In social media world, evidence matters

Commentary

We live in an increasingly aggressive world, one in which people feel entitled to air their personal grievances publicly and recklessly. Social media promotes this type of self-serving righteousness by providing a platform for spontaneous outbursts. Yes — sometimes it is healthy to open a public discussion based on personal concerns. Sometimes, it is not.

Last weekend, an article appeared in the OBSERVER (Nov. 18) that raises concerns about what constitutes actual, report-worthy news versus a personal, slanderous attack. The article was, essentially, one woman’s unqualified, unsubstantiated tirade about a situation that she did not witness first hand. Since when does a personal issue become front-page news?

I am a teacher. One of the most important lessons that I reinforce (constantly!) in my classroom is that every argument must be backed up with evidence. There are always two (three? four?) sides to a story. Perspective is crucial when it comes to understanding and analyzing any situation fairly.

A newspaper has a responsibility to print newsworthy, relevant, unbiased articles. This article failed miserably. As a result, the line between public defamation and unbiased news reporting has been blurred. And as a result, a kind, respectable, giving, human being is being unjustly accused of ableism.

So here’s the problem: by publishing an article that presents one side of a situation, damage is done that cannot be undone. It is too late. A retraction, though appropriate, is too late. Biases have been formed. People, because we are so vulnerable to suggestion, have made up their minds. It is too late.

Melissa Leffel is a Fredonia resident.

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