In class the other day we discussed the story about the former North Andover High School volleyball captain, Erin Cox, and how we as journalists would cover the story. When we discussed the issue, our class was under the impression that Cox was not attending the party, rather, she was only stopping by to pick up a drunk friend. We were under that impression because of the news stories that were circulating at the time. But now, there has been new allegations from other students who attended the party against Cox on social media, where they said Cox was in fact attending the party and drinking alcohol.
The Cox family’s attorney, Wendy Murphy, denied the claims against Cox and used the police’s statement as a reason to ignore what students have been saying on social media. But although the statement of a police officer at the scene said that it was clear that Cox did not have the “slightest” odor of alcohol, her fellow classmates thought otherwise, and made their opinions public on Facebook.
This story is extremely interesting because it’s combining many different discussions we’ve had in class. Cox’s story includes the use of social media, breaking a story before fact checking, and the level of objectivity a story should have as a journalist.
Social media can be both a friend and an enemy for journalists to use. While social media allows for us to share news with our followers, just because someone posts something on Facebook doesn’t make it true. In Cox’s case, maybe her classmates are jealous that Cox is receiving national attention, so they are spreading rumors about her on the Internet; But maybe they aren’t spreading rumors, rather, they feel the need to expose the truth to the public.
Right now there is no way to fully know what’s fact and what’s fiction, so as a journalist is it right to use social media as a source? In my opinion, I believe that social media is a great way to find out what people are talking about, but if a journalist does not investigate the story further, then there will be many errors in his or her reporting of the story.
On a Yahoo blog by Ben Rohrbach, he made an important point about how journalists should sometimes wait for a story to play out, rather than to be the first one to break it. Rohrbach said, “So, from here on out, we’ll self-impose a ‘fool me twice’ policy to this saga. Before we start jumping on the Cox family for sticking to a falsified story as it received national media attention, maybe we should just let this one play out a bit more.” I agree with Rohrbach; sometimes, being right trumps being the first to report a story.