Double checking the media source

Published 9:55 pm Monday, June 19, 2017

In today’s world, it seems like the line between truth and somewhat true gets blurred more every day and sometimes it’s hard for the average citizen to figure out what’s really going on.

Last week as law enforcement throughout Georgia sought after two fugitives, all it took was one news source to report that the inmates were seen near LaGrange to  send many into a frenzy. People presumably locked their doors and kept a look out, just in case.

We can’t say the information reported was incorrect, nor is it our aim to judge. Everyone that reported it properly cited another sheriff’s department Facebook page, so as far as we know, the information was good.

Here in LaGrange, all we could do was follow the same process we follow for every story — go straight to the people who would know what was going on. A quick call to local authorities revealed that a truck had been stopped that matched the general description of the one that the escapees were traveling in, However, it ended up being a false alarm.

By that afternoon, the sheriff’s department had released a statement on Facebook hoping to sooth local concerns. The department said it did not have any reason to believe the escapees were in the area. Of course, later that night the escaped inmates were captured in Tennessee.

Could they have come through LaGrange on Interstate 185 or 85? Possibly. We may never know.

All we do know is that nobody had actually spotted them and that in cases like that, there’s always a lot more static than actual information on the airwaves. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but you’ve got to be able to keep your wits, while also figuring out what information is good and what is just speculation.

So, speaking more generally, how do you as the average citizen find out if a story is factual or not?

First, look at the source. Are they someone who should know what they are talking about? The people looking for fugitives will probably have the best idea of where the fugitives are. The people making the laws will (hopefully) have the best idea of what the laws are going to do.

As a media outlet, we’d like to say that most news outlets are a good way to find out about current breaking news, but sometimes you have to check those too.

As journalists, we have a cynical need to double check almost everything. An official cites state studies? Thanks to the internet, that study is only a few clicks away.  Anything we need to dig into, we probably can. After all, our archives do go back more then a century.

Usually, we do the checking for you, so you don’t have to worry if the facts are really facts, but it never hurts to check.

We won’t ask you to do our job for us, but when you see a story that just doesn’t look right, check it. What are other news sources saying? What are officials saying? And if we get something wrong, let us know. After all, we are only human behind all this ink and paper.