Most of the time when people talk about the fake news epidemic they are referring to fake stories about politics or medical studies. It has become an issue on Facebook and other social media sites and even a national news story. A real one. Fake news drives message boards, rumor sites and fuels blogs that have very little interest in reporting on anything that doesn’t show up in their inbox. In the home entertainment world, the results of poor reporting or fact checking are not going to topple a government or cause thousands to get sick. But you know what it does do? It hurts the credibility of those who work to do it right. In every industry.
I understand that not every story is the Watergate scandal but it is just embarrassing when a story breaks simply because nobody bothered to follow up with anyone of record. Recently there was a story bubbling up out of CES about a box “Made Just for Disney Content”. Heck, there was even a picture of it. One blogger on the show floor typed up a quick description of the device and of course the description was copied and pasted into dozens of “authoritative” sites without anybody really getting the story down. Why? Because just like other forms of electronic media it’s all about the clicks to most folks out there and not about telling a story or informing anyone. Shortly after the story began to grow legs the company that was featured in the bogus story reached out to say there is no Disney Streaming box coming, that the box was just a concept. A number of sites updated their info to say that the earlier reported information had been updated, within the story of course because you can’t miss out on those clicks. So there are still numerous headlines still proclaiming the Disney box aimed at kids etc. I won’t link to the stories, just google Disney Streaming Box and you will see what I’m talking about.
A few simple questions about the device would have stopped the bogus reporting from coming out. “Hey what is this thing?” “Is it part of a service?” “Why would Disney release its own box when their strategy is obviously all about distribution partnerships?” “Is there anyone who can tell me more about this thing?” Maybe ask oneself, why didn’t Disney break the announcement instead of waiting for someone to trip over it at CES?”
Do you know how I confirmed that Amazon was working with partners to release new TV’s running the Fire TV OS? There were representatives from Amazon and the respective partner companies on site and I asked them to explain what was going on with the partnership. I got names, cards and recorded representatives on video in some cases. We all have this simple ability called asking questions and follow up questions. And just because we are reporting on tech does not mean that we have zero responsibility to know what we are talking about. In fact, so many people look to websites in order to learn about technology and trust what they read in print tech reporters can cost our readers time and money by feeding them nonsense without checking facts.
The blogosphere has got to grow up. Freedom of expression is important and using it correctly is more complicated than not shouting “Fire” at a movie theater. It’s about producing content that informs instead of confuses, It’s about headlines that actually represent the content that will be found in a story. Tell a story worth telling guys. Good reporting can be rewarded too. Not as fast as a slick, totally misleading headline can, but at least you will be doing a service and not degrading the tenuous reputation that the media clings to.