When it comes to breaking news on the internet, two things are always assured: 1) News will spread faster than salmonella on a cruise ship, and 2) News will be debunked almost immediately.
Such was the case with the “Jackie Earle Haley cast as Green Lantern villain” circus which transpired a week ago.
The original source of the rumour came from Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News. Despite the fact that there was no credible information to back Knowles story, besides an “our inside source tells us...” reference, we all took it upon ourselves to treat it as a quasi-credible fact, only to see it shot down in flames the following day by a clearly shocked Haley.
And by “we”, I take equal responsibility on the spreading of said false news story. After all, this was a piece of casting news which featured a popular actor and an anticipated film.
But even though I and so many others played the rules of the film-site game, perhaps it is time there be a change of strategy.
A few months back at the Sydney press conference for G.I. Joe, I asked director Stephen Sommers if he could comment on the hotly distributed rumour that he was fired from the film during post production.
His response was simple: The internet is full of shit. And, to a certain degree, he is right.
Credibility is something which internet based publications always have, and perhaps will, struggle with. Unlike print newspaper or magazine, where sources are checked, verified, and then checked again, too many internet publications rely on hearsay and unverified information provided by unknown sources.
For some reason, this has been viewed as acceptable. Why? Shouldn’t information –irrelevant where it is published – be backed with fact?
This is not only why a media watchdog is needed to name and shame online publications who print faux news, but the need for responsibility on the part of site administrators is key in the establishment of integrity within online publications.
After all, if the print world is truly dying, leaving online publications to take the reigns, isn’t it only fair that some responsibility be stored and credibility presented?