The Kuwait Times, original source of the "news" that Kuwait had banned the use of DSLRs by non-journalists, has issued a retraction, which I quote here in full:
This is another example of one of the great problems and drawbacks of the web. The Kuwait DSLR ban was widely reported as "news" across many different sites on the internet—too many to list, really (if you're curious, Google "Kuwait DSLR")—and was repeated on numerous forums, blogs and websites as if it were true.
We saw something similar happen in our field recently when a team assembled by Rick Norsigian's lawyer floated a seemingly plausible press release about some allegedly long-lost "Ansel Adams" negatives that were supposedly "worth" an absurdly huge sum. There turned out to be no truth to that one, either. Yet it was so widely reported and repeated that I twice got the story told back to me by perfect strangers out in public—a guy sitting next to me at a restaurant, and a sales clerk at a retail store (the latter seemed unwilling to disbelieve the story even when I told him it wasn't true). I'm sure there are many "civilians" out there who believe it to this day, having gotten the initial story but not the follow-up.
Follow-up is crucial. It's a human characteristic that the more we hear something, and from more different sources—and the better a story it is!—the more it enters our consciousness, and the more we tend to lend credence to it. (It's the foundations of advertising, and now, unfortunately, politics too.) It seems to me that in the internet age, traditional journalistic standards are going to become ever more important, not less so, and the remaining traditional news outlets are going to become more crucial to public discourse than they ever were, even as their numbers and their profitability decline. (You didn't read about the Kuwait DSLR ban story in the New York Times or the The Times of London, or hear it from the BBC [UPDATE: See Graeme's comment below].) Because it takes time, skill, training, and no small measure of good intuition to learn how to sort the true stories from fantasies and lies. Objective fact checkers will be critically needed in our world in the future, and pros are just better at it than the rest of us. But the bottom line is, we all have to be "editors" to some extent from now on—we have to continue to struggle to learn whom to trust and what to believe, and how to recognize the signs when things seem just a little fishy somehow.
You've probably heard the old newsperson's credo: "If your mother says she loves you...."
(Thanks to ggl)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Graeme: "Less than an hour ago, I watched the BBC report the ban on the BBC News channel here in the U.K. on the programme 'Click.' "
Featured Comment by Hugh Crawford: "Hmm, so much for the L.A. Times."
Featured Comment by Mike Plews: "My doctor has a little booklet of general information he gives all his patients. One section deals with health information on the net. He points out that there is a lot of half-baked malarkey (my words) on the net concerning health. His advice is to make sure your decisions are based on information from sources you know and trust. Good guidance overall.
"I'm an assistant news director for a TV station in the Midwest. I've been in this business since 1974 and have endured my share of nonsense over the years. I remember one man who went from town to town giving paid seminars on avoiding taxes. His advice was to write "5th amendment" across your 1040, sign it and send it in. I suspect he kept IRS field auditors busy for years. I sometimes wonder if he is now dishing out similar recommendations over the net.
"The internet is a wonderful thing. It provides me with The Online Photographer which is the part of my morning coffee ritual for which I am most grateful. But the net is also much like the backyard fence. Some of the people who chat you up across it are geniuses, others are imbeciles. It is your responsibility to make the differentiation and put what they say into perspective."