Imagine if our perception of world events were being shaped by some guy at home, sitting in his underwear, pecking away on his computer keyboard. No, I'm not talking about myself, but thanks anyway. A growing number of news stories originate from unnamed sources and social media. “According to reports” is often a fancy way of saying, “Rumor has it ...”
In a bygone era, reporters traveled to the hinterlands, collecting information while risking life and limb. Now, deathdefying reporting is increasingly being replaced by digital posting far from the danger zones and even further from the truth. Arguably, the Middle East is the most volatile part of the world but it has some of the least credible reporting. Armageddon is scary enough without thinking it could be triggered by a Twitter tweet. I randomly picked out a story about the current bogeyman, ISIS, to check its sourcing. The article is a classic example of “news laundering,” and part of it follows below.