It’s old news that today’s world demands immediacy and multi-tasking. With dozens of tabs open at one time in our Internet browsers while we are updating and checking statuses and tweets, it leaves one with a concern: are most of us now choosing to just believe everything we read?
Last week, one of the world’s oldest news organizations had its Twitter feed hacked.
The Associated Press, a wire service respected by journalists everywhere, released a tweet around 1 p.m. that read, “Breaking: Two explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”
For journalists, professional or student, it’s a widely known fact that the AP has its own style of writing. It’s one that most journalists follow. The stylebook provides rules and guidelines for reporting in broadcast, print and even social media. At first glance, one who calls himself or herself a journalist would notice the casual use of the president’s name versus the standard AP reference of “President” that is supposed to lead into the name.
For those outside the journalism industry, however, it would not be so obvious.
The followers most affected by the hack are those who deal directly with the New York Stock Exchange.
Traders fearing what would happen if President Barack Obama was hurt and the U.S. was being attacked, immediately pulled out their investments, causing the DOW Jones Industrial Average to drop.
It took several minutes for the AP to correct the tweet and explain that they had, in fact, been hacked.
What happened within the minds of Twitter followers during those few minutes should be concerning. When the emotion of fear triggers the brain, a chemical reaction occurs, and it’s different for everyone.
Was that reaction necessary? Could it have been avoided had one done a little research?
The problem lies with the fact that no one has time to double-check whether a source is reliable. Many of us just believe what we read. After all, it’s easier, and it’s quicker.
The line between news, blogging, status updates, gossip and hearsay is blurry, and it’s up to each individual to decide what is true and take time to consider each source’s knowledge and credibility.
Of course, we need to take into account the fact that we couldn’t prevent the hacking from occurring in the first place.
However, regardless of whether or not the source intentionally releases information, it is up to us as receivers to decipher between what is true and what is not. We must care enough about what we accept as truth to not believe everything we read, especially when we have less time to read between the lines than ever before.
Kat Mabry is a junior journalism major and an assistant city editor for the Daily 49er.