The problem is unverified news, not fake news

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Pradip Rodrigues

Back in the day when I was a fully-functioning journalist working at the premier media company in India, any tip I’d receive about a potential story was verified through investigative reporting.

This was possible because I had both the time and the resources to investigate and research the story and when in doubt, the company lawyer would also be available to assess the legal ramifications of going to press with a story that was based on flimsy facts.

The unverified and often fake news in India came from small regional language media outlets that often put out scurrilous, fact-free stories about issues and people which were often taken with a grain of salt by mainstream media organizations. But the smart journos working at the English-language media made it a point to always scour these lurid rags and use them as leads. With their considerable resources and time, they would then follow-up with the people involved who would be forced to either confront the ‘story’, innuendo or gossip that first appeared in a rag they didn’t even know existed or call out a fake story.

Things in Canada work more or less the same way. Journos working at ethnic media outlets regardless of the language or ethnic group they cater to often write stories that are guided by their gut, heart and sometimes their head.

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We in the ethnic media space face one major problem- verifying news for accuracy and doing in depth independent research and investigation. Not because we are lazy but frankly it is a matter of being provided the resources, mostly financial.

I would not say ethnic outlets traffic in fake news, purveyors of fake news prefer baiting big players like Facebook, New York Times and the Washington Post. If anything, ethnic outlets could be guilty of inadvertently lifting a fake news item from a mainstream website, but rarely do they create fake news that could end up going viral. Those stories might have gone viral had the ethnic media outlets been taken seriously or read at all. Needless to say, no example comes to mind.

In my years writing this column, I admit guilt to devoting several columns to stories that are 100 per cent true but could not and have not to this day been verified. If I had the resources and time, I would have and could do stories that would be 99 percent backed by documented proof.

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Last week I was having a conversation with a South Asian with his ear to the ground who told me something that if true should be a scandal. Had I the resources, I would have dug deeper, but since I don’t, I pieced together this story by similar stories I’ve heard over time.

According to him, a whole lot of foreign students on becoming permanent citizens, get a Class B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) that is required to drive an automatic transmission dump truck that is a lot easier to drive than a heavy truck which requires more training in order to get an AZ truck licence.

My contact tells me that many of these dump truck drivers like so many other young South Asians in particular are addicted to PUBG, PlayersUnknown’s Battleground, which is an online multiplayer battle royale game. Up to 100 players can fight to the finish. The last one alive wins the match. Nothing wrong with playing the game at home or in the park, trouble is these dump truck drivers are allegedly playing it while driving and when they are not, they are catching up on Bollywood movies on a screen. Some are doing both at the same time!

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Now to anyone who hasn’t read, seen or heard about it from a reputed media outlet would be tempted to dismiss this story as fake news. But I have reason to believe that this is happening but is not being reported.

There is however circumstantial evidence to lead people to this conclusion-an increase in the number of truck accidents on our streets and highways. All this has resulted in skyrocketing insurance rates for truckers who are in turn squeezing drivers who in turn are stressed and trying to make money by other means- stealing trailers and trucks I hear has become a huge problem in Peel Region. Even the police will confirm it has become a serious problem which is why they have a task force dedicated to eliminating the scourge.

If a mainstream investigative reporter working at a media outlet were attempt connecting the dots, this could well be a major investigative scoop that would increase readership/viewership and save lives. So, for now this story remains unverified until proven to be fake news.

So, in a nutshell, most news one reads in ethnic media outlets can be considered true unless proved otherwise. -CINEWS

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