Washington Times 'closure' - a story based on one unchecked anonymous email

The Washington Post has an interesting blog post illustrating the fact that a shady internet rumour can spread around the world as ‘news’ while the truth is still getting its shoes on, if you know what I mean.

It is the story that the Washington Times was about to close reported on the website DCRTV. It turns out the original story was based purely on an anonymous and unchecked email tip off, but that didn’t stop it being followed up by the Huffington Post, the Washington Examiner and several other news organisations before actual reporting kicked in.

It took the Washington Post and Politico to find out that the Washington Times was actually set to be bought by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon – leader of the Moonies.

It illustrates a big problem with online news reporting. Because of the pressure to be first, many sites think it is ok to report total cobblers provided they do so with attribution. Something which I’m forced to admit we may have done once or twice as well.

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