Crossing the line
With the advent of smartphones and tablets, of cacebook 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 SURIHVVLRnaOV Ln WKH fiHOG, wKR KaYH aFWuaOOy VWuGLHG WKH 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 facts to EH YHULfiHG. 7KaW’V wKaW JLYHV LW FUHGLELOLWy. -RuUnaOLVP LV nRW FRnjecture 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 jarathon bombings, and it touched the life of a jain iine family in a very real and painful way. The Tripathis of Radnor had been desperately searching since mid-jarch for their son, 22-yearold Brown rniversity student Sunil Tripathi, a 2MM8 Radnor High School graduate who vanished in Providence, R.f.
After authorities released photos of the two young men they 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. crom there the “story” was posted to an fnternet site called Reddit with speculation that the missing man was, in fact, 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 being confiUPHG Ey LnYHVWLJaWRUV RU Ln any RWKHU way RIfiFLaOOy OLnNHG WR WKH 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 about being fiUVW Ln UHSRUWLnJ WKLnJV WKHy GRn’W OHW WKH IaFWV JHW Ln WKH way RI a good story.”
:LWKLn a IHw KRuUV, RIfiFLaOV annRunFHG WKaW WKH VuVSHFWV KaG EHHn LGHnWLfiHG aV CKHFKHn EURWKHUV 7aPHUOan anG DzKRNKaU 7VaUnaev. But for the Tripathis, the damage had already been done. ln their cacebook page called “Help us cind 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 jarathon bombings was Sunil.
“We are grateful to all of you who have followed us on cacebook, Twitter, and Reddit — supporting us over the recent hours.
“kow 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 help us finG RuU JHnWOH, ORYLnJ, anG WKRuJKWIuO 6unLO.”
Sadly, the family learned April 2R that a body found in the ProviGHnFH 5LYHU waV WKHLU EHORYHG VRn. 7KHy finaOOy KaYH an anVwHU WR the mystery, though it is not the one they had hoped for. jay they VRPHKRw finG SHaFH Ln WKH PLGVW RI WKHLU JULHI.
cor 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