Major news outlets have been copping flak lately over the taking of user-generated content from the internet for use in news stories. There have been several recent cases on ABC’s Media Watch detailing instances where mainstream media have plucked content from the internet for use in their stories without proper verification.
Channel Nine recently ran a story covering the robbery of Australian Paralympian Liesl Tesch in the latest Olympic city of Rio. They backed this story by showing footage of a similar robbery occurring in Rio of a man being robbed at gun-point while riding his bicycle through the street. What Channel Nine didn’t say was that this footage was actually two years old, and more importantly, didn’t even occur in Rio. The footage was actually captured in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires by a Canadian tourist via his GoPro.
Channel 9 made a similar blunder just a few days later when reporting a violent incident between a motorist and several cyclists on a busy Sydney road. Once again the video footage shown was actually taken two and a half years ago. Furthermore, Nine accompanied the footage with the caption “ROAD RAGE: DULWICH HILL CYCLIST FIGHTS WITH MOTORIST”. This was also wrong, as President of the Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club, who was witness to the scene, confirmed that “No DHBC rider was involved in the alleged altercation at all”.
Whether Channel Nine were aware they were reporting misinformation is unclear. What is clear is that these incidents are far from isolated, as news media are increasingly failing to verify the stories they publish. It is the job of Journalists to ensure they are reporting the facts, and not to take everything they see on the internet as fact. This reminds me of the other recent case whereby dozens of news media around the world reported the story of three English lads who ended up in Syria after a night out, only for the story to be later revealed as a hoax. I can’t help but wonder how many other false stories are being reported due to lazy journalists failing to verify their sources.