Have you ever been told a shocking piece of news, only to find out a few minutes/hours/days later that it was not true? It is not only maddening to be caught believing misinformation, but can also be extremely embarrassing.
A recent personal incident reminded me how important it is that we, as communicators, get our facts straight. And that is certainly easier said than done in today’s world of instant media. Rumours, gossip, and misinformation can travel at breakneck speed around the world and, if we’re not careful, we can foster the problem by reposting, tweeting, or otherwise engaging with fictional material as though it were fact.
I think one of the reasons why this problem upsets me greatly is that it is a major waste of time and emotion. Think about it… you read an interesting article or tidbit, become emotionally invested (excited, angry, elated, etc.), and pass it on to other friends, colleagues and coworkers that may also find it scintillating. When you discover the article is false or sensationalized, you not only feel jipped or duped, but you also often feel guilty or naive about circulating the information to others.
Regardless of the issue, story, media forum, audience, we need to be committed to the facts – finding them, learning them, circulating them, and responsibly communicating them. For many of us, this is our job. Plain and simple.