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Social Media Magnifies Errors in Recent Fort Fairfield Fires


In an Instantaneous Digital Age, People Becoming Impatient Waiting for News


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, February 19, 2020


FORT FAIRFIELD - In the cacophony that is the social media echo chamber, often times news reports are published before they are fully vetted.

   This happened during the first Fort Fairfield fire last month, which occurred on the Densmore Road.

   While no body had been found, the social media echo chamber was abuzz with news that a body had been found and people reflexively shared that false information down their friends list pipeline.

   “Some media reports have been incorrect that the victim’s body was located,” said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police on the afternoon of the fire.   “At 3 pm,  recovery efforts were still underway.”

   The body was found at 8:30 pm, that evening.

    During the public comment period of the January town council meeting, town manager, Andrea Powers delivered a curt admonition to social media users.

“In today's age of social media, and the desire for instant gratification of answers and entitlement, I feel that some have forgotten that not everything that happens pleases them, as an expert on the situation, simply because they've seen it on TV, in the movies, or they read it on Facebook.  It is clearly an epidemic of untruths and perpetuated misinformation that is consistently treated as fact,” said Ms. Powers.  “We, as servicers [sic] to the citizens of Fort Fairfield, have a job to do and we cannot, and will not, stop what we are doing to answer your questions or prove ourselves because you are curious of what is happening.  When the job is done, we will talk about it, as we always have, with the facts of the situation.  We thank you for understanding and respect for the safety of all involved.  I am extremely proud of all of our town employees; there is a bond, much like family, amongst us with a level of respect and support for one another that I am deeply privileged to be a part of.”

   The Fort Fairfield Journal has no social media pages (WFFJ-TV had a Twitter page that gained no traction and has fallen into disuse over the past two years). The editor of the  Fort Fairfield Journal releases information in print and online much more slowly than the sloppily coddled together, light-speed, click-bait digital news sources do today. 

   When news and information of this nature is finally provided by Fort Fairfield Journal, either in print or online, it is only after it’s been fully vetted and released by the Police, Fire, or other authorized sources.