Is media attention even helpful anymore? Whether news media on local TV at 5 p.m. or social media flooding in at all hours through Facebook, Twitter and the likes of them, information is quickly spread regarding news and events around the world. Even business reviews get tangled up in the media. We rely on this information to be in the know. We relay this information to our family members by hitting the “like” or “share” or “retweet” buttons on our favorite social networks. We talk about what we heard or read at the dinner table. Like a wildfire in a drought, this information is quickly spread to millions of people around the nation.

So is this attention helpful? I believe it is in fact not helpful. I would further say that even more than not being helpful, it can be very hurtful. The truth of this news that is so quickly shared is questionable. We believe in this powerful media concept that if they talk about it on TV, it must be a fact. If it’s passed around on Facebook, it must be legitimate. Let me tell you, this isn’t even a little bit true.

Both the national and local news media speculates. A lot. They get their information from sources “close to the scene” that typically want to remain anonymous. They are so worried about reporting the information first and having viewers watch their news over the other stations that the fact checking, if done at all, is normally skewed to say the least. Need an example?

You’ll hear of a bus crash on the breaking news and stay glued to your television seeing how it all plays out. Maybe you pray for the victims, maybe you are just nosey, maybe you call the news station to see if there is a way to donate or help. But what I can guarantee that you aren’t doing is comparing stories or questioning what you are hearing because if you were, you’d hear on one station that the bus driver lost control because he/she suffered a heart attack while driving. On the next station they have a live phone interview with a passenger who says a “loud bang went off” right before the crash. The news anchor expands this by asking if it was a gunshot or a popped tire. The passenger doesn’t know. He couldn’t see. Now the news starts reporting a shooting happened on the bus causing it to crash. Two days later, it’s confirmed that the bus crashed after swerving because another vehicle cut it off, no gunfire, possibly a truck backfiring at the same time as it passed but no other reasons to believe the story of the loud bang had anything to do with the crash. See what I mean?

This isn’t to say that everything you hear on the news is not true. Many of the reports have been looked into more carefully. Many of the sources are able to speak on behalf of the story with all the public details. News media is important to our society but it has gotten out of control.

On top of news media, we now have social media compounding the problem. You can say virtually anything you want on Facebook and people will believe you. Think about the most recent lottery hoax. Millions of people shared that photo. Millions of people “liked” his post. And guess how many people ended up getting some of his mega millions lottery winnings? How about quotes about the presidential election or tragedies that have occurred like the Colorado movie theater shooting or most recently the Connecticut school shooting? These events bring out very powerful emotions in people. They are quick to believe every story about a political candidate caught in a scheme or a heroic tale of someone stepping up to save others. It’s hard to not feel compelled to take action when Morgan Freeman is making such a powerful statement, even when later Freeman’s statement is discovered to be a hoax.

Is it all true? We will probably never know. Media is designed to get our attention whether it’s for the good or the bad. Before jumping on the “I believe” bandwagon, use websites like Snopes.com to fact check. Compare stories to see what discrepancies there might be. Whether it’s a tragedy that affects the whole country or just a bad business review, you have to take responsibility for the information you retain and spread. You have to question where your information is coming from and use common sense on what to trust.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps businesses get found online.  Megan also writes expert business advice across the web.

 

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