Cross­ing the line be­tween ru­mor and fact

North Penn Life - - OPINION -

With the advent of smart­phones and tablets, of Face­book and Twit­ter, some be­lieve ev­ery­one th­ese days is a jour­nal­ist. There’s even been a phrase coined for this new de­vel­op­mentW “cit­i­zen jour­nal­ist.” That’s op­posed to “pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ism.”

0any SURIHssLR­naOs Ln WKH fiHOd, wKR KaYH aFWuaOOy sWudLHd the craft and prac­ticed it for years, have de­rided the trend. They point out that be­ing able to in­stantly post a thought or a photo on the fn­ter­net is a far cry from jour­nal­ism. Jour­nal­ism re­quires IaFWs WR EH YHUL­fiHd. 7KaW’s wKaW JLYHs LW FUHdLELOLWy. -RuU­naOLsP is not con­jec­ture or spec­u­la­tion or a wild leap of faith. Some­times re­porters and edi­tors make mis­takes, but jour­nal­ism is sup­posed to be about re­al­ity — ob­jec­tive re­al­ity. The phrase “noth­ing but the facts, ma’am” comes to mind.

That di­chotomy was on vivid dis­play in the af­ter­math of the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ings, and it touched the life of a Main iine fam­ily in a real and painful way. The Tri­pathis of Rad­nor had been des­per­ately search­ing since mid-March for their son, 22-year-old Brown Univer­sity stu­dent Su­nil Tripathi, a 2008 Rad­nor High School grad­u­ate who van­ished in Prov­i­dence, R.f.

Af­ter au­thor­i­ties re­leased pho­tos of the two young men be­lieved to be the bombers, spec­u­la­tion was ram­pant, es­pe­cially on­line. That night, some­one thought they heard Tripathi’s name men­tioned on a Bos­ton po­lice scan­ner. From there the “story” was posted to an fn­ter­net site called Red­dit with spec­u­la­tion that the miss­ing man was one of the men po­lice were look­ing for.

lvernight, the ru­mor went vi­ral. The fam­ily’s home was sur­rounded by news vans and the ru­mor was re­peated as fact on lo­cal ra­dio. All this hap­pened with­out Tripathi’s name ever beLnJ FRn­fiUPHd Ey LnYHsWLJaWRUs RU Ln any RWKHU way RI­fiFLaOOy linked to the probe.

Rad­nor po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Wil­liam Co­larulo be­gan get­ting me­dia phone calls at 4 a.m. “ft’s un­for­tu­nate that peo­ple rush to judg­ment and that ru­mors run ram­pant,” he said. “The me­dia also has to hold some ac­count­abil­ity. They’re so wor­ried aERuW EHLnJ fiUsW Ln UHSRUWLnJ WKLnJs WKHy dRn’W OHW WKH IaFWs JHW in the way of a good story.”

:LWKLn a IHw KRuUs, RI­fiFLaOs an­nRunFHd WKH susSHFWs Kad EHHn LdHnWL­fiHd as CKHFKHn EURWKHUs 7aPHUOan and D]KRNKaU 7saU­naev. But for the Tri­pathis, the dam­age had been done. ln their Face­book page called “Help us Find Su­nil Tripathi,” they wroteW

“A tremen­dous and painful amount of at­ten­tion has been cast on our beloved Su­nil Tripathi in the past twelve hours.

“We have known un­equiv­o­cally all along that nei­ther in­di­vid­ual sus­pected as re­spon­si­ble for the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ings was Su­nil. We are grate­ful to all of you who have fol­lowed us on Face­book, Twit­ter, and Red­dit — sup­port­ing us over the re­cent hours.

“Now more than ever our great­est strength comes from your en­dur­ing sup­port. We thank all of you who have reached out to our fam­ily and ask that you con­tinue to raise aware­ness and to KHOS us find RuU JHnWOH, ORYLnJ, and WKRuJKWIuO 6unLO.”

Sadly, the fam­ily learned April 25 that a body found in the 3URYLdHnFH 5LYHU was WKHLU EHORYHd sRn. 7KHy fi­naOOy KaYH an an­swer to the mys­tery, though it is not the one they had hoped IRU. 0ay WKHy sRPHKRw find SHaFH Ln WKH PLdsW RI WKHLU JULHI.

For the rest of us, the episode will serve as a grim warn­ing. fn this age of in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion, there’s a wide gap be­tween “in­for­ma­tion” and “jour­nal­ism.” ft’s un­for­tu­nate that so many fell into that chasm.

21st Cen­tury Me­dia News Ser­vice

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.