Categorized | Opinion

Real News: Utility hoax further proof that good journalism trumps social media

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Star Commentary

mlgw hoax2The hoax heard around the world… well at least Memphis has shined a spotlight on a few issues.
The one that jumps out to me personally is the need for good journalists, journalism and trustworthy outlets. On the morning of July 8 word spread quickly via social media that former Memphis Grizzlies player Zach “ZBo” Randolph was once again displaying  his generosity by giving $1 million to MLG&W to pay various electric bills of residents.
In the past ZBo has donated $20,000 annually to the power company to help assist those in need during the winter months. So we were to believe this time Randolph ponied up a $1 million to help. Maybe it was a farewell gift to the city he spent nearly a decade before he heads off to Sacramento to join the Kings.
With social media running a realistic looking story, the trap was set for those who were seeking a blessing, some assistance or even a break. The next domino to fall in this event was done by people spreading the news.
If it was a tweet, post and share, social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram gave this rumor strength and legitimacy.
And thousands came out and stood in long lines waiting on kiosks to get Randolph’s gift of paying their Memphis Light, Gas and Water bills. Gas stations transformed into parking lots. If you needed gas that Saturday morning… too bad.
The early morning heat didn’t matter to those who wanted to just pay one percent of their bill to eliminate the entire cost. Now when I heard you had to pay any portion, my alarms went off.
If you have to pay, it’s time to go the other way.
Now I’m blessed to be in this position. Over the years the Memphis Grizzlies and MLG&W would provide press releases about ZBo giving to the needy. Then The Millington Star and various other media sources would verify the information for public consumption.
Saturday there was no filter for the public. Many Memphians were already in line before Randolph or MLG&W could respond or give confirmation to any donation.
“That rumor on social media was completely false,” MLGW president Jerry Collins said at his press conference that afternoon.
Then ZBo took to that very social media platform to address the development.
“The rumor about me donating 1 million dollars to MLGW is FALSE,” he posted on Twitter. “However I will make my annual $20,000 contribution to MIFA/MLGW in the fall.”
Social media has many usages like showcasing achievements, connecting with family and friends, keeping up with love ones miles away and shining a spotlight on those deserving for their generosity.
But let’s not hide the dangers of social media. In this me-first, selfie-loving age, the platform has become a source of mayhem and distraction. People “Go Live” with criminal activity and post their ignorant agendas.
In addition to racial and terroristic theories having a fertile field for seeds, other plants of evil have grown like cyber bullying, body shaming and money-making schemes.
Social media has its place to benefit society. But it needs policing and filters. And that’s where media comes in. There are still some good journalists out there providing “Real News.”
The public’s actions have shown that most people feel they don’t need newspapers, news broadcasts and informative magazines. Society today doesn’t read. They want to look at video post and memes. People need a soundbite instead of research.
Instead of both sides of the story, people are in such a hurry that one view of a situation will due. There is no time for studying and getting the full details. We must jump up and get in line for the ZBo donation. We must be the first to spread the word if some celebrity has passed away.
Don’t jump out of your car to help your fellow man who just suffered a wreck. The thing to do is get your phone out and go live as the SUV is in flames so you can go viral.
Instead of allowing professionals to cover the news, trained photographers to capture the images or a photojournalist provide the moving images, Joe Citizen runs to do it to maybe get some Internet fame.
Journalists who chose this profession have a passion for the job. We want to provide truthful information to the public to enrich it. We have a Code of Ethics a vast majority of us live up to it daily.
A trained journalist knows how to use social media for good and have a positive impact on the community he or she serves. A good journalist knows the first post, the cell phone footage and the picture is just a part of the entire story.
It took a rumor, glitch or hacking to spark a fire of chaos as hot as a July day in Memphis. And good journalism from the four news stations, local paper and seasoned journalists on speed dial to prevent it from being worst.
If you read this column all the way through, most likely you weren’t in that line that morning. You still know where good information can be found. And I’m asking you to join forces with us journalists in spreading this news that we still have a need for the professional written word of information.

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