More Sandy Hook misinformation. Good job, media!

The media keeps perpetuating myths. In an era where you can fact check as fast as you can type G-o-o-g-l-e, they would rather not because it takes too long. So, just assume and throw the info out there because it sounds compelling.

That Pro-Gun “Sandy Hook Father” Isn’t Actually a Sandy Hook Father

The […] video, titled “SANDY HOOK FATHER OWNS CONGRESS,” has been viewed more than 2.4 million times since it was published to YouTube on Sunday. In it, Bill Stevens offers a fervid defense of gun rights, citing his constitutional right to bear arms and telling Connecticut lawmakers: “I will tell you here today, you will take my ability to protect my Victoria from my cold, dead hands.”

On Sunday, roughly a week after Stevens spoke at the hearing and the same day the clip in question was posted, the Examiner reported matter-of-factly that Stevens’ daughter, Victoria, “attended Sandy Hook Elementary school, scene of the mass shooting in December.” The following day, stated plainly that she had “survived the crime at Sandy Hook.” On Tuesday, the Daily Caller did the same, explaining that she had “survived the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.” We heard a similar story from, as well as from a spate of other conservative sites.

The problem, as you’ve no doubt guessed by now, is that Stevens is not actually the father of a Sandy Hook student. Victoria is a fifth-grader at Reed Intermediate School, located about a mile or so from the elementary school that was the scene of the tragic mass shooting. In fairness to Stevens, the misinformation was not his doing.

He did set the story straight. But the misinformation was carried as the news spread from outlet to outlet. Even if corrections were printed, the page views on those are much less than the original mistaken info. Is the answer to update articles LIVE with corrections? Probably better than this and easy enough to do with online content, especially if the correction is shown!

Another problem I’ve been seeing ubiquitous on the web is bad titles of pieces. This article says that some titles, including that of the video, suggested that this testimony was in front of Congress, not the Connecticut law body. This is so common. The article cites correct info but the title is off the mark giving people the wrong impression. They are influenced by the title! It needs to be correct just as much as it needs to be attention grabbing.

In addition to the previous MSNBC video fiasco, all this contributes to the mess of misinformation currently circulating in the media about Sandy Hook. Once it’s out there, it’s so hard to reign in all the crap to find the truth. *Sigh*

  7 comments for “More Sandy Hook misinformation. Good job, media!

  1. One Eyed Jack
    February 8, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    In today’s media, corrections should be placed in the original article, complete with the original text, the correction, and explanation.

  2. RDW
    February 8, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Yes, absolutely, that makes perfectly good sense. They should really take the ten minutes to check their facts before printing a misleading story that will effect millions of people’s opinions, too. Very shoddy journalism.

  3. Jim Price
    February 8, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    “Very shoddy journalism.” That pretty much describes every news organization out there. They are employing fewer and fewer real journalists, replacing them with wannabe journalists who are barely out of high school, have a very poor grasp of written English, and no training in journalism.

    Add to that the rush to be first out with a story and you see what we get.

  4. One Eyed Jack
    February 8, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    Additionally, fewer and fewer media outlets do their own reporting. Many rely heavily on reprinting articles from other sources… articles that are rarely checked.

  5. Graham
    February 9, 2013 at 4:19 AM

    Which suggests that the newsmedia is reverting to pre-1850, when this sort of thing was the norm. The latest issue of Monster Talk has a good discussion on the consequences.

  6. Massachusetts
    February 10, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    Well, there’s “churnalism,” where a writer is paid a small amount per piece and churns out large numbers of short articles for online publication–hundreds per month perhaps. This means there isn’t going to be a lot of research or fact checking on any given article. For certain types of pieces, like personal experience and opinion, this may work, but a writer, at some point, will need to do good research for a more substantive piece (however short), so the facts and the analysis of those facts will eventually suffer in a churnalism environment, even with bright people doing the work (then consider the dimmer bulbs participating in the process, and you have a troubled system).

    I just read a book where the author promises to teach you how to write quickly, and I mean super rapidly (he churns out 400 articles per month), on any topic, even if you have no experience or training in that field. He suggests 5 or 10 minutes of online research, and about the same to write your draft. Once again, if you are showcasing a personal anecdote to emphasize your opinion, and the topic or theme is more window dressing, then you may be in the green zone with that method, but if you are trying to deal with a serious topic like Sandy Hook in a substantive manner (or the topic calls for that kind of treatment whether you realize it or not), then good luck to you, you’ll need it!

  7. Massachusetts
    February 10, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    Many of these titles may be key word optimized, so they are going for key words that will attract viewers and get pulled up in popular searches, weather or not they are relevant to the article in question. So “congress” gets more hits than “local legislature” or what have you, so they use that, and feel it’s “close enough” because it’s still political. So it’s a compromise between accuracy and commerce, with truth replaced by some brand of truthiness, and we get badly named articles that misrepresent the topic at hand. Ideally SEO should match the proper reader with the proper article, but the misuse matches people with articles inappropriately and does a disservice to the readership, the web, and journalism.

Comments are closed.