After logging into Facebook today I found that one of my friends had posted a very funny video onto his profile. Clicking on it I discovered that it was a video note that had been posted by the actor Zach Braff.
In the video Zach lets the world know that he isn’t dead.
I hadn’t actually heard that Zach Braff had ‘died’ so maybe all the commotion was happening across the pond. Anyway, I watched the video and then Googled ‘Zach Braff dead’. What I found was many articles on different websites (3am online, Chicago Tribune and E! Online) explaining that Zach had been the victim of an internet hoax.
I went to the Glastonbury Festival this year and I remember what happened the night that Michael Jackson died.
All around us people were saying things along the lines of “it is true because my friend who isn’t at the festival says it is”. I didn’t know what they were talking about but then I heard “I can’t believe Michael Jackson is dead”.
Many people, including myself, believed that it was simply a festival rumour so any news from the outside world was definitely a confirmation that it was true.
Looking back now I realised that this was a fantastic display of the power of “word-of-mouth”. For the five days I was at Glastonbury I really was in my own little festival bubble. I hadn’t got a clue what the news headlines were in the outside world. When Michael Jackson died, this huge surge of information poured in through conversations with other people at the festival, texts from friends and checking for myself on the internet.
Going back to Zach though, this was just an internet hoax but it is very interesting to see his response and the apologetic response of the blogger who started the rumour. The blogger, Chris Laganella, admits he created the webpage as a practical joke to fool his friends, and that he never meant for the page to cause such an uproar.
Nevertheless, it did cause great uproar both by journalists covering the story and the amount of Twitter responses.
This has certainly got me thinking about the power that bloggers and citizen journalists hold. Zach says that his mother was upset and I’m sure that he would have received many worried phonecalls from his friends too. To go from a simple “practical joke” to then having a video response by the celebrity themself is a very big deal.
Numerous telephone calls would have been made, tears possibly shed, hundreds of people talking about it and definitely a lot of people reading about the whole saga online.
Perhaps this incident should serve as a warning to all would be citizen journalists: if you write something, be it true or false, there could well be repercussions. People will read what you have written and they will comment.
I am studying journalism and learning about many things including ethics and media law. My course leaders have explained that what seperates journalists from citizen journalists is that we are part of a profession which has an ethical code. I want to be a professional journalists who sparks debate and interest. I will be accurate in my writing and will endeavour to meet the ethical code.