By David Zurawick, Baltimore Sun
Last week, I wrote about AP having to correct a report it published saying Jon and Kate Gosselin had been living apart for the last two years. It troubled me to see a news organization that fomed the bedrock of fact-based journalism losing its way for a moment amid the Jon & Kate frenzy and all the enthusiam over the near-instantaneous news cycles made possible with the growth of social media, iReports and Twitter.
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I wondered if anyone was acting as gatekeeper in the mainstream media any more. Well, here we go again with the Rick Astley is dead story that swept across cyberspace last night.
The 43-year-old singer who gained online noteriety singing “Never Gonna Give You Up” is not dead. It was just a hoax and a weird replay of the online geeks’ game of “Rickrolling” people online. (You click on a link thinking it is going to take you to, say, BBC News,and instead it takes you to a video of Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Aparently setting up a Rickroll is what passes for a life for some people).
But what matters with this false story — and all the others about such celebrities as Jeff Goldblum and George Clooney last week in the wake of the real deaths of Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Michael Jackson — is how susceptible we have become to bad information sweeping through our lives.