(Salon) -- Earlier this month, Gizmodo committed an act of journalistic malfeasance by running with an anonymously sourced story making accusations that Facebook “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section”. Journalists are supposed to be careful and skeptical, and running an anonymously sourced story that had such strong appeal to the paranoid right should have raised a million red flags.
History has long shown that a right wing “expose” will almost invariably, upon further review, turn out to be a hoax perpetuated by conservative activists. No, ACORN was not helping pimps run illegal prostitution rings. Sorry, Planned Parenthood doesn’t have a black market in fetal tissue. Oops, Hillary Clinton didn’t do whatever supposedly terrible if opaque thing that conservatives believe she did with Benghazi. Or in Whitewater or Vince Foster’s house or to Kathleen Willey’s cat. No, Shirley Sherrod did not discriminate against white farmers while working for the Department of Agriculture.
And so on and so forth. The lesson for journalists here is clear: If a “scandal” so clearly pushes right wing buttons, it’s critical to slow down, double check your sources, get corroborating evidence, and just generally be very skeptical and super careful before running with it. The odds are high, historically speaking, that you are being hoaxed. Or, at best, subject to a bunch of stupid rumors that have right wingers up in arms but have no real world evidence to back them up.
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