Corrections necessary if fiction corrupts facts
The effects of social media and other tools of today’s internet are turning the information age into what might be better termed the disinformation age.
The rumor mill has, of course, been active for generations. People are capable of jumping to conclusions before even beginning to investigate the facts, especially in times of heightened sensitivity. And we’re not just talking about media posts.
An example occurred last month during the local women’s march in McMinnville.
At the rally held in the McMinnville Grand Ballroom, murmurs began circulating that people were lurking on the fringes in black masks, a sign of potential danger. In fact, one younger attendee was wearing a black ski mask.
As reporter Tom Henderson wrote, the boy’s mother said he wanted to support the cause, but felt uneasy in large crowds due to autism. The black face covering helped alleviate his anxiety.
That case was of disinformation was far more innocent than the one that played out with a local school book and a Portland radio personality.
The young adult novel, “Eleanor & Park” was shelved last month by the Yamhill-Carlton School Board because members found language used unsuitable for eighth-graders. Soon after, a misguided parent found a passage of erotic-themed fan fiction and mistook it for a passage from the book.
The piece of fiction described characters engaging in oral sex. Thinking it was part of the actual novel, the outraged parent posted it to Facebook, and social media did its thing from there.
Lars Larson shared the post on his Larson Show Facebook page, accompanied by a strongly worded attack on the school district for promoting such filth.
Y-C superintendent Charan Cline rightfully demanded an apology, while author Rainbow Rowell requested deletion of the unfounded post. The radio host pulled the post, but offered no apology for grossly misleading his faithful followers.
No one is going to accuse Larson of being a journalist these days. But for many people, he serves as a news source.
His show’s Facebook page tarnished the integrity of Y-C schools, and it has more than 100,000 likes. The post may have been deleted, but without a proper correction, or some other acknowledgment of error, the damage persists.
There must be agreement from everyone — journalists, consumers, media personalities and so forth — to curb the trend of fake news, alternative facts and disinformation. It’s not a political agenda, it’s a civic affair.
The melting pot of Americans will never totally agree on issues. But if we cannot use just facts and honest debate, progress is going to be that much more difficult to achieve.
Errors in reporting happen all the time. When a fact is misstated in this newspaper, a correction is published.
We’re sure Larson has no problem espousing Trump’s rhetoric that the liberal media is using lies and fake news to bring him down. But when his show cannot honestly confront a major error made by its staff — one shaming an Oregon school system under false pretenses — it’s simply part of the problem.