Donald Dodd, Publisher

Some people in the media call it an infodemic, the proliferation of information available at the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. Problem is, some of that information is not true and leads to not only confusion, but reactions that are not good for the community. While social media has been beneficial in so many areas, we are finding out it can also lead to problems, anything from bullying and intimidation to spreading fear and hate. Those things can be contagious.

Salem Publishing Company, publisher of The Salem News, Phelps County Focus and their websites, along with media large and small all over the world, are tasked with evaluating information to ensure its credibility. Speaking for us, once we evaluate and verify sources, we place this in our print and web products along with attribution. We find this works well, and when we or a source are incorrect, we gladly correct the information.

This task has become increasingly difficult as COVID-19 and now protests – some of them violent – around the country have led to people using the internet to spread misinformation. We can’t speak for all media, and there are those who use a bully pulpit to exasperate the problems. Hate groups and hateful people, too, tell half-truths and all-out lies.

Misinformation is nothing new. We monitor – and always have – our social media as much as we can to ensure people have a voice, but vulgar language, threats, unfounded rumor and accusation and misinformation are deleted.

The amount of traffic on our social media pages has increased sharply with the breaking news we have reported lately. The amount of anger and misinformation has increased, too. Along with that have come many phone calls, texts and emails to us reporting news tips, some of them valid and some totally false. We chase them down as quickly as we can.

We want to remind all of our readers and social media followers to please only post things that are factual. Things you can verify. Your opinion is OK, too, we welcome that, but do not help spread false rumors and hearsay on our pages or your own. Remember the old saying, “Everything you see on the internet isn’t true.”

We serve two great, hard-working, loving, special communities. Like much of the rest of the country and the world, we are facing unprecedented times that are taking great emotional and economic tolls. It is a time to overcome together, not turn on each other and use social media and falsehoods as weapons. That goes for everyone, whether you are in Minneapolis, New York, Phelps County or Dent County.

When it comes to what you say and what you post, we can all take a lesson from Sergeant Joe Friday from the 1950s Dragnet television show, when he often said, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Did he really say that? Google it and fact-check me. We need to all do more of that.