Yesterday, Shelby’s “Facts matter: Covering tragedies via social media” generated a great deal of conversation between the two of us as we happened to be traveling together on a business trip. I accused her of going on a rant; but in hindsight I realize she handled a delicate topic as only someone with 17 years of professional journalism can. It also turns out that for the most part we agree on this topic (That’s different than saying “Shelby is right.”).
Just the facts Jack
During a tragedy of the magnitude of the Sikh Temple shooing, finding facts on social media is akin to searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Of course in social media’s defense, trying to find accurate facts as the event unfolds via traditional media is equally difficult. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, each and every media outlet wants to have the first scoop; even if that means putting news choppers up in the air and broadcasting images that could quite likely put law enforcement officials in danger. Damn the torpedoes. Nothing but ratings matter!
From the perspective of social media, events like these remind me that many wannabe reporters with social media accounts will put out anything they’ve heard without vetting the information in any way shape or form (see Shelby’s post for examples). Then you combine that with an outpouring of emotional and politically motivated speeches when all we should really be doing is praying (if you’re into that sort of thing) for the victims and their loved ones. In my humble opinion, as the event unfolds and people lie dead and dying, it’s really not the time to push your political agenda or spew your raw emotional responses.
Lose the me, me, me – Stop and consider for one moment that unless you are in some way involved on a firsthand basis, it’s probably not about you. Anything you’re sharing just fills up a Twitter stream that others could be searching for factual news about the event.
If you think this post is about you …
If you think this post is about you, it’s not. I’m truly not bitching and complaining about the way you utilize Twitter. I’ve just reached the point that when a famous person dies or a tragedy like this occurs – I tune out.
This doesn’t mean I’m a heartless bastard. Instead, I choose to be alone with my emotions while I reconcile what these senseless acts mean to our humanity as a whole. Perhaps “alone” isn’t even the right word. During both the Aurora, Col., shooting and the more recent Sikh Temple shooting (less than 30 miles from my own home), I discussed the events offline with close friends.
Be patient, let the truth come out
I’m one of the most impatient people on the entire planet earth. But I’ve learned with these events that Shelby is right. It’s the official police news conference where you will stand the best chance of learning what happened. Like veteran reporters (the old style print ones), they don’t start sharing facts until they are in fact vetted facts. No police agency or print newspaper wants egg on their face for having released something as a fact that a day later is not.
For example, in the case of this latest event, it’s starting to look like a crazy man broke up with his girlfriend and couldn’t handle it. Sure it also appears he’s got some white supremacy in his background (which I’m not defending because as a Jew he hated me as much as my Sikh brothers and sisters) but for more than 10 years it does not appear he acted on that hate by killing people. He snapped; just like the crazy man in Colorado. It sucks and it’s tragic. Every time it happens, my faith in humanity takes a hit that only time and the good deeds of others can restore (and maybe kittens, which should explain the image with this post).
And now I’ve said my piece
With this blog post, I break my silence on both these recent tragedies. And this is it. I’m done, I’ve said my piece. I’ll continue to monitor traditional media for facts that help explain the unexplainable, but that’s about it. Honestly I may not even respond to comments on this post. At the risk of exposing my soft underbelly … it’s just too damn painful.