Summary of “If a Story Is Viral, Truth May Be Taking a Beating”

by Illya King

This is a summary of the article “If a Story Is Viral, Truth May Be Taking a Beating” by Ravi Somaiya and Leslie Kafugman of the New York Times.

In the article, the writers are discussing three viral news stories that were revealed to be hoaxes. The hoax stories were reported as factual on several news sites before a retraction was published. When the news sites apologized for the errors, there was little to no consequences for the false reporting. The writers are making a statement that truth has no relevance to online journalism.

The writers interviewed news editors of popular news sites like Gawker and The Huffington Post. They interviewed educated college professionals as well as the creators of the popular hoax stories. The purpose of these interviews is to discover why the fake news stories became popular and why little to no fact-checking was done before publishing them.

Fake News or un-verified news is published because readers want the news as a distraction. The news people are reading is a form of entertainment. They want news that makes statements about the culture they are living in. Facts are no longer as important, and the line is blurred for viewership.

The writers point out that instant news reporting is helpful, like Toronto mayor’s, Rob Ford, cocaine use. However, news organizations do not see conflict with posting factual news along with fiction. As the writers learn, there is a trade-off with hyper news reporting… it is impossible to fact-check fast information. Most online news sites rely on third-parties to validate the truth of their content. In an age of hyper-connectivity, online news sites struggle to balance between factual reporting and viewership. Readers are more concerned with reading news for entertainment and have little care for facts.