Think twice before clicking share

Published 10:55 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018

If you were on social media Thanksgiving night, chances are you ran across several posts related to an active shooter at a large department store in Chambers County. These posts turned out to be untrue.

Those posts were published by several pages that act as their own “news agencies” and are followed by thousands of local people in both Chambers County and Troup County. It didn’t take long before the rumors began to swirl, leading several valid news agencies, including The Valley Times-News, to call local law enforcement to find out if the information was valid.

It wasn’t.

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And what actually took place wasn’t even close to what was “reported” initially.

According to the Valley Police Department, a drunk man ran from officers in Walmart, leading to a foot chase through the store. Officers attempted to subdue the man with a Taser, but never was a gun used by either the man or police.

The man didn’t even have a gun. As we understand, the most dangerous thing in his hands was a partially consumed cup of alcohol.

In today’s world, with the frequency of active shooter events and fake news, it’s more important than ever before for people to be aware of the information they read and post on social media. When we see something noteworthy going on in public, our first instinct is to whip out our phones and to be the first to post something, so that it can be shared with the world.

However, when that information is factually incorrect, it can cause panic and have repercussions. We’re sure many read those posts and reached out to family members or friends out shopping, trying to make sure they were OK.

Several of the pages that reported the incorrect information posted a second time, one noting that it was just the nature of media to put the information ‘out there’ and confirm as quickly as possible afterward. This is the opposite of how professional journalism should work.

It’s vitally important to double and triple check sources before publishing information, and while news agencies get things wrong, our burden of proof is very high before publishing information. If someone calls us and reports a crime or an event such as this, our first step is to reach out to the police department to find out if there’s any truth to it.

The general public obviously doesn’t have to adhere to the same standards, however, we do hope that anyone sharing news with the community will think twice before sharing and consider double checking that information with a legitimate source rather than posting it from a less reliable one.

And we also hope the general public will remember this example the next time they begin to hit “share” on social media. It always pays to double check the facts of a story and to double check its source before posting.