The modern version of broken telephone
So I managed to go on a pretty dramatic wild goose chase for the first time since I began working at The Compass. The culprit? Social media. Now don’t get me wrong, I have been referred to as the guru of social media in the office since it’s my main means of contacting sources for my stories and I’ll sporadically use it to find leads — case in point, the story about the boys and the gocart was found on Facebook.
On the morning of Sept. 15, my Facebook newsfeed was bombarded with information on an incident that happened in Perry’s Cove, Conception Bay.
The posts said there was car fire that took place along the edge of a cliff and the two occupants were dead. One person even explained that their family witnessed a body being lifted up from the cliff. But stories did range from car fire to a fight that lead to a death.
Many of those commenting were locals so I thought there was a pretty good chance there was some truth to the story, so I decided I would chase it.
It was Sunday so I decided to take a drive to the community and see for myself what was going on.
To my surprise, when I arrived there were no fire trucks, ambulances or police cars. I drove around, looking for locals to ask them where the “incident” took place.
One man finally pointed me towards an old path that led to a single house on the edge of a cliff.
I thought, “Finally.” But where were the emergency rescue personnel?
It was so quiet I could hear the waves on top of the 50-something metre cliff and the crunch of the gravel under my sandals.
That was when I called the RCMP dispatch in St. John’s.
Within minutes I received a call back from a Trinity Conception officer, and his response actually made me laugh. The story wasn’t just blown out of proportion. It was “blown out of this planet.”
Turns out there was no fire, no car, no deaths and no cliffs. The officer explained a couple of drunk men were walking along the road in the community and one slipped and hit his head. How it got as far as it did is beyond me.
As a reporter I rely on sources ( from both sides) to get a story out, but this has made me question the validity of social media.
I know, I know. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. And I don’t. But when a story is repeated by dozens of people, it’s worth checking on.
It appears the “broken telephone” game I played as a kid is back in full swing, but this new generation of technology is giving it a whole new meaning.