The rumor mill is a dangerous thing. While we don’t require multi-sourcing for this site, we tend to require some demonstration of validity. Yesterday, a Georgetown professor in his 1L class told students shortly after the start of the class that he knew that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was retiring for health reasons. You can guess what happened next.
At least one media outlet ran with it without verifying the statement, and things snowballed from there. Not long after, it was on Drudge, then Fox News, and suddenly conservatives everywhere were having heart attacks at the thought of President Obama replacing the Chief Justice.
Professor Tague was making a point about trust and unverified: do you trust the news right now? Why?
Folks, the world is changing fast. The barriers to entry in news have been drastically lowered, and as a result, we get some scrambling moments like these. Journalists will use this as ammunition against bloggers like us, who they feel threatened by. “These kids today,” they say, “they’ll run with anything!” Yes, some people will run with stuff like that. They’re revealed to be unreliable by the coverage they produce. Good sites have reputations to protect, and will do what they need to do in order to protect theirs, including handle a level of fact-checking that some sites chose to avoid yesterday.
Definitely a cautionary tale.