Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I got caught up.

I got caught up in the sadness.

I got caught up in the sadness and mourning the loss.

I got caught up in the sadness and mourning the loss of a quintessential man 
of justice and peace.

I got caught up in the sadness,
and mourning the loss of a quintessential man of peace and justice,
I posted a Rest in Peace statement
before I checked the sources
before I knew the facts
before I had triangulated the information.

I apologize to anyone who read my Facebook posting and began to also sink into sadness.
I am sorry for anyone who began to mourn the loss of Nelson Mandela prematurely, as I did.

I am reminded of the often quoted statement The rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.

Mark Twain  made the original and similar statement (The report of my death was an exaggeration) in response to an item reporting his serious illness and his death in the New York Journal (June 2, 1897).  Actually it was his cousin who was sick at the time.

I should have known better.

I should have double-triple-quadruple checked my facts.

I have personally and recently berated mainstream media for this exact same error, for causing this exact same confusing situation.

I have been  loud and adamant about this.

The news outlets rush in a media frenzy to be first to scoop the competition.  To titillate,  to speculate, and to tease is not news, but can result in the same being received as news by us, the public--- then gets repeated as fact-- accepted without question, without further investigation or inquiry.

It happened with the Newtown Shooting.

The name of the shooter had not yet been released.  I had just heard that caveat on  NPR , as they deliberately waited for the official release, but then turned  in the next  minute  to a hear another station announce a name--- an incorrect name-- the name of the shooter's brother, who had nothing to do with the massacre at New town.

It happened with the Boston Bombing.

Many news outlets incorrectly reported an arrest in the case when there was none. John King went a step further and erroneously reported that an arrest had been made of a dark-skinned suspect. 

The resulting responses were fast and furious. That was just one of many erroneous reports.  Click here to view other incorrect reports related to this incident.

Regret the Error hosted at is devoted to errors in the news media.  Click here to read about several Obama/Osama confusions/typos and also the latest posts.

There are  incentives to be first-- to provide an exclusive report.

But we have to stop-- just as we would before passing on juicy gossip and ask:  

Is the information accurate?
How do we know what we know?
Can our information  be verified ?
Can our source(s) be verified?

I have been quick to criticize this premature/inaccurate reporting behavior, yet I was also quick to fall into the power of having and responding  to information in my possession in a "timely" manner-- thus posting wrong information.

Social media can promote this--- I am a case in point.
Anyone can post-- anyone can post anything, at anytime.

I fell into the social media hoax about Nelson Mandela and furthered the lie.

I got caught up in the sadness,
....and mourning the loss of a quintessential man of peace and justice,
I posted a Rest In Peace statement for Nelson Mandela who is currently alive, improving in health, and engaging with his family.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibility

How do you know what you know?  How do you verify information you hear or read? How do you decide when and how to pass on what you hear and read?

What is news?

Think about a time when you passed on incorrect information.  What happened as a result?

Think about a recent news story.  What else would you have liked to know about the event?

Write an essay or personal narrative about reporting news from one of the above perspectives.    


  1. Brilliant treatment of an important discussion and caution forus all, Robin. What a lovely container for your correction, that nested meditation.

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Margaret. When I struggling with a piece my default is always nestled meditation. I now have a better understanding of how reporters might fall it to the frenzy :-)

  3. I love this discussion and the idea of what I know and how I know it! We, as humans, are always quick to pass on information, we love being the "first"! The challenge to consider information and when to share is important, not only in the news but also in community and relationships. Great post!

  4. Thanks, Leslie. This incident truly proved to be a learning experience for me. I feel like the responsibility is even greater if I am passing something on in writing---on the internet.

    I will be checking from now on, hoping not to repeat this error.