April 16, 2007

Strike Two for Fox News?

One of the most unfortunate media debacles over the VA Tech shootings today was the multiple false accusations levied against Wayne Chiang, an Asian-American student at VA Tech who happens to collect guns and lives in the dorm where the first shootings occurred.

I first heard of him perusing Digg this afternoon and one of the newer stories was a link to his Facebook Photo Albums, a few showcasing his gun collection. The Digg entry (likely based off of info on this Digg entry) labeled him as "kinda nuts... is this the Virginia shooter?" I still have yet to find any good video of it, but according to his livejournal (which he's been updating all day, long after the real shooter died), Fox News was putting his pictures and his face all over the airwaves, possibly also accusing him of being responsible for the deaths of 32 people.

I promptly "buried" the Digg story, hoping to push it down in the rankings, labeling it as outright inaccurate. I instinctively knew it couldn't possibly be based on any sound journalism and was most likely nothing more than jumping to conclusions based on stereotypes. Yes, it may be the dream of every citizen journalist (or wannabe citizen journalist) to unearth something shocking and important on the internet like finding the identity of a mass murderer on Facebook (somehow before Facebook rapidly takes down their profile, a la Holly Ashcraft). But that's a hard dream to realize if you're just the average Digg user, especially since most Digg users just keep passing on pages and pages of information without verifying where any of it came from. Because of this, Digg is great for gauging what's being read and what's making its way around the blogosphere, but it is by no means a reliable source of information.

Knowing this, I didn't make too much of a fuss, chalking it up to overreactive Digg users passing along the information as quickly as possible, hoping they'd struck gold and could maybe take some credit for it. That is, until Geraldo Rivera allegedly got into the mix. If I find I've misunderstood the Fox News broadcast about Chiang, I'll recant everything I'm about to say, but for the second time today, I find myself criticizing Fox News' journalistic ethics. First it was the inclusion of Jack Thompson, clearly trying to inject unnecessary controversy into a very sensitive and still raw subject. Now, Rivera, jumping to the same unfounded, stereotype- and rumor-based conclusions as Facebook users with overactive imaginations. Simply put, Fox News has done nothing but degrade its own credibility as a source for actual news as opposed to a national television outlet for rumors, hype and unfounded accusations of a wide variety.

Update: Just a rant: Seriously, people, this is not the guy. Asian+guns does NOT equal murderer. So stop Digging his livejournal and calling him a mass murderer, quit calling into news organizations with tips about this "suspicious" livejournal or xanga blog. It's really starting to annoy me.

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