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 »

New Police make 2 more arrests over Manchester bombing video
Police have arrested two more people and are searching a new site in Manchester, U.K., suspected of links to the bombing that killed 22 people at a pop concert.
Soldiers roll into Philippine city besieged by ISIS-linked militants
Army tanks packed with soldiers roll into a southern Philippine city besieged by ISIS-linked militants as gunfire and explosions ring out.
'Taken from this world too soon': Concertgoers mourned as more Manchester victims ID'd video
A teenage superfan of American singer Ariana Grande, a primary school student "loved by everyone," a mid-20s man and a Polish couple were among the first people publicly identified as being among the 22 killed in an attack following a concert in Manchester, England.
more »

Canada »

B.C. Liberals fall short of majority following final vote count video
The final count of the B.C. election has concluded, and the result remains just as uncertain as it was on election night, with the Liberals just short of a majority.
'She should have been safe': Family searching for answers after woman dies in Windsor, Ont. jail video
Delilah Blair is the first woman to die at South West Detention Centre since it opened in 2014. Her family is wondering why corrections staff couldn't keep her safe and is asking for help to get her home.
Firefighters battling large blaze at Toronto recycling facility
Firefighters were battling a large blaze at a recycling facility near Toronto's waterfront early Thursday.
more »

Politics »

Canada brings home 1 of 2 Aurora surveillance planes from anti-ISIS mission
One of the Canadian air force spy planes assigned to the campaign against the Islamic State has been quietly withdrawn and brought home, CBC News has learned. The CP-140 surveillance plane has flown out of Kuwait since the fall of 2014.
Jody Wilson-Raybould's father calls missing and murdered inquiry a 'bloody farce' audio
Bill Wilson, a hereditary chief and the father of federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, says the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is a "bloody farce" and the commissioners leading it need to be replaced.
Bell Canada must 'honour' commitment to modernize email system, government says
Overdue by more than two years, there's still no word on when Bell Canada will make good on a $245-million contract to modernize the government's email system.
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»

Ariana Grande cancels concerts after Manchester attack
Ariana Grande has put her Dangerous Woman tour on hold following the suicide bomb attack outside her concert at Manchester Arena on Monday.
Jean Paul Riopelle painting sells for more than $7.4M
A painting by the late Quebec artist Jean Paul Riopelle has sold for more than $7.4 million, good for second on the list of Canada's most expensive works of art.
'The Great War is here': Game of Thrones season 7 trailer debuts
A new trailer for Game of Thrones' upcoming seventh season dropped online Wednesday, giving fans a tantalizingly brief look at what lies next for HBO's fantasy drama juggernaut.
more »

Technology & Science »

Temperatures to 'teeter-totter' across Canada this summer
The Weather Network released its summer forecast Tuesday, and chief meteorologist Chris Scott said it may feel like being on a teeter-totter.
Report on failed European Mars lander concludes brief, unexpected spin to blame
​An independent report has concluded that Europe's Schiaparelli probe crash-landed on Mars last year because its systems couldn't cope with a brief, wild rotation during its descent.
As It Happens 'They all have plastic inside them': Film shows pollution's impact on Pacific albatrosses
Photographer Chris Jordan is releasing a new documentary about the devastating effects of ocean plastic on the lives — and deaths — of albatrosses on one Pacific island.
more »

Money »

Graco recalls My Ride 65 car seats in Canada for restraint defect
Graco's Canadian division is recalling 1,393 car seats with potentially defective harness restraints.
Canadian coffee roaster Kicking Horse sold to Italy's Lavazza
Italian coffee conglomerate Lavazza has bought an 80 per cent stake in B.C.-based Kicking Horse Coffee in a deal that values the company at $215 million.
Uncertain outlook keeps Bank of Canada firmly on sidelines for now video
The Bank of Canada keeps its benchmark interest rate steady , but signals that could change once the weak U.S. economy starts to rebound as expected through the latter part of the year.
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]
Preview Senators, Penguins each have their Game 7 demons video
The Ottawa Senators have had a knack for doing the unexpected this post-season. They'll need to do it one more time to advance to their first Stanley Cup final in a decade.
The Ryder Cup of triathlon? Simon Whitfield helping launch new event
Everyone seems to love the triathlon at the Olympics, but the sport can struggle to maintain momentum during the four years in between. A new, team-based competition hopes to change that, with the help of a Canadian legend.
Recap Manchester United brings some joy to grieving city with Europa League victory
Manchester United gave its grieving home city a moment to cheer by winning the Europa League by beating Ajax 2-0 in the final. The game was played two days after 22 people were killed in a bomb attack at a concert in Manchester.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »