“Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist” and what passes for news

News is under attack from many sides. There are digital missiles, financial grenades, dwindling readership and viewership, and the there’s the credibility factor.

So a story like this of a fabricated, unverified “source” brings up serious issues. Says The New York Times, peeling back the curtain:

“Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.”

Which is to say, not just old media but new media and hybrid media tend to get taken for a ride very easily.

OK, so this was just a prank –a film maker trying to make a name, no different from say, Lonely Girl trying to make a career. But we have seen this script before haven’t we, and they have had serious consequences. Remember SwiftBoat, and Dan Rather’s “gate“, and Jason Blair, and … the list could go on.

Let’s face it. Trust, has been shifting from authority figures and truth verifiers to (drum roll…) “people like me.” But even we are easily influenced (duped?) by some digital presence from people like us. When we do our due diligence as communicators we tend to assume that:

  • Anyone with a web site is probably above board
  • An organization with a blog is actually quite real, if not transparent. Until it the blog is outed.
  • And anyone who uses Twitter, is transparency personified -until people like “Janet‘ show up

In a recent Harvard study, people trusted Cable news twice as much as Broadcast news. For print, credibility was nearly a quarter of Cable news. None of this is comforting. The Martin Eisenstadt story broke on Cable news first. But the scary part? Even bloggers were linking to the fake Mr. Eisenstadt!

fakenytFun Sidebar: If you think most of the news is made up, take a look at at this edition of the New York Times. From the cover story, you might gues it is a fake New York Times.

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