers with no compensation to the owner. At the time I was asking the question, Instagram had already backed down from the new conditions. However, to further show the speed at which news moves Flickr was already promoting a way to entice Instagram users not happy with the announcement.

To my surprise, many people were unaware of the furor or hadnt taken a closer look, which resulted in a pretty good online discussion over personal copyrights and alternatives to photosharing. Many had already deleted their Instagram accounts entirely, which may prove to have been a little premature.

Baptist deadlines don't run as around-the-clock as CNN's, so there was a grace period of sorts for facts to sort themselves out. It can actually be an advantage given the extra time for misreporting to work itself out. When your organization is built about Christian principles, though, it becomes a weightier motivation to make sure what you report is truth, not rumor.

POSTED: Dec 19, 2012 | Scott Barkley, Production Editor, The Christian Index - sbarkley@christianindex.org


© 2013 Baptist Communicators Association