The Marion County residents who were paying attention Wednesday understand that the Safe Schools Search that was coordinated with Marion County Schools and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office proved the public schools here are, well, pretty safe.
Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Riffle told the Times West Virginian that no drugs and no weapons were found at either of the three high schools and the Marion County Technical Center. On top of that, no students were removed from the buildings nor were arrested.
However, for those on social media, the story was different.
One person in Fairmont, who has a following on Facebook, had parents believing that huge tragedies were unfolding Wednesday at each of our schools.
Parents jumped on that online bandwagon and the web of disinformation began to grow faster than a black widow can build herself a new web.
It’s similar to the game of telephone kids used to play in elementary school. You know the one in which the teacher whispers in a student’s ear a story or fact and he or she are required to repeat what the teacher said verbatim while standing in a circle. By the time the original message — whether it’s true or not — gets whispered to the last person in the circle, the message is a garble of shock and awe or either hilarious half-truths.
Misinformation is detrimental to having a cohesive community. Only division comes from any organization that claims they have sole ownership of the truth because they heard a communication on the police scanner.
“I know there’s a lot of rumors going around,” Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Riffle said. “No students were removed from any of the schools.”
No one, whether they have 14,000 followers on Facebook, or are the patriarch of a family, earns any credibility when they are not dealing with facts. Facts will always matter. However, beyond facts is the reputation of the person who is sending out the half-truths and the half-baked info.
What anybody hears on a police scanner is not news.
Information coming from police and fire that’s heard on a scanner is a starting point for a news story in that that reporter now has a bunch of people to call and verify and ask questions about what was heard on the scanner. If those newsmakers — the people with the accurate information — are not contacted, asked questions by the journalist and quoted on the record, there is no story. What there is, however, is a half-truth.
We’ve stated it here before, but just because a person has a Facebook page does not make them a journalist.
According to the News Literacy Project, “Media should not cover one perspective or ‘side’ of an issue in an attempt to remain objective if that perspective is based on false information.”
If the Facebook account holder is constantly trying to make Marion County Schools look bad, they are not reporting news. They are working on an agenda that appears to be a prolonged attack.
Like journalism, public education is one of the pillars of a democratic society. When any of these pillars begin to crumble, society and its ability to remain stable are weakened.
The truth is that facts will always matter and social media continues to prove it is not the place to find the facts.