The death of news credibility

I’ve been watching the steady decline of journalism since the Internet began replacing print and television as the main provider of news, with a seething disgust.

Today’s CNN top story put me over the edge.

Here’s the title and article summary for those of you without images in their feed readers:

6-year-olds forced into sex for food, group finds

A poor Haitian girl could get $2.80 and some chocolate, she told a European charity. All she had to do was perform a sex act on a humanitarian worker. She refused. Her impoverished friends did not. Her story is one of many in a report titled “No One To Turn To” — which chronicles allegations of charity and U.N. workers abusing children.

But if you read the actual article you see not a story about a 6-year-old being raped, but the following:

In the report, “No One To Turn To” a 15-year-old girl from Haiti told researchers: “My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises.

“They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes ($2.80) and some chocolate if we would suck them. I said, ‘No,’ but some of the girls did it and got the money.”

This bait-and-switch is so misrepresentative as to be grotesque. The story changes from “Humanitarian workers pay teenagers for sex” to the more sensationalist “6-year-olds forced into sex for food.”

The biggest problem with news being disseminated online is that there is no geographic isolation (as is the case with both print and tv), which means that every local news network is in competition with every other news site on the planet. Ratings are driven by attracting as large an audience as possible… and most people care more about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s married life than how many people vanished from a Darfur town this week (hint: all 30,000).

(Continue reading: Aviary)

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