About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star
On accuracy and accountability
Sometimes I really dislike this new world that I live and work in. I dislike that accuracy no longer matters. I dislike that no one is accountable for their actions.
I say this because of the blog I did here yesterday and the story that appeared in the newspaper this morning. Both were about Facebook postings from last week that said that three people had died of sepsis at Stafford Hospital in the last month. The postings that I saw were on two people’s individual Facebook pages. The postings were identical, an all-caps, cut-and-paste job, warning people to avoid Stafford Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman said that there was a third posting, but I never saw it.
It’s not clear who wrote the original. I wrote to both people, via Facebook, and asked if they would talk with me. Neither responded.
As far as I can tell, the posting is inaccurate. Stafford did not have three sepsis deaths in the last month. It appears that they did have at least one death, but a spokeswoman insists they did not have three. Sepsis is rare but not unheard of. Stafford had four deaths from sepsis last year.
The story reminded me that, with the Internet, everyone is a publisher. That’s a wonderful development, but aren’t there responsibilities that go with being a publisher?
The publisher that I work for insists that I put my name on my work, and that I strive for accuracy. I’m sure my critics will jump in here to say that I don’t always reach that goal, but I try. I check and double-check before publication, and I correct errors when I find out about them.
That appears to be a lost virtue. Now you can say anything you want about anyone, and you can say it from the gutless security of an anonymous screen name. And it doesn’t matter who is hurt by your words. As a local doctor said this morning in an e-mail: “It is frightening that some crackpot can post: ‘Stafford Hospital is processing and serving cadavers in the cafeteria lunch line’ and half the public would believe it.”
Unbelievable. If history is a succession of cycles, I can’t wait for this one to end.