Be Careful! Media "Hot Takes" About Breaking News Are Dumb, Irresponsible
As a species, we love chaos. Excitement makes us excited. Real world drama feeds our lives when television dramas cannot. This fascination with death, destruction and misery is just a part of the human condition and I'm no way condemning or condoning it. It is neither bad nor good, moral nor immoral. It just is.
But our fascination with that which goes wrong is intentionally exploited by a media vying for our attention. Heck, you may well argue this very column is nothing but an attempt to get your attention during a period of chaos and drama. I wouldn't even argue with you.
In order to get your attention, in order to win your clicks, media ramps up the chaos. With irresponsible speculation. They'll tweet in all caps about "BREAKING: THIS THING IS BEING REPORTED!" possibly without fact-checking whatever that thing is.
Already today, a story about a bomb had to be walked back. The details were all wrong. In vying to get your attention, media bobbleheads rushed to hit the SEND button on all of social media. Spreading fake news before even the news knew it was fake.
These same media bobbleheads are also quick to offer their "hot takes" about who, what and why the current OMG CHAOS thing is happening.
Now, you may also be speculating as to who, what or why today's crisis is happening. Unless your opinion is influencing hundreds of thousands of people, your speculation is just part of the same fascination with death, destruction and misery. I, too, am wondering who sent the bombs and why they sent them. That's natural. You may be discussing theories amongst a group of friends and family members, trying to be detectives in a yet unsolved case. That's totally fair.
What isn't fair, what is foolhardy, is to assign a tribalistic bias against a breaking story. What is wrong is leveraging an influential platform, like a media platform, to spread a narrative via a conspiracy theory about a breaking story of which no one has any concrete facts on motive or offender. Like how media uses every single mass shooting to spread an anti-gun and anti-gun owner agenda. As an example.
You may be scouring our past posts about breaking news to call us out as hypocrites. That's fair. Likely you'll come across stories we've had to update after more facts came in. I'd like to say most of those stories are a few years old. We've been burned by this firing from the hip, knee-jerk "reporting" in efforts TO BE FIRST!!! We're human after all.
We've usually only speculated when it looked very clear -- based on patterns -- what kind of motive was at play. Still, we like to wait. But sometimes we have to quickly correct an irresponsible media eager to spread their narrative with breaking news. Like mass shootings.
What I'm asking you for is pause. We don't yet know what the details are to this current chaos. Breaking news is often full of false reporting, speculation, and hot takes. All I ask is, before you post it to social media, before you spread it like herpes, don't. Just wait. Likely we won't have any hard facts for hours if not days.
Be careful what you share.