Santa And The Dying Child – A Study In The Making Of Fake News

Graham found this …

… heart-warming story that went viral …. a hospital Santa holds a dying boy in his arms. Except for one small problem …. no-one ever checked to see if it was true. And now major media outlets that sucked it up are trying to walk it back. It just exemplifies how little actual journalism is practised these days.

In the case of the Santa Claus story, it appears the [Washington] Post similarly did not perform the most basic of due diligence to call around to the local hospitals in the area to confirm the basic details of the story before running it. Yet, more concerningly, the editorial note it subsequently appended to the story places the blame solely on the News Sentinel, while not saying a word about why the Post itself didn’t do any fact checking of its own. In short, the Post’s argument is that it simply trusted another outlet to do due diligence and that once a story enters the news cycle, no other outlet bears responsibility to verify it. This is remarkably similar to the castle defense formerly popular in cyber security circles, in which a company would assume that the outer layers of its network would verify that incoming network traffic was trusted and that once traffic entered the network it could be trusted without additional verification.

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John asked …

… “What’s journalism Dad”

“Well son, back when I was a lad, newspapers used to employ people who’s job was to discover the truth and publish it. It was a long and arduous process that was very important to keep people in power accountable. Sadly all that was overtaken by the need to #win. That is get the most clicks. So it was no longer a game of quality and consideration – but one of ‘likes’. So newspapers started to focus on what made people like them.”

“What’s A Newspaper Dad”