2018-09-12 / Community View

BE THE CHANGE

Hey, Chicken Little, the sky isn’t always falling


KRYSTAL MORALEE KRYSTAL MORALEE I made a mistake recently, due to assumption on my part, and you know what they say about people who assume things.

I went to Chef G’s to do an interview and — I should’ve known better — I didn’t ask owner Ginni Bruman how to spell her name. I spelled it “Ginny” in the story. She didn’t call me out on it, and I didn’t know until I met a friend for lunch and happened to see Bruman’s business card. I felt terrible.

As a journalist, accuracy and integrity have always been at the top of my list for importance. After all, I’m putting information out there as fact, so I need to make certain I am presenting the truth. If it’s not something I can prove, I have to be careful to indicate who is making the claims, so people can take it for what it’s worth. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Unfortunately, that responsibility is not considered by many who post on social media, which is where so many people seem to get their “news” these days.

Last week, my Facebook feed was peppered with shares of a claim that a man in an empty bus (some said unmarked, while others said it was a Lapeer Community Schools bus) had attempted to pick up some kids who were waiting for their bus in Mayfield Township. Someone then attached that claim to one about a human trafficking ring, and it was being shared like crazy… again.

I had seen that trafficking post last year, and because it was so widely shared and named incidents in nearby communities, I decided to do some checking around. I worked in law enforcement at the time, so I had a chat with our sheriff about it, and I made calls to a couple other departments that covered the areas indicated. I found exactly no one that could give me any kind of confirmation whatsoever about these alleged trafficking incidents in Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties.

As for the bus post, I looked into that one as well. The transportation department pointed me to Lapeer Community Schools Communications Director Jared Field, and a brief chat with him revealed what I’d suspected — there was no evidence of any danger. I know every day there are several buses that pass our house on the way to school, and once or twice, I’ve had the wrong bus stop and offer to pick up my son, as his bus was running behind. In fact, the transportation people eventually switched my kid to the other bus for that reason. Perhaps that’s what we were dealing with here, or perhaps it was a beginning of the school year mistake. Regardless, it’s safe to say we don’t know.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there aren’t lessons to be learned here. Of course, we should always reinforce safety with our children, and we should practice good situational awareness ourselves, too. Always be aware of your surroundings, what’s supposed to be happening, and anything that seems off. Trust your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation. Equip children with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe, and lead by example.

There are other lessons, too, and I believe the biggest is to do some research before you share, particularly if the news you are sharing is alarming. Every day on Facebook, I see all these Chicken Littles clucking that the sky is falling. Oh my goodness, everywhere you look, the worst things imaginable are happening across the country, in the next town over, and right here in our community.

Except often, they’re not.

But sometimes they are. There’s no doubt we live in a frightening world. Bad things happen all the time, so I don’t understand why people seem so determined to escalate that fear unnecessarily. Most of the time, all it takes is a little common sense, a quick Google or maybe a phone call to see if there is any merit to the terrible things we read about. It’s easier, I guess, just to click that share button. Laziness. Or maybe people are really that gullible. Probably a measure of both.

The internet and social media platforms make it easy for anyone to be a “writer” these days. I beg you, though, if you’re going to share, please be the change you wish to see in the world and do your part to eliminate fake “news” by doing a little investigation before you shout something from the rooftop, er, laptop.

And if you’re wrong, admit it. I’m sorry, Ginni.

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