Shady Santa and the Hate Crime That Wasn’t

“Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains” is a scripture I believe in. Sadly, it doesn’t apply to journalists working to move copy from edit to print. I have been there — that dark space when you publish a story that could have used just one more source. Even with little means and the news cycle’s brutal turnover rate, we still have to do better.

The Muslim college student who claimed that she was harassed has been charged with filing a false police report. Soon after the story went viral Yasmin Seweid disappeared. She popped back up after going missing to admit that she made it all up.

Surveillance cameras failed to catch her hijab being tugged on by three men shouting “Donald Trump!,” and none of the supposed witnesses who “sat around and did nothing” came forward. (Sigh)

The Santa we collectively boohooed over might have embellished his heartbreaking tale involving a terminally ill child. Now, Kris Kringle will have to make room for himself on the naughty list. (Double Sigh)

The craziest part of all this is that there is actual fake news floating through people’s newsfeeds that should be immediately reported as spam. One report (I hope and pray to God is legitimate) shows that there are writers being hired in foreign countries to produce incendiary headlines to get our blood pressures up and stomachs in knots. It worked throughout the whole election.

It’s deeply disturbing and slightly depressing when an occupation that is just as serious as being a doctor or a lawyer (even more so in some instances) becomes the laughing stock of the culture.

Here’s my advice: 1. Make it clear in the headline when something is an unconfirmed report. 2. Make it clear in the body of the story that something is an unconfirmed report, BUT that your staff is working swiftly to do so, or that you have reached out and will update the story accordingly. 3. If the story is coming from an outlet you never heard of before, tread lightly. Very lightly.

I have faith in us. We can do this.