Great Moments in 21st Century Journalism aka Reporting on Facebook Posts

The Springfield News-Leader went hot online with this salacious story over the weekend: Owner of Battlefield Mall phone repair kiosk responds to sex trafficking allegations that went viral on Facebook.

You go read it while you can. Basically, a young woman took her phone to the kiosk for repair and got it back; after she did, the claimed there was a sensor on it tracking her calls. She went back to complain and reports a nearby tattooed man was eavesdropping on her. Somehow the tattooed man knew which car was hers in the mall parking lot and was waiting for her near there; fortunately, she had a mall store employee walk her out because she was nervous. Her phone had some odd behavior that seemed indicative to her of….something. Then she was followed as she drove. Just like something on television. So she suspected it was a white slavery or sex trafficking thing.

The News-Leader reached out to her via Facebook, and she didn’t respond.

They got a hold of the owner of the mall kiosk, and he said she’s out of her mind. So the story, essentially, was reprinting a Facebook post from some unknown person along with denials from the person under suspicion.

And the News-Leader ran this as a news story.

The follow-up to the story: Police: Investigation into viral Facebook allegations stalled due to lack of cooperation.

The gist: The woman contacted police, but so did the owner of the kiosk. The woman didn’t respond to the police or the News-Leader and deleted her Facebook account with the viral post.

This, my friends, is 21st century journalism. Haven’t you noticed how many news articles, especially in small city newspapers, describe what the person of interest’s Facebook profile says? It’s as though the kids coming out of journalism schools don’t know how to talk to someone directly, whether via phone or in person, before publishing. This example is just an extreme example of the genre, but it’s definitely on the continuum.

3 thoughts on “Great Moments in 21st Century Journalism aka Reporting on Facebook Posts

  1. I don’t know about your corner of the world, but the local small city newspaper is written by 24-year-old J-school students. It’s awful hard to fall below that in my esteem.

    Additionally, much of their material looks to mainly be a re-write of something that appeared on television news (or at least the television station’s Web site) the night before. Along with additional social media investigation, of course.

  2. We have a small-town weekly that runs a lot of submitted stuff and reports on some local happenings. Usually they’re the only source for that work because the dailies in the nearby slightly larger cities are as you describe and don’t cover what’s going on here.

    I’m kind of glad I’m out of the field — I figure the stress brought on by watching newsgathering die and be replaced by blow-dried newsmuppets doing 10:00 PM standups outside of closed courthouses would have given me a good baker’s dozen of heart attacks by now.

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