Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

Michael Jackson's death and who to believe online

By John Bowman, CBCNews.ca

I still remember the day Mr. Arseneau wheeled the school's (possibly the school's only) top-loading VHS tape player into the class. He had something special to show us.

I don't remember the date, but Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever aired March 25, 1983, so this screening of Michael Jackson's performance of Billie Jean probably took place late in the school year, as a special treat for us students.

I just watched it again on YouTube. Jackson's first moonwalk, and the crowd's reaction to it, gave me chills all over again.

It's cliche already to say that Jackson's death is one of those "where were you when" moments, but here's where I was, and I think a lot of people will have similar stories.

I first heard that Michael Jackson had been taken to hospital on Twitter, from @BreakingNews, which cited TMZ.com. The celebrity gossip blog was also the first to declare that Jackson had died.

The chatter on Twitter was already pretty intense after the news of his hospitalization broke, but it exploded with that first announcement of his death. There were thousands of tweets mentioning Michael Jackson posted every minute. Twitter, Wikipedia and even Google groaned under the pressure of so many people looking for information on the pop star's condition. Many people accepted the TMZ report as the truth, but some were skeptical, saying they would wait for a more reputable source before believing the Twitter rumours.

Here in the newsroom, we were trying to find another report to confirm that he had died, but the wires, Associated Press and Reuters, were already filing stories with TMZ.com as their source. This was a make-or-break moment for TMZ's credibility, said people in the newsroom. When the Los Angeles Times' breaking news blog, L.A. Now., updated saying Jackson was in a coma, that credibility was in doubt.

OK! Magazine filed a story on its website that appeared to independently confirm Jackson's death, but it relied heavily on TMZ.com for its information. The first independent confirmation from a main-stream media source was on L.A. Now, citing law enforcement and city officials. With that report, other news websites — including BBC News, CNN and CBC News — were satisfied and posted their tweets, alerts and stories.

So, as is often the case lately, the news broke on Twitter and blogs. Does that relegate traditional news outlets to the role of following and fact-checking what's happening in social media? People are always looking for reliable sources, and reputation goes a long way online. TMZ.com did a lot for its reputation with the Jackson story, and it's certainly a blog that knows its beat and does its own reporting, even if that reporting consists of following celebs, both physically and on Twitter.

It's hard to beat @BreakingNews in terms of speed. When Twitter's servers are working at full capacity, it is simply the fastest information dispersal medium there is. Unless you're there when it happens or watching it live on TV, you're likely to hear about it first on Twitter.

But both blogs and Twitter have a credibility problem. On another celebrity gossip blog, Perez Hilton, upon hearing that Jackson had been taken to hospital, speculated that he was "either lying or making himself sick" to avoid performing in his comeback concert. He later removed the speculation from the blog post.

And disinformation spreads as quickly as truth on Twitter. A fake news article saying Jackson had died of a drug overdose circulated on Twitter. False rumours that Jeff Goldblum and Harrison Ford both died while filming in New Zealand are still making the rounds. An Australian entertainment TV reporter went to air with the "news" of Goldblum's death.

(It turns out the same cliff that had "claimed" Goldblum's life was also responsible for the earlier "deaths" of Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise. See Snopes.com for the full history of this internet-spread cut-and-paste obit.)

It's not Twitter's fault that it's being used to spread falsehoods. It pretty easy to give nonsense the illusion of credibility in a tweet: just put "RT @cnnbrk:" in front of it. So it's up to individuals to check sources, follow links and make sure what they're reading is the truth.

Related links:

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.

Comments

tgbigmac

Reading this one thing that days event did was it gave TMZ more attention, more publicity than they should ever get. CNN, CBS, CBC etc. as had TMZ as their man source making them relevant to news, omg TMZ shouldn't even exist and I feel should be suited for harassment (however directly or indirectly). They cause disruption in civil/public life and safety.

Posted July 9, 2009 04:51 PM

Stephen Friesen

Winnipeg

Of course one cannot read a story like this, or hear anything about Michael Jackson, without considering how far from the truth the mainstream media led us. Even on the days immediately following his death CBC hastily started running the "Living With MJ" documentary in a desperate attempt to maintain this false history.
What is reliable media anywhere, on television or online, is now up to the consumer.
The King, Michael Jackson prevails.
2009 R.I.P. the media. :(

Posted September 29, 2009 09:19 AM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment

Disclaimer:

Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

Peru launches impeachment process against president
Lawmakers in Peru initiated proceedings Friday to oust President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who refuses to resign after being accused of failing to disclose decade-old payments from a Brazilian company embroiled in Latin America's biggest corruption scandal.
EU sees new, 'dramatically difficult' phase in Brexit talks
The European Union has agreed to move Brexit talks onto trade and a transition pact, but some leaders warn the final year of negotiations before Britain's exit could be fraught with difficulties.
SpaceX launches 1st recycled rocket to space station
SpaceX has racked up another first, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a NASA grocery run.
more »

Canada »

Apotex founder Barry Sherman and wife, Honey Sherman, found dead in North York home video
Canadian pharmaceutical giant Apotex confirms its founder Barry Sherman and his wife, Honey Sherman, are dead, amid reports that two bodies were found in their Toronto home.
Hydro One helicopter was attempting to land at time of fatal crash
A helicopter that crashed in eastern Ontario killing all four crew members was attempting to land when it "departed from controlled flight" and crashed in a wooded area, according to the lead investigator with the Transportation Safety Board.
Provinces have until the end of 2018 to submit carbon price plans: McKenna video
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says a national price on carbon won't be imposed on any province for at least another year.
more »

Politics »

Firm that investigated Ghomeshi claims now probing allegations of inappropriate behaviour in PMO
A high-profile employment law firm has been tapped to investigate claims of inappropriate behaviour within the Prime Minister's Office. Janice Rubin's firm, Rubin Thomlinson will be leading the probe. Rubin is known for investigating the CBC, following the dismissal of radio host Jian Ghomeshi.
McLachlin defends judiciary in sexual assault cases as she retires as chief justice video
Outgoing chief justice Beverley McLachlin says most judges handle sexual assault complainants with sensitivity, and said Canadians should not judge the system as a whole based on the inappropriate actions of a few.
Federal government proposes new monitoring system for medical assistance in dying
The federal government has released proposed new rules for tracking those who request medical assistance in dying and those approved to receive it, in an effort to foster public trust in the new regime.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Bruce Gray, Traders and Big Fat Greek Wedding actor, dead at 81
Canadian actor was a prolific presence on the stage and screen with roles including an investment banker on the series Traders and the hapless father of the groom in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Harvey Weinstein lawyers seek to publicly identify Ontario woman behind lawsuit
​Lawyers for Harvey Weinstein are seeking to publicly identify an Ontario actress who has filed a sexual assault lawsuit against the disgraced Hollywood producer.
Photos Stunning nature photos featured at ROM's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition
On loan from the Natural History Museum in London, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the most prestigious photography event of its kind. Featuring 100 original, awe-inspiring images, the exhibition showcases the world’s best nature photography – from fascinating animal behavior to breathtaking landscapes. Here's a look at this year's winners.
more »

Technology & Science »

SpaceX launches 1st recycled rocket to space station
SpaceX has racked up another first, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a NASA grocery run.
Analysis Scientists mobilize for a fight over powerful gene-editing technology
A volatile scientific debate is quietly simmering, with echoes of the controversy over genetically modified organisms. The Gates Foundation and the U.S. military are among the groups funding gene drives, a powerful new genetic technology.
Photos Stunning nature photos featured at ROM's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition
On loan from the Natural History Museum in London, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the most prestigious photography event of its kind. Featuring 100 original, awe-inspiring images, the exhibition showcases the world’s best nature photography – from fascinating animal behavior to breathtaking landscapes. Here's a look at this year's winners.
more »

Money »

Apotex founder Barry Sherman and wife, Honey Sherman, found dead in North York home video
Canadian pharmaceutical giant Apotex confirms its founder Barry Sherman and his wife, Honey Sherman, are dead, amid reports that two bodies were found in their Toronto home.
Bitcoin price nears $18,000 US as second futures contract set to start trading
Bitcoin blasted to another all-time high of almost $18,000 US on the Bitstamp exchange on Friday, up 9 per cent on the day, as warnings grew over the risks of investing in the highly volatile and speculative instrument.
Florida rapper targets WestJet in chart-topping hit
The history of hip hop is rife with epic rap battles, from Jay Z and Nas to 2Pac and Biggie. Then there’s whatever Gazzy Garcia has going on with WestJet. The Florida rapper has trained his lyrical crosshairs on Canada's "Little Airline that could" in a dispute that's soared to the top of charts.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Top Canadian women's gymnastics official charged with multiple sexual offences
Dave Brubaker, the women's national team director of Gymnastics Canada, has been charged with multiple sexual offences.
Live Watch World Cup bobsleigh from Austria video
Watch live as Canada's best bobsleigh athletes are in action at the World Cup in Igls, Austria.
Live Watch World Cup women's super-G from Val d'Isere video
Watch live action from the women's alpine World Cup super-G event in Val d'Isere, France.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »