The Wreck of the Calgary Herald

Journalists who take what they read on Twitter and run with it instead of doing their jobs and checking the facts, you’d better take care if I find you’ve been creeping ’round my back stairs.

To make a long story short, the word around the Internet today was that Canadian icon Gordon Lightfoot had died. Like many Canadians, I first heard about it through a post on Twitter. I was obviously initially skeptical, but when my good friend Sofi posted a link to a since-removed piece in the Calgary Herald “confirming” the rumour, I felt like it was at least worth distributing for the sake of enabling people to evaluate it for themselves.

Thankfully, the whole thing was a hoax. If you trust the Herald – and frankly, I don’t know why you would after this whole debacle – fellow Canadian rock legend Ronnie Hawkins is to blame for the whole thing. Although I don’t see how that can possibly be the case, since it’s a journalist’s job not to take whatever you happen to hear from a third party source for granted.

At any rate, I wouldn’t mind seeing “Taking Care of Business” become a euphemism for incompetent Canadian journalism. Indeed, I’d like to see this whole situation become a global lesson for journalists who still believe that Twitter should be taken for granted as a reliable source, not to mention all the everyday people who need to acknowledge that a lot of journalists are phoning it in these days.

In any event, the general lesson is that you can’t believe everything you hear – especially if you hear it from the Calgary Herald, apparently.

“I haven’t had so much airplay for weeks,” the basically awesome Gordon Lightfoot said when reached for comment, by the way.

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5 Responses to “The Wreck of the Calgary Herald”

  1. You should check YOUR facts says:

    It’s apparent you have not done your research when writing this blog post. Calgary Herald did not make up the story…it was obtained from their wire service, from a reporter who did not properly confirm what they were told.
    It is interesting to note, though, that Ronnie Hawkins did confirm first-person to the reporter that the rumour was true….hence he is not a ‘third-party source,’ as you so put it.

    Before you criticize the news media perhaps you should take some time to understand how it works and who individual newspapers take their marching orders from. Yes, the Herald posted the story because that is what papers do when something comes in off their wire service, but they had no part in writing the story or the confirmation of the facts.

    If anything this is a case of why media conglomerates can be detrimental to their own objective, but to place the blame on one paper shows just how little you know about the subject.

    Next time you blog, take the time to find out what actually happened, instead of relying on Twitter to form you opinions for you.

  2. acthomas says:

    Matt, did you write that comment deliberately to enhance the satire element of your own post? If not, you couldn’t have done a better job… newspapers are responsible for their content, no matter whether they technically employ the reporter or just subscribe to their service.

  3. Matt says:

    This all happened while I was on my way home from work, so let me respond to both comments in kind.

    YSCYF: If the Calgary Herald reporter didn’t confirm the wire service report, then that’s a ball dropped and a job poorly done. And if all Bachman was able to do was confirm a rumour he’d heard, then I’m afraid he was indeed a third party, and a poorly informed one at that.

    Finally, I clearly never placed total blame on the Herald for getting the story out there; anyone who bothered to read and grasp the whole post would have gotten that a) I put the initial blame on the rumour mill, and clearly didn’t attempt to identify an initial source because I wasn’t in a position to, and b) I never once insinuated that the whole thing was the Herald’s fault, let alone that they were even the only ones to report the falsehood. I alluded to them in the title of the post, I’ll grant you that, but I hardly dismissed anyone and everyone else who played a part in this whole debacle, including myself for linking to the Herald’s article as a skeptical party.

    So not to be confrontational, but I’m afraid you’re the one who’s totally in the wrong and stands to learn a lesson about journalism and skepticism.

    acthomas: It turns out that I agree with everything you said above. We should hang out, dude.

  4. Matt says:

    The Toronto Sun splashed the headline “Dead Wrong” across their cover today. So I think they win the prize for saying that Gordon Lightfoot’s fine in the most ominous, attention grabbing way possible.

    Personally, I would have preferred “Dead? Wrong!”

  5. Matt says:

    Meanwhile, and not surprisingly, Mathew Ingram’s done a much better job of summarizing the story than I have.