A prevalent issue within journalism today is the falsity of both sources and information, a form of plagiarism which is by no means new. However, the growth and recognition of this form of plagiarism can largely be attributed to the rapid developments in technology as well as the increasing use of online outlets for reporting.
Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter allow for the expedient spread of information–information which is not necessarily true. These outlets don’t always guarantee that someone is who they claim to be and can serve as major proponents of false quotations, causing news organizations and individuals who do not perform sound fact/source checks to use tweets and Facebook statuses as information for a story. A prime example of this was the serge of Facebook statuses following the Sandy Hook school shooting sharing a message supposedly from Morgan Freeman.
This situation shows that the attribution associated with a quote requires a source check more than ever before, as the true source of a falsification can get lost in the millions of likes, shares and retweets it gets. The expedience of both the sharing of a quotation as well as the debunking of such is astounding. Technology may have been behind the spread of this particular fabrication, but it is also how so many people (in this case it was the camp of Morgan Freeman) are able to denounce quotations and stories which are plagiarized.
Though this example of falsification appeared to be strictly accidental by most of those who shared the quote, there are many cases in which the intent behind false information or quote attribution can’t always be confirmed as innocent. I have made a point to follow a story regarding the school newspaper at the University of Alabama where The Crimson White, as the paper is called, has recently been accused of fabricating quotes.
The plagiarism committed by staff at The Crimson White has caused various blogs (not the most hard-hitting example of journalism, but Total Frat Move being one of them) which report any second hand information from this newspaper to blatantly attribute it to the paper and state that it may not necessarily be trustworthy. If lack of credibility is not the worst nightmare for a news outlet, I’m not sure what is.