Our view: No more clowning around

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2016

In recent weeks, stories of “creepy clowns” started making the rounds on social media. Those stories, largely unverified, were picked up and repeated not only by others on social media, but media outlets.

Like a grease fire that starts in a pan and then threatens to burn down the house, the phenomenon has grown from bad taste prank to, essentially, threats and intimidation.

The people who think spreading rumors about clowns creeping around in the woods trying to entice children is bad enough. Those making targeted threats to people and places takes it to deplorable levels, essentially terrorizing children and parents.

The pair arrested Wednesday allegedly made up a report that clowns were in a van, which was close to two schools locked down over one of these social media threats. It was near the point of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Assuming the allegations are true, they likely thought it was an innocent joke.

Local law enforcement doesn’t think these rumors are funny, and that showed when deputies converged on a group of people in a van whose only mistake was running out of gas.

Calls and threats like these take up the resources of law enforcement and school officials, and puts people in a state of heightened tension. Children scared to go to school because they fear for their safety isn’t funny. Parents fearing for their children’s safety isn’t funny. Perpetuating these ideas isn’t funny.

What is more disappointing is how many major news outlets have taken these reports of these clowns as truth and spread them without at least looking into their credibility. Turning a random post into a news story is bad journalism.

In an effort to not perpetuate these stories, we don’t want to encourage those who are behind it with publicity. We won’t be giving space in the Daily News to stories of “creepy clowns” unless there is genuine need to inform the public for security. But we will report and name anyone charged in connection to perpetuating these stories.

It’s not a joke. If they want publicity, they’ll have it.