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Events show need for more civility

I was riding in a car on my way to New Orleans last Saturdaywhile returning our youngest to school when I heard the firstreports of the Arizona shooting that rocked the country this pastweek.

News was breaking quickly, so out of curiosity I logged on toTwitter from my cell phone.

Twitter of course is technology’s latest venture into instantgossiping. Have something on your mind? With just a few keystrokesyou can anonymously tell the world what you are thinking – as longas you limit your thoughts to 140 characters.

I was amazed, not by the speed of the comments, but by theiraccusatory and hateful tone. I was astounded, tuning into the car’ssatellite radio, to hear CNN reporting some of the same Twittercomments as facts.

I am not sure who reported first the erroneous report of thedeath of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: gossipers on Twitter or folks atCNN. Regardless, the report was inaccurate and further added to thefrustration of a very tragic day.

The problem with this instant communication world we live in nowis that there are no longer editing filters. The news media ofyesterday had the job of filtering out truth from fiction.

Called three sourcing, unless on the scene, it was a reporter’sjob to get three confirmations of events before reporting them.Editors questioned the reporters and stories were published orbroadcast once they had been vetted – far from perfect and notalways followed, but pretty accurate and dependable.

In today’s media world, there is little time for sourcing.Breaking news by 24-hour news shows is the raw information that afew years back editors once questioned before releasing. Today,clamoring to be first and to fill air space, anchors or reporterson the scene report whatever is before them – be it credibleeyewitness information, or a Tweet or e-mail that came from whoknows where. Opinions and emotions become more important than factsand then repeated over and over again.

The raging debate since Saturday has been the finger-pointing atthe likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others. Sarah Palin wasdrawn into the fray due to a graphic on her website that used gunsights to pinpoint the location of districts of certain politicalfoes, including Rep. Giffords.

The removal of the graphic shortly after the shooting stirredthe rage of Tweeters from the Left, which was met by a responsefrom those on the Right. Conspiracy theories and finger-pointingabounded.

Meanwhile, a 9-year-old child lay dead! Five others also diedand 13 others, including Giffords, were wounded.

The right-wing conspiracy theories promoted by the anger ofthose on the Left have been disproved. Now that we know the shooterwas deranged and acting alone the rhetoric has toned down.

But, is there truth to the finger-pointing toward Limbaugh andBeck on the Right for promoting hate speech? Yes, there is;however, just a guilty are Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann on theLeft. CNN and MSNBC are guilty; so is FOX, as is Palin.

But so too guilty, is the technology that allows instantaneouscomment and guilty are those who hide behind its anonymity to saythings they would not say if their true identity was known.

Civility is an important term. The events of last weekend makeit one that needs more use.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.