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We need to know now…or do we?

It’s no secret that events this week have been amazing, and we’re all reeling from what has happened.

It’s also safe to say that many have also noticed that with social media comes an incredible amount for misinformation and confusion. We may have caused this problem ourselves.

When word first broke of the bombings in Boston, I was astounded to see intelligent people on Twitter demanding to know what was happening now. They seem to feel they have a right to know. And, then those who felt they needed to be first started to talk…and things went downhill quickly.

But what is our responsibility when our desire – I don’t think it’s a right – to know collides with the official investigation. When it interferes with the safety of the first responders and law enforcement officials we’re all, rightfully, lauding. In the New York Times today, Brian Stelter wrote:

“The authorities simultaneously thanked members of the news media for spreading the word that Bostonians should take shelter and remain alert — and cautioned them against repeating secondhand or thinly sourced information.”

Until recently, we waited for investigations to run their course, for the officials to talk with the media and then we heard the story. It’s my opinion, and I believe the facts will show this from this week’s events, we can drastically affect our own safety and that of law enforcement by “needing” so much information…right now.

We should be okay with waiting. In fact, we should be more than okay. It’s the media’s responsibility to research stories and report them to us in a factual matter. This week, many have come to realize the networks still seem to be doing that fairly well, and NPR. Pete Williams, NBC, is being lauded for his caution and professionalism. When media doesn’t have facts, they should be silent. When we don’t have facts we should be silent. The damage done by CNN and Reddit is unconscionable. As Eric Schwartzman said,

“the problem with #crowdsleuthing the #Bostonmarathon on Reddit is no distinction between verification and reporting.”

It was wonderful to see the Boston Police using social media channels to ask for help:


 At the same time, it was terrifying to see them ask people to stop giving out information about their locations. It just seems like common sense. We really need to go back to doing what we, as citizens, do best.


It’s law enforcement s responsibility to “get the bad guy” and we expect them to do that. We can also expect them to tell us when they need us to help, and they’ve done that. But we absolutely must stop spreading rumors, using unknown sources, and providing information that will make situations unsafe for law enforcement.

In the end, most of us are going to sources we trust, and likely wait for information we can believe. I hope those who’ve been passing on the innuendos learn from this.

We don’t need to know now…we can wait for the facts. Really. We can.


By |2018-03-18T22:44:09+00:00April 19th, 2013|Leadership & Networking|2 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


  1. jessfaunt April 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    We have become so accustomed to the immediacy of social media that we have forgotten that uncovering the truth takes time.  With the technology of the 1900’s, we would not have heard about Boston from a news source until the next morning.  While I’m grateful to live in a time where we can follow the unfoldment of events as quickly as somebody who is watching, we cannot take this for granted and demand for more information too quickly.  In the race to get the news out fast, we cannot let accuracy fall aside.

    • mdbarber April 20, 2013 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      I agree with you Jessica and think this week’s events have really demonstrated the need for restraint. We seem to feel a sense of entitlement to this information.
      I hope you had a great day today. It was fun to chat this morning. Best of luck with your college decision. You know where I hope you’ll go.

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