Ashleigh Johnston, Consultant 

My blog will be bit more somber than my usual entries. Over the weekend, a young woman was driving late at night, wrecked her car and died. Unfortunately, this tragedy is all too common but in reading the news coverage something jumped out at me. As details are being withheld, pending an investigation into the accident, journalists are forced to be creative in how they report the story. One outlet reported which high school the victim had graduated from, and cited their source as the victim’s own Facebook page.

This brought a couple of things to mind. First, it allowed me to see some good in the progression of social media. Although sometimes it feels like a hindrance, keeping people too connected and too inclined to “Facebook stalk” (it is a frequently used term), it serves a purpose. It provides information that wouldn’t have been so readily available. It gives journalists trying to report breaking news an opportunity to reveal what details are already public, but that readers may not have gone out and searched for themselves. In times of tragedy, or confusion, people are desperate for information and the media, representatives, etc. are there to provide it.

But the second thing it brought to mind is a dangerous trend. Although social media provides details quickly, it’s not always accurate. I worry the media may be too focused on getting a story out quickly, rather than doing the leg work to make sure their facts stand up. Not to rag on my own generation, but we have made social media a daily habit in our lives for getting information, and that habit may cross over in to our work as well. We can’t ever forget that the grudge-work leads to factual reporting, and that is the news outlet’s duty, as well as the firms behind some of the stories as well.

While social media is a great resource, it must be taken in stride. Don’t rush to get the news, statement or the response out until you’ve done the work to fact-check yourself and your resources. You can never be too sure that the messages you are putting out into the world are accurate because that message may be the only thing the public is grasping on to for answers and they deserve nothing but the truth.