FOULDS: When ‘news’ is anything but news

If you were following the news story this week involving the manhunt for two Port Alberni teens suspected in three murders in northern B.C., I hope the main source of your information was not social media and the thousands of posts associated with the tale.

If one followed “news” of the case via Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks, and without any discrimination whatsoever, the narrative could have involved Derek Whisenand, a Texas man wanted for murder in the Lone Star State, as being the person behind the three killings the far north of the province.

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The narrative could have had the two teens — Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky — being kidnapped by Whisenand, who entered Manitoba late last month.

The narrative could also have placed the two teens in Logan Lake, where they may have been involved in the disappearance of two Surrey men — Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr — whose vehicle, a Jeep, was found parked in woods near the small community 45 minutes from Kamloops.

Oh, and the narrative could have included as “fact” that the Jeep near Logan Lake was found burned, just as a pickup truck and Rav 4 the teens were driving were found burned, near Dease Lake and in northern Manitoba.

Of course, none of the above is true — but all of the above has been presented as factual “news” by various people commenting on legitimate and spurious stories online.

The last claim, that the Jeep found near Logan Lake was found burned and was likely linked to the teens, was so outrageously false that I attempted to correct the person claiming it as truth.

I knew this because I called Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturkel and asked — and was told the Jeep was not burned or otherwise damaged and that McLeod and Schmegelsky are not believed to be involved in the disappearance of Provencher and Scurr.

But, as is the case when dealing with anti-vaxxers, Flat Earthers and deniers of the moon landing, climate change and common sense, the truth does not matter.

Such people are fact-proof. I get better quality debate from my cat.

Social media can be wonderful and maddening.

News updates are literally posted by the minute — but so, too, is verifiably wrong information and links to stories with dubious value.

It seems the rush by media to get it first is often done so at the expense of followers getting it right.

Certainly, news outlets that post stories cannot control the madness that follows — readers posting speculation, rumours and downright false information.

But we can all refrain from repeating such nonsense online and in person.

As this story unfolds, the RCMP has done a fantastic job in keeping reporters updated, answering tough questions in press conferences and telling the media clearly why certain questions cannot be answered, due to investigative reasons.

(Local Mounties would be wise to emulate the work of their cop cousins when dealing with media on larger stories in Kamloops.)

Many news organizations have done excellent work on the unfolding story, in particular Laura Kane of Canadian Press, whose interview with the father of Schmegelsky was riveting and sad. The heart of any parent reading that interview has to be aching.

With this story, as with any, do your part in supporting real news and stick to the reliable sources — CBC, CTV, Canadian Press, Vancouver Sun and trusted local sources.

Leave the social media speculation to those who remain adamant that chemtrails are the work of the New World Order intent on seizing all the guns and turning Canada into a Sharia state.
Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

© Kamloops This Week


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