• 59°

Editorial: Prioritize truth over convenience

Facts matter — facts that reporters work to confirm before stories are published.

It’s why Salisbury Post reporter Natalie Anderson spent hours last week working to confirm whether the proper procedure was followed for a “no wake” zone on Panther Creek, off of High Rock Lake, and why accuracy is more important than speed in reporting news. It’s why news outlets must correct mistakes when they happen, too.

But in too many cases, convenience has become more important than truth.

That’s proven by the fact that Facebook pages like North Carolina Breaking News amassed more than 50,000 followers and nearly the same number of “likes” before the social media website said it would take the page down. All the while, the page was posting actual “fake news” about the Winston-Salem Police Department and other things that were obviously wrong, including that the governor was encouraging people to vote Republican to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The second item, by the way, featured a picture of Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, rather than N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper. The page posted items entirely in Russian, too, only lending more credence to the fact that it could have been propaganda.

There have been some small efforts by social media giants, but it still can be hard to tell what’s real when scrolling through our feeds. Social media, particularly Facebook, serves as an accelerant for misinformation, which has become much easier to spread on the internet than decades ago.

The News Media Alliance, which represents outlets across the U.S., is pushing for changes to federal laws that currently allow social media sites like Facebook to avoid liability for what’s posted on their sites. The current rule has allowed the internet to flourish; it’s also resulted in the spread of false information with little to no consequences.

But the responsibility for limiting the spread of false information and prioritizing truth over convenience ultimately falls to the readers.

Items to look for include:

• Sourcing in news articles. For crime stories, that means looking for who brought the charges and where the narrative behind the charges came from — a police officer, warrant or court documents, for example.

• Bylines on articles or names of those behind the social media page. Some websites, including the Salisbury Post, use “staff reports” or generic usernames like “Post education” for smaller news items, but something may be amiss if a website has no reference to who’s responsible for the article. Check also that the person or username has published other stories.

• Contact information like addresses or phone numbers for the organization on its website or page.

That Facebook took down the North Carolina Breaking News page is good, but many more will pop up, especially as the 2020 election draws closer. Readers must be vigilant about where they are getting news.



Rowan County reports 44 positive COVID-19 cases

Brincefield Cartoons

Mook’s Place: Small business smackdown


Police: Victim argued with someone before shooting in Jersey City neighborhood


Thieves hit 13 vehicles in three Salisbury apartment complexes


Sharon Randall: Staying whole in hard times


Local survey indicates most businesses impacted quickly by COVID-19


Clad in protective gear, local foundation sends hams home with families for Easter


Peace Corps volunteer’s job comes to abrupt end amid COVID-19 outbreak


Talkback, what online readers are saying about …


Torbush: Third Hall of Fame for East Spencer native


Landis police: missing 13-year-old returns home


Lawmakers hear about medical equipment shortage fears


Blotter: Kannapolis home broken into, vandalized


High school softball: Hornets had a shot at double-digit wins


Quotes of the week: ‘Really need to stay in business’


‘Let’s jam’: Knox Middle School party goes virtual during closure


Man listed in serious condition following Jersey City shooting


Man charged with manslaughter in death of stepfather


COVID-19 cases in Rowan reach 37; nine have recovered


Gerry Wood dealerships to close indefinitely during COVID-19 pandemic


Detention center officer assaulted during jail fight


Contact information for COVID-19-related questions


Novant Health picks Walgreens stores as drop-off points for supply donations


RCCC donates medical equipment to local hospitals