Posted on 8 February 2013
The other day, a photo came up on Facebook with over 100 shares. This really cute dog at a store in downtown Prince George had gone missing, and according to the post it had been stolen. They even had the name and description of the person who had stolen it and were trying to spread the word.
I’ve met this dog and wanted it to be found. But I did not hit “share.” I believed the dog was gone. But I didn’t feel like I could, in good conscience, put out information that a specific person stole the dog as is alleged in the post. The reason: I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading that information on the radio.
Facebook is not the media. And not everything I post on Facebook is something I would read on the radio, either (mostly because it’s banal). But when I post news or information, I try to make it factually correct. And I did not have enough information to make me feel comfortable to actually name the person who had allegedly stolen the dog without getting information from RCMP or other reliable source. I wouldn’t put it on the radio or in a newspaper, so I didn’t put it on Facebook.
Social media is a weird bleeding space between the personal and public self. For the most part I treat it like my own personal space. But I’m always aware of the fact that a certain number of people following me or friending me know me primarily as a CBC employee. If I post false or unproven information, it dilutes my track record. And as more people use social media as a primary news source, I want to be seen as reliable.
During the Prince George mill explosion and north coast tsunami warning, people were turning to things like Twitter and Facebook for up-to-date information. I retweeted people whose track record I trusted based on previous experiences: some reporters, some politicians, some government officials, and some regular citizens. And I’m flattered that many people were following and retweeting me because of the trust I’d developed. It’s a valuable commodity, and one that I’m hoping to keep- even if it means not hitting “share” everytime I want to.
On a sidenote, I did contact the RCMP about this case. They couldn’t confirm that the dog had actually been stolen, but that it was missing following a shoplifting incident. It now looks like dog was turned in to the SPCA the next day.
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