There’s a rumor — or a thinly-sourced-until-now story — going around that the US-Constitution-waving Mr. Kahn, of Democratic convention fame, has been blocked by the US government from visiting Canada.
Now, we don’t know if this incendiary story is true. We do know that some august Canadian news sources have shared it on Twitter based on the claims of a lone Canadian organization that reportedly had booked Khan for a lunch tomorrow.
I’m not alleging that the Canadian group is lying. I am saying that I’ve never heard of this organization, and a two paragraph Facebook post from a group I don’t know even exists isn’t enough to run with a story this explosive.
Now, that doesn’t mean we bury the story forever. People are trying to confirm it. I just worry about sharing these kind of stories publicly when we don’t really have them fully sourced.
I’ve been writing professionally for a long time. And I’ve seen my share of real “fake news.” And over time you develop a gut for it. Something feels not quite right about a story. This is one of those stories. And I don’t mean to say that this story is fake news. I mean to say that we don’t have enough proof yet to confirm it and share it as true.
Now why does this matter? It shouldn’t take much explanation. We live in an era where everyone on the right is promoting the notion that anything they disagree with is “fake news.” It doesn’t help that climate to publish stories that may end up not being real.
But more generally, we have a responsibility to our readers, our profession and our country to get it right. So, yeah, it irks me when I see big-name publications, and others, jumping the gun on a story that’s only half-baked. I realize in the Internet age we all feel pressure to be first. We all want those beloved ad-paying pageviews. But come on, let’s show a little professionalism.
I hope the Khan story isn’t true, as it would be a huge violation of one of the most basic tenets of American citizenship: our freedom of movement. And if it is true, we will raise unholy hell over it. (According to some stories, Khan refuses to comment, which isn’t terribly helpful, though to a degree it isn’t a denial.)
But let’s get this one right.
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