EDIT: An Apology For Those That May Have Been Hurt by My Report- https://nextgenerationblogs.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/an-apology-of-sorts/
The New York Times. A fundamental backbone for news-giving to Americans and global readers alike. Since 1851, readers have relied upon it for reliable and viable news from the local area and international affairs. I thought their research was thorough and exact, providing the world with the top-quality content we all associate with the name ‘The New York Times’.
I wanted to perform a little experiment for a report with the help of my friend, Sadrak Ramirez, to see if a reporter performs adequate fact-checking of information given. Our target event occurred around; Dylann Storm – The Charleston Shooter.
A test with the sole purpose of reporting on inadequate fact checking.
I want to make a change for the better, to make reporting a truthful yet equally enjoyable experience. No falseness, only the very best news.
Step One – Infiltration
Sure, this all sounds like a James Bond movie of espionage and spying, but it isn’t. It is much easier. Pathetically easy. In fact, it was so easy, we didn’t do a damn thing. Coincidentally, Dylann had ‘added’ Sadrak on Facebook a few weeks prior to the shooting. After the shooting, we can only but assume reporters sifted through Dylann Roof’s Facebook friends to interview each one in the hopes that one of them had the juicy story they craved. Instead of dismissing it as ‘a random add’, we took this as our ‘infiltration’. Rather than us seeking out attention from reporters, they came right to us.
Step Two – Planting The Seed
This step was slightly more challenging, but that did not take away from the fun and creative nature of the task at hand. All we had to do was create a structure of a story to tell each reporter, each one varying in craziness and variety, but each with similar links. This was more of a test for the reporters, to see which ones would swim from the bait and which ones would belly-flop. Obviously, the reporter in question from The New York Times took the bait. Someone had to, right?
Step Three – Elaboration
Now the ‘challenge’ began. Yet again, it was fun, but God it was hard. For this, we had to elaborate off the ‘backbone’ we had implemented. Think ‘story time’ in school, or your wildest dreams coming true. Instead, this was a fabricated web of hilarious yet believable lies. We chose to focus on the “Brony” scene of “My Little Pony”, emphasizing the fact that Roof was a major Brony. We also wanted a bit of best modern-day internet can give; memes. We told this reporter that Dylann was obsessed with 911 ‘memes’. Of course, we have no way of knowing if this is true. As we expected, the New York Times reporter took to this like a fat kid in a candy store. No questions asked.
During this step, we had to ensure that no discrepancy was given, no contrasting points. This was by far the hardest part, but let me emphasize one thing; by ‘hard’, I don’t mean ‘child-labor-for-ten-hours’ hard or ‘maths-exam’ hard, I mean, “Oh damn, I had to slightly think about that one” hard. Situationally hard, intellectually easy.
Step Four – Credibility
Ah, the number one thing for a reporter to bear in mind when taking an exclusive story. “Make sure your source is real, make sure it is credible and make sure you have proof.” All of this was missing with us, so where we lacked in credibility, the reporter lacked in basic intelligence.
Lets give an example; I told her that Dylann Roof had some ‘elusive’ and mysterious Tumblr page in which he posted his deepest thoughts. Without providing any screenshots or ANY proof of its existence other than my own word, the reporter published it as fact. Oops.
A note to any would-be journalist, or one that has ‘made it’, always check the credibility of your sources. It may just save your career, or at least, your integrity.
As you can see, the steps are fairly simple, and evidently successful.
Now, this is NOT some aimless trolling to mess around with the news, it is a report. A report to see how weak a report has to be for a reporter to take it as fact, and a report to see how easily a wholly false testimony could be used in one of the worlds most accredited news sources. It comes with the hope to better reporting, so that in the future, reporters take more care. I love every company that brings forth news, but I call for better reporting, so that the public aren’t fooled. So that they get the truth of the news in an equally enjoyable manner.
Now to name;
Frances Robles, correspondent for New York Times. Took the bait fully and posted the following on an open article which remained publicly viewable for a few hours:
Boston Globe, also a large news outlet that thought it would be wise to copy the entirety of the original N.Y.T article, including my fictional account, and leave it open to the public for numerous hours without validating the content:
In conclusion, I want to express how utterly disappointed I am at the corresponding reporter, Frances Robles. Not only was she vague at obtaining ‘facts’, her actual obtaining of such facts was done so very clearly effortless and lazy. So to put it simply, sort out your reporting. You don’t want false news spreading to your readers, do you? This isn’t a personal attack, because I love the work you do. I just want you to see an issue you weren’t previously aware of.
Clearly you could tell I wasn’t a legitimate source when I quoted to you, “I’ve never met someone as apparently troubled as him since my old friend in primary school who used to lick people’s chairs!” Seriously?!
I want to be a journalist to bring positivity to the company I work for; to show the thoroughness and care needed to create a successful article. Sure, I may not be the first to break some news, but at least I know the content will be true, accurate and helpful to the reader.
This report was made with the sole intention of highlighting the weakness in modern day reporting, and to drive me to be the opposite. No matter whom I may work for, the content I will bring them will be the sole truth, because there is nothing a reader likes more than truth. It will be content that I can verify, and it will be content that will not embarrass the hiring company. Most importantly, it will be enjoyable truth, because we as readers hate nothing more than enjoyable lies.
The audience is the best tool of the trade, so take care of them. Post responsibly.
-Benjamin John Wareing
“An important revelation, if a depressing one.”
“It’s the nature of online reporting and it’s depressing as hell!”
“If a 16 year old can highlight this, there IS a big issue.”
“Wonderful and insightful report.”
“Fantastic research/ experiment!”