Sun Sets on False, Widely Disseminated Beijing News Story

JamesNyeTwitterProfilePicNew York-based Quartz reporter Gwynn Guilford shared a brief but salient summary of an inane international news story trail about folks in smog-shrouded Beijing reportedly being forced to make do with a daily, digital sunrise. The erroneous reportage started via Manhattan-based Daily Mail writer James Nye (pictured) and mutated to outlets including Time, and The Huffington Post. Let’s start with the Time article corrections, posted January 17 and somehow, 9:20 p.m. ET later today:

Correction: The original post did not mention that the large screens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square broadcast panoramic scenes on a daily basis, regardless of atmospheric conditions, nor did it state that the sunrise was part of a tourism commercial.

And here’s how CBS News on Monday tried to reset the news picture:

Clarification: The sunrise image is part of a tourism video promoting China’s Shandong province. A big screen located in Tiananmen Square has been displaying tourism advertisements. These videos feature many scenic beauty shots. It was just a coincidence that the sunrise image was shown on a smoggy day. The original story has been edited to make this clearer.

Clearer… in more ways than one. Last and arguably in this case least, The Huffinton Post item flagged by Guilford does not include any correction or clarification. Overall, this Quartz reporter wonders how stories such as this one happen; we’ll add to her thoughts with a few of our own.

Remember the old saying – “Talk is cheap”? Well, in many corners of today’s 24/7 breaking news business, there might as well be a similar mantra – “Click is cheap.” Meaning: Clicking a mouse at the reader-end represents about one-tenth of the investment and comprehension curve that was once commonplace among those picking up, thumbing through and savoring a print issue.

Our suggested saying also ties in to the M.O. of many of the large-screen-glued wizards serving up these digital pick-ups. A correction… a clarification… a second article… in some cases, a disappearing first article… It’s all so easy and click-effortless to additionally throw out there, compounding the devaluation of news content into a double-click, down-the-drain swirl.

P.S. We can’t tell what, if any, major updates were made to the original Daily Mail article. At press time, the article had been shared by readers around 215,000 times.  E.g., the equivalent of nearly four centuries’ worth of sunrises.

[H/T: Patricia Sauthoff]

[Photo courtesy: @jamesnye111]