A letter received on April 2 from interstate sums up the perils of social media and of a quick-draw publishing.
In response to a social media post that a Eurobodalla school had changed the name of its Easter hat parade due to a “complaint” from a parent (see our front page story), a Queenslander felt compelled to write a letter to the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner.
We wish the writer had also felt compelled to check his facts before believing an unattributed and unverified social media post.
We have printed the letter here, exactly as it was sent to us, including grammar and punctuation.
“Batemans Bay Primary cancels Easter Hat. Parade
Just because of one complaint. The. Headmaster. If Batemans Bay. Primary.state School has cancelled
The Easter Hat. Parade.
Why. I've heard it was over one complaint. From a certain person Who wasn't a Christian.
Little kids enjoy the Parade Showing off the hats. Their mothers made.
Let kids be kids again.”
There are many problems with this letter, but by far the biggest is the unquestioning attitude of the writer.
If it is published on a website or on social media it must be true?
Every media outlet makes mistakes.
A publisher who says he or she has never made an error is lying, pure and simple.
However, owning up to mistakes and acting quickly to correct them and clarify confusion is what responsible publishers do.
This week, the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner has corrected mistakes in two stories (see a correction in our sports section).
We don’t like making them, but we are happy to own up to them, and to get better at avoiding them.
However, a society where large numbers of people do not appear to have the tools to sort fact from fiction or even to care enough to try is a recipe for returning to the dark ages.
Websites and social media pages which publish letters and posts without first checking the veracity of claims made are behaving irresponsibly.
They are ensuring the spread of lies.
Publishing without also providing or attempting to provide right of reply to those named or unnamed (but easily identifiable) falls into the same category.
They are ensuring reputations are ruined.
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