By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Maybe you saw the headline last week – “Girl Found Living with Monkeys in Indian Forest.”

It certainly was a compelling image, except for one little problem – the story is almost entirely false.

The girl, who officials now believe is disabled, was found by the side of a road, not in the forest. An eyewitness says there were no monkeys around. The best guess is that some swine simply abandoned the girl, not an unknown occurrence in a culture that “values girls less than boys,” in the words of one local advocate.

That’s actually an interesting and troubling story, just not the fake one that was spread around the world.

Just like the story I flagged on Twitter over the weekend about televangelist Pat Robertson allegedly saying the official White House photo of First Lady Melania Trump was attractive enough to “cure gays.”

He never said that.

It’s become a cliché that voting is your civic duty, and even though too many of us shirk that responsibility, many other take it seriously.

I think it’s past time for those of us who take facts and truth seriously to realize we have another civic duty – to do all we can to not swallow fake news and hoaxes.

We can’t count on traditional gatekeepers to do it for us. Fact-checkers and copy editors are a dying breed; the greedheads profiting off the internet clearly don’t care.

So next time you get gobsmacked by a headline, proceed on the assumption that it’s false, and do your own verification from there.

You’ll be a smarter, more reality-based citizen as a result.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

  1. Sadly, Jon, many in your field, particularly in organization like the NY Times and the Washington Post think that social media and “headline” news is worthy of printing “without fear or favor”.

    If you read E.J. Dionne’s column today, you would have read a full-throated defense of Susan Rice at the same time that the WaPo Fact Checker was giving Rice FOUR gigantic noses for the same topic…chemical weapons in Syria.

    Heal thyselves first, John. You’ll have a degree more credibility once you do.

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