DC Edit | An obituary in era of fake news
In a perfect world, the death of any individual is to be confirmed by a doctor. In the real world that is imperfect, impulsive and trigger-happy, however, journalists, onlookers and regular citizens, in a frenzy to be first, can declare anyone dead. It then becomes particularly problematic when the obituary is premature and the person is alive.
There have been news in the past, or was it merely an urban legend, that a famous Indian politician, recuperating in a hospital, walked out of bed to hear the news of his death announced on radio.
Today, the world woke up to the grim news breaking across the web-cum-social-media sphere that former Zimbabwean cricket legend Heath Streak had passed away. Predictably, a legion of his shocked fans expressed their condolences online, and some media outlets even ran the “news” before Deccan Chronicle got in touch with the cricketer and confirmed to the cricketing world that he was alive.
It is sad when you have to report someone’s death, but it is both a relief and an annoyance when you have to report that that someone is then alive. Speaking exclusively over telephone from Zimbabwe, Streak told DC, “It is a total rumour, and a lie. I am alive and well.”
How did such false news about the legendary cricketer get so widely circulated, even by reputed news agencies, so quickly, with not one scribe or celebrity going for a second check?
“I am very upset to learn that something as big as someone apparently passing can be spread unverified especially in our day and age,” said the alive, healthy and hearty Mr Streak. “I believe the source should apologise. I am hurt by the news.”
We should all be angry, and we should also pause to ponder over the speed with which we react to news without even an iota of doubt.
As we re-quote Mark Twain’s immortal quip, “…(news) reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”, let us feel glad that this news turned out to be a fake one.