Ever played a game of “telephone”? If not, here’s the rundown. There’s a line of people standing next to each other and the first person whispers a sentence to the next person. Then that second person whispers what they heard to the next person. This continues until it reaches the end of the line when the final participant says out loud to everybody what that secret sentence is. The end result usually involves that final guy relaying a message that’s nowhere near the original.
The game “telephone” is a metaphor for inaccuracies in rumors. You tell a story, it gets passed down, some details are mixed up and the result ends in a story that’s nowhere near the original.
This happens on the internet too when bloggers rewrite stories originally published elsewhere.
Words have meanings. Sounds like a very “duh” statement to make, yet it’s sad that I have to lay that out because when stories are republished or summarized, the message tends to change because of the different words being used.
For example, there’s a difference in saying “John said the tomatoes were delicious” versus “The tomatoes were delicious.” Outright saying the tomatoes are delicious means the writer wants his readers to know that the tomatoes are indeed delicious. However, writing that John said they were delicious puts the onus on John. The writer isn’t saying they were delicious — he’s saying John said they were delicious. Slight difference, but a difference nonetheless.
Whenever you’re reading a story that is rewritten or it sources another news outlet, my advice is to go to the original article. That way, you can get the message as intended by the reporter.
I’ll admit, right now is not the best of times to be working in journalism. There’s misplaced distrust on folks who legitimately are doing a great job. But these websites or blogs that republish stories without any original reporting are making things a bit difficult for us reporters. Don’t let the folks hungry for clicks cloud your judgment. No matter if you agree with the subject matter, always make sure you’re on a trusted site with original reporting.
I’m tired of that phrase “fake news.” I’m tired of having to defend our reporting to people who aren’t happy with the article. But these blogs aren’t helping. All I ask from you is instead of blindly sharing an article from one of those websites that have gone viral, check out the source. Make sure you’re reading it from the original reporter. That way you can at least be reassured that you’re getting the intended message.