Pictures are everywhere. Just look around. These are dog walking pictures. They are fine. Seeing is seeing. And, I don’t seem to do much else these days. So, I might as well do the best with what I have. The dogs are pretty good about it. When they see me stop to take a picture they wait patiently. They know these walks are their walks. They know it won’t take long once I see something.
I’m happy with both of the pictures. They come from the influence of Ernst Haas, one of the fathers of modern color photography. He passed away too early, at 58 from a stroke. I had the honor of being a lab tech at one of his workshops. I learned more from him in four days than all the time in the rest of my career.
That’s not really what I want to talk about.
Today’s real topic is fake news. Or worse, trying to be the first person to pop the fake news bubble, now that it’s thing.
Here’s what happened.
I awoke this morning to news of Walter Becker’s passing. For those of you too young to remember, he was a founding member of a 1970s band called Steely Dan. They were more jazz, than rock or pop, oriented. They were different and they were very, very good. Their first two albums were the soundtrack of my little sister, Annie, and my life. They are still working today.
I went to Facebook to look for more information. I knew that, according his musical partner, Daniel Fagen, he had a surgical procedure that prevented him from playing in the big East-West Classic tour. I have no idea what was being repaired, removed or replaced.
Going to Facebook was, as usual, a big mistake. A young woman was already trying to debunk his passing, using something she found on Mediamass — a huge site dedicated to creating fake news by attacking real news.
When I commented that Becker’s website announced his passing, she replied that it could have been hacked and it was some kind of conspiracy. Eventually, his death started showing up pretty much everywhere.
My last comment was something along the lines of, “I’m not sure which is worse, fake news or the attempt to debunk it without really knowing.” She liked that, even though it was really addressed to her. It was about her.
My point is fairly simple. Fake news has become a thing. There are good and bad ways to counter it. Not the least is simply going to trusted news sources. They might make mistakes, but I can assure you that it’s not intentional or click bait. Sometimes, it’s just a mistake.
I come from old school journalism. Confirm news with at least two sources. Two independent sources. If you are Googling, look at the websites that you find. Check their reputations. It’s not hard to do. If they typically show up as “sponsored” news, they are distributing fake news in search of clicks and ad dollars.
Most importantly, slow down. Way down. Most of us aren’t reporters so why do we have to be first on the scene? As any good journalist knows, give the newly broken story a little time to develop so that you can find the truth. Why spread rumours when you don’t know fact from fiction?
That’s it. And, I thought August sucked.
Thank you, Walter Becker. RIP, Ray & Annie.