I realized that I would be managing a website and various social media accounts, but the magnitude of how important this has become in today’s new age of journalism had not dawned on me until after the breaking news during the past few weeks.
It quickly became apparent that being the sole online presence for the staff would not work out well in the long run.
And, in this era of infinite digital information via the almighty Internet, it can’t work for much longer.
The entire staff needed to know how to effectively post things online, work the social media outlets and sift through the vast array of junk sitting online for genuine truth and leads.
But now, I’ve realized that everyone, especially our readers, need to have these skills too.
Last week, our editorial board wrote what I consider to be one of our most important pieces yet.
Titled “Social media, viral stupidity,” this text addressed the uproar of online ignorance and blatant extremism in the wake of the University Heights shooting, fueled almost entirely by social media.
The article put it lightly when it said trying to sort through information online (and seeking to preserve clarity and accuracy) was like “trying to read a book in the middle of a hurricane.”
For centuries, there have been physical barriers to the news industry that dictated which information was published and which was not.
The news was available once a day or once a week, depending on where you lived, and only much later came the possibility of breaking news updates via television.
That is no longer true.
Nowadays, at any location in the world, information is literally a click away.
This is a godsend; a wonderful gift that technology has finally built up to that could allow the entire world to communicate simultaneously and harmoniously.
And yet, means for peace and unity have not reigned superior on the Internet.
How many times has someone posted something online, forgotten about it and then, sooner or later, had someone try to take it as credible information for one reason or another?
I’m urging you, Auburn, to stand strong and not succumb to rumors, shout hearsay or spread lies.
Do not accept this from others either, even on the level playing field of the Internet.
Not only are these actions childish and petty, but they can ruin the dispersion of legitimate news for everyone.
I’m not asking you to chase after Internet trolls, drop out of school to monitor what happens online or stay inside 24/7.
I’m simply asking you to think about what you read online before passing the information along as fact to your peers.
Do not become a victim of the vicious 15-minute news cycle.
If we truly want information in this digital age to be easily accessible, free, and accurate, then we need to do our part in making this situation better.
Start by taking a moment to apply some skepticism.
Does it sound true, factual, or even close to reality? Those are all qualities that are lost when anyone who has an internet connection can start a website and call it news.
Blogs and social media have become a go-to source for information, and while they are great for recipes, do-it-yourself tips or gossip about that girl you went to high school with, they aren’t the best place to find credible material. Most blogs don’t follow any kind of journalistic ethics.
I know it is difficult, especially when the big news agencies rely so much on social media and partisan blogs. But being smart and using some common sense to judge what people tell you is not a crime.
Trolls will be trolls, but you don’t have to fall for it. Just because every one else on the Internet seems like they have hamburger meat instead of brains doesn’t mean you need to play dumb to fit in.
I encourage all of you to become part-time journalists.
Do a little research here and there. Read actual news, not just aggregate blogs. Take some pride in being able to spot the difference between cold hard facts and a funny cat meme.
Online editing is not just a career.
It’s a lifestyle, and we could all benefit from it.