In class yesterday my professor asked when do we trust news the most? One student answered she trusted breaking news the most, but I immediately disagreed because breaking news is the most wishy washy as details and facts continue to come out about the event afterwards and are constantly changing.
Unfortunately, breaking news hit Chapel Hill when three people were murdered near the University yesterday. As a student at UNC I receive Alert Carolina messages and was first informed Wednesday around 7:00 pm that three people were killed (about 2 hours after the shooting) and that their names would not be released until the families could be contacted. At 3:34 am an email was sent with the names, Deah Barakat, a second-year student in the School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor, and her sister Razan, a student at N.C. State University. At 10:05 am the name Craig Hicks was sent out as the man charged with their murder. Carol Folt then sent a personal email about the tragedy and at 3:30 pm invited everyone to attend a vigil this evening at 6:30 pm in “The Pit” where UNC, Duke and NC State community leaders will all be in attendance.
While the story broke somewhat quickly locally, responses exploded over social media. I’m sure I saw even more because I attend UNC and have friends who attend NC State and knew the younger girl who was killed, but similar to Charlie Hebdo or Ferguson, many took to Twitter or Facebook to express their person opinions of the tragedy. The Hashtag ChapelHillShooting, Muslimlivesmatter and AllLivesmatter exploded over Twitter in a matter of hours. The story was then picked up by national news stations CNN, The Washington Post and Buzzfeed.
Buzzfeed dug deep and has posted many personal pictures and videos of the three victims. The site pulled from their Facebook pages, Vines and Instagrams. Yes, these are the lives of people who taken too soon, but I think friends and family members could argue a strong case of invasion of privacy (unless the pages were public to begin with). Should a news medium such as Buzzfeed expose such personal aspects of a person’s life less than 24 hours after their death? They’re going past reporting the story, they’re exposing their lives which I think ethically should require some permission before they do that.
Buzzfeed aside, this situation has once again shown the amazing ability of the internet to influence news. Like my friend Bailey said in her blog about the shooting, news happens extremely fast but it’s important to take a step back and make sure you get the facts right before throwing it all out there. So don’t trust breaking news. Read the facts but understand they are probably going to change just as rapidly as you can read them. CNN tweeted:
People all too quick, my self included, jumped to the conclusion that it was a Muslim hate crime. Maybe it was. Maybe it was a parking dispute. Maybe it was something else entirely. The facts are still coming out and I think news organizations need to be careful what they post to not put false news out there that people will willingly believe.