It takes just a moment, a slip of the tongue, to ruin a career.
When the truth is revealed that it was just a small mistake, the public cries “the mistake never should have been made!” Perhaps mistakes should be made and it is us who should refrain from destroying lives for a simple slip-up.
Idaho State Rep. and BYU-Idaho faculty member Ron Nate was lambasted by many Idaho and national news outlets for a single phrase: some teachers are “clearly overpaid.”
The comment sparked outrage among readers all over the state and throughout the country. Some demanded his pay be cut, while others called for him to step down. It wasn’t until later, that Nate was finally able to clarify what happened, and even later still until the entire audio clip was released.
“The entire conversation (not the five seconds that was reported) was about paying teachers more, especially in science and math,” Nate told EastIdahoNews.com, in response to their article about the comment. “I support the career ladder and have always voted for higher teacher pay. It was a positive conversation and I must have misspoke one word, ‘over’ instead of ‘under,’ or said something wrong as a lead-in to something else. That’s the whole story.”
I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Nate during my time on Scroll. He is a good man with strong values, and all it took was a five-second misunderstanding to nearly ruin his career.
We, as a part of society, need to slow down. We need to wait for the whole story.
It is our insatiable need for instant information that causes news outlets to fight to be the first to give us our fix.
That puts them in a sticky situation: Be the first with only part of the story, or give the whole story and be last. The proclivity for jumping on the first sensational story, regardless of accuracy, fuels the fake news epidemic.
I define fake news as intentionally fabricated stories. These stories have real-world consequences and people share them knowing full well they are fake.
A report from Pew Research showed that 23 percent of Americans shared fabricated news stories even though they knew they were fake.
This cannot continue. Our society thrives on information.
We are doomed if the truthfulness of that information is no longer relevant.
Everyone who cares about accuracy and truth needs to become fact checkers.
When falsehoods and inaccuracies are found, we have a duty to let everyone know, especially when falsehood is found in normally trustworthy sources.
Regardless of how reputable a news organization is, it will get things wrong on occasion. Tell them what they got wrong. Any news outlet that is willing to correct their mistakes is one that can be trusted. Any that refuse to need to be called out for everyone to hear.
Whether it’s fake news or, simply, incomplete news, we must be vigilant. Incomplete and fake news stories are like a virus. Once it takes root, it spreads and spreads.
Luckily there is a cure. We must demand the truth and reject stories that mislead or lie; we must be our own fact checkers.
One person’s career is not worth ruining because of our impatience.