ARTxFM News 20 August 2014: Peter Champelli and Kate Hatter Discuss the "Louisville Purge"
Words by Boyd Fiske
On Friday night, Louisville, Kentucky was struck by a wave of mis- and disinformation. The age of the citizen journalist was supposed to save us from the destructive aspects of a 24 hour news cycle, yet we often find ourselves with a feed of questionable firsthand accounts flooding our screens courtesy of a profit-driven news structure.
Louisville’s “Purge” hoax was said to have emerged as a contagious Tweet produced by a local high school student. The blame, however, should be placed in part on a lack of responsibility on the part of local news outlets who reported the post as news rather than investigating the validity of its origins.
Mere hours away in Ferguson, Missouri, protests, rioting and looting have gridlocked an entire community after the death of a young man at the hands of police forces. Would this “purge” have been taken seriously if it weren’t for such sensational circumstances? Furthermore, should said circumstances prove a greater incentive for journalists to uncover the truth? Instead we found ourselves with a misspelled meme retweeted to thousands, an armed populace on edge, and law enforcement officers braced for the worst.
We find ourselves asking whether social media is proving to serve as modern society’s biggest catch-22: allowing us to be more informed and aware than ever before and all the while creating chaos when (more often than not) that information proves fragmentally factual. The prank didn’t end with the Twitter image – any one of the nearly 100,000 people who were listening to the police scanner Friday night can attest to that. Reports were made of countless shots fired, machete-wielding maniacs, and even a giraffe that been freed from the zoo, almost all of which proved false reportings and many made possible through such websites as 4chan. The danger here, of course, was that many people reporting legitimate calls for emergency and police assistance that evening suffered delayed response at the hands of those taking advantage of the chaos for a laugh.
Ironically enough, the prevarication was set straight by a high school student with a more diplomatic agenda, setting the record straight for the city with a well-received article in the Redeye, official newspaper of Dupont Manual High School. Manual students were able to trace the hoax back with ease, posting an interview with the unidentified teen allegedly responsible for the hoax’s genesis and who stated that he hadn’t expected the original post to achieve such a level of virality.
Of course, Louisville isn’t the only victim of misinformation. Reports of similar situations continue to emerge from coast to coast. On this week’s edition of the Art x FM News podcast, we invited Redeye representatives Peter Champelli and Kate Hatter to discuss the duty of journalists and their roles in providing reliable information as access reaches greater and greater levels of efficiency.