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Editor issues social media ‘fake news’ warning after jibe at local press

Steve SmithAn editor has issued a warning to readers about the veracity of “fake news” claims on social media.

Steve Smith, who edits the Falmouth Packet, has urged readers not to “believe everything” they read after a number of theories were posted online about why cameras had appeared on a street in Helston, Cornwall.

Various theories were suggested by local people on social media, including claims they were monitoring average speeds or operating as CCTV devices.

The published rumours prompted one social media user to question the point of local newspapers – but the Packet has since established the cameras were in fact surveying traffic levels in the area.

In an editorial on the subject, Steve compared the incident to the story of a four-year-old boy found sleeping on a hospital floor last month – which led to the Yorkshire Evening Post having to defend itself against incorrect claims it has published “fake news”.

Steve, pictured, wrote: “We had our own example recently, where one of our reporters picked up on a story via social media. That’s often the way these days – but social media is merely another source and we will always then verify any information before publishing a story.

“This particular one involved cameras appearing in Helston. One person gave an apparent explanation on the original social media post, which resulted in another person saying ‘social media wins again, who needs local newspapers?’

“But what had been written wasn’t right, we discovered when we asked the council about it, and we then went on to publish our story, with the correct explanation.

“And that’s the difference – you can’t believe everything you read on social media, but when it’s published under the banner of the Packet, you can be assured that it has been verified before being published.”