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Harris Blackwood: Truth and consequences of the news
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Back in the days when I worked in a newsroom, people would call and offer some tidbit of information.

Sometimes, it was a prominent citizen had died. Other times, it might be a police event that happened in their community.

Regardless, we had to find a public official to confirm the information. We also had to make certain the next of kin had been notified before something was placed in a news story.

I wish I understood the validity, or lack of validity, in today’s news reports. News organizations will now use a post on Twitter or Facebook as a source of confirmation.

I have reached the point with social media that if you tell me it’s sunny outside, I’m going to pull back the curtain and look.

In an earlier day and time, tabloid publications purported to be newspapers. They were generally sold at the checkout stand of retail stores. They had headlines like “Monkey performs brain surgery,” or “JFK and Elvis found living on a remote island.”

In the days of email, people sent me little trashy jokes and cartoons via email. Now, folks repeat stuff they see on Facebook as it if were the absolute truth.

I saw something the other day dredging up former President Obama’s birth certificate. I don’t care where you think Mr. Obama was born, it’s over. He is no longer president and it is no longer relevant.

Folks who like President Trump and those who despise him will repost things that are not from legitimate news sources. It looks good and it’s on some website, but that doesn’t make it true.

Now, I’m not suggesting a major network has a lock on the facts. But if you watch more than one or read multiple web reports, you might come to a conclusion about the reliability of a story.

I also am amused at various polls people repost. Some of them may contain viruses that will harm your computer.

Just because a poll will decide which member of the Cartwright family of “Bonanza” fame you most resemble, it may also eat away at private information inside your computer. It’s up to you to decide if losing your private information is worth finding out if you’re more like Hoss or Little Joe.

The dinosaur in me sometimes harkens back to the day when we only had three networks on three channels and nearly everyone subscribed to a daily newspaper.

I have seen surveys where some people admit their primary source of news is from one of the political satire shows. The hosts of satire shows are there for one purpose: to make you laugh. If that’s your only place to learn about the news, you might as well base your news judgement on a sitcom or a reality show.

Like him or not, it’s fair to say this president is not doing anything in a traditional way. His election caught a lot of people off guard, especially the entertainment world. I have heard legitimate news stories that some sitcoms had to redo some of their November and December shows because they assumed a different

outcome of the election.

My answer for all of this: Perhaps we need a little warning like the one on your passenger side rearview mirror which states “Everything you read here may or may not be true.”

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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