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September 21, 2014
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The peril of social media without vetting it…

This past weekend in Italy, Napoli Football Club had a heart attack moment over an alleged racial abuse claim from its home fans that has gone viral on Twitter and Facebook.

The whole thing started at a home game that was played between Napoli and AC Milan. In the 72nd minute of the game, Milan’s striker Mario Balotelli was substituted off the field and after he took a seat on the beach, he broke down in tears.

Many people in the stadium caught sight of this and they let their imagination took off: Is he upset that his team is losing or is he too stress out with the excessive media attention he’s been getting from outside of the football field? People went with the most unlikely explanation that he has been racially abused by the home fans, and they put that on Twitter and Facebook.

Because of the sensitive nature of this story, many English-language media outlets ran with the story with retweeted these original posts. However, many Italian reporters claimed there was no racial abuse heard in the stadium.

Napoli was horrified because FIFA takes racial discrimination against minority players a very serious offense and involving club could be severely punished. Napoli had to issue a public statement clarifying there was no racial chant directed towards Balotelli in the stadium.

It is a shame that news outlets nowadays would compromise accuracy for a more timely delivery. This dilemma has been brought up numerous times in the journalism classes I’ve been in. Publishing completely false information even with a good intention (advocacy for anti-racism in this case) is utterly unacceptable. In this case, Napoli Football Club could be in deep trouble for no reason.

It is true for journalists sometimes news story are hard to verify, and major stories concerning the immediate wellbeing and the safety of the public need to get out fairly quickly. But for stories of no immediate importance to the public news organization really need to exercise some more discretion and some common sense.

Nowadays with the advance of technology everyone with a smart phone can do be a journalist. Professional journalists feel the pressure to compete with citizen journalists and often time skip a few necessary steps before publishing a story. Professional journalists shouldn’t be competing to get ahead a few extra hours at the cost of a better understanding and presentation of the story.