Social Media Verses News Reporting

Around about 10 years ago I cam across a little known movie called “Gossip”. The central idea to the film is that gossip and rumours can be looked upon as fact. In fact its summed up by the quote;

Gossip and news *are* the same thing, they’ve always been the same thing. People tell stories, that’s what makes us human.

If there has ever been an example of this, it must be this story of what happened to ITV Westcountry:

160x120 knut the polar bear at berlin zoo Sipa Press / REX

ITV has acknowledged an “embarrassing” on-air error after a reporter claimed that a polar bear had washed up on a Cornish beach, but the animal later turned out to be a cow.

Naomi Lloyd, presenter of ITV’s West Country breakfast bulletin, told viewers that the large, white beast had been brought in on the tide close to the seaside town of Bude.

“A walker in Cornwall has caught an extraordinary sight on camera. A polar bear has washed up on a beach near Bude,” said Lloyd.

“The bear comes from the Arctic Circle and an investigation is under way as to how it could have ended up there.”

Now it turns out that the cow which was  bleached white by the sea, was spotted by dog walkers… who in turn contacted the TV station. The TV station then put this story live on air.

This has got me thinking. Is news reporting ‘fact’ or ‘word of mouth’?

If the latter, is social media replacing ‘word of mouth’?

For example, if I want to check travel information, I check Twitter – not a website. Another example is that I heard about the bomb scare in Exeter the other day via Twitter – not via traditional news mediums.

Are we really getting to the point where gossip social media is starting to over take traditional news reporting?

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