Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Wild Party That Wasn't

My favorite thing about the Internet is that you get to go into the private world of real creeps without having to smell them. ~Penn Jillett

It's a typical Internet story. Idiot kid posts on "social networking" site how he or she is having a party, and everyone on earth is invited. A significant number of everyones, ranging from a few hundred to the population of Karkow shows up. The house is trashed, there's plenty of gratuitous sex and free booze, and the cops call in the 43rd Airborne to quell the riot. Such an incident is reported here. Another day, another stupid Internet act.

You may find that the link doesn't work, because, according to the kid's mother, it never happened.

Well, not exactly. The idiot kid did make the posting inviting the world plus dog to her party. And the same idiot kid made a posting claiming all sorts of wild, lascivious things went on that required the local gendarmes to step in. It just turns out that she was having a little fun with everyone on the Internet -- and in the media.

According to a letter written by her mother to the newspapers that published stories about the bash, there were no police called in, the family had private security personnel on hand, and none of the sex, boozing, and other illicit activities took place.

And, oh, by the way, she's suing all the publications that published the stories.

At the time of the C/Net article, only TimesonLine had removed the piece. Others (including the link I provided) still had the story on their sites, although that could change.

This is wrong on so many levels, it's hard to figure out where to start.

First of all, if none of this happened, why in the world did the kid and her friends post all these fantasies on their Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, and who-knows-what-all pages? Is this what passes for "fun" these days (at least among those whose parents can afford over $8000 per week to rent a $9 million Spanish villa)?

Then there are the newspapers that published the story. Did none of them actually contact the Spanish authorities to find out if they were called to the villa? And how desperate are these so-called reporters that they are reduced to cruising kids blogs for news items?

Oh, well, I suppose it beats outright stealing from blogs -- but not by much.

When I read and hear, nearly every week, how newspapers are going away and mainstream journalism is in trouble everywhere, I begin to understand why. A newspaper is supposed to have for-real reporters who verify facts and report something that approximates the truth. Yes, I wasn't born yesterday. I was alive when the Cleveland Press almost single-handedly convicted Sam Sheppard, a conviction that was overturned. I am certainly aware that any publication or other news medium has an agenda.

But, there was a time when a report of some sort of wild party, if it was reported at all, would have been thoroughly checked out. It could be regarded as factual. Evidently, in the continual cost cutting that newspapers are undertaking, one of the things they have eliminated is fact-checking. They may have eliminated reporters for all I can see. All they need is some minimum-wage part-time high school kids surfing the web, looking for sensational postings to edit a little and roll out in the "At Press Time" or "News Briefs" sections. Or maybe the Life Styles section.

It will be interesting to see if the rich-kid's-wild-party story actually turns out to be true or false. Either way, the kid's mother should take the kid out to their well-appointed woodshed.

Better yet, deduct the attorney's fees from her allowance. That'll teach her.

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