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Stories travel fast on social media, but they can lack context

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-21 21:37:32-05

CINCINNATI — Videos posted to social media showing an incident in Washington, D.C. involving Covington Catholic students and demonstrators from the Indigenous Peoples March spread fast over the weekend, but no video shows a complete story of what happened.

The immediacy of social media means that people don't always wait to see the whole story before helping to spread it. Jeffrey Blevins, the head of the University of Cincinnati journalism department, said the way the CovCath story dominated social media this weekend is an example of that.

"I think it really becomes problematic when you have people who want to quickly respond and comment," he said. "There's a temptation to do that before there is to slow down and get more information."

Jack Greiner, an attorney in Cincinnati who practices media law, said the way the story exploded on social media is pretty common. Online, just one piece of a situation often becomes the focus, he said.

"It's hard to take a breath sometimes and really think through and look at the entire context," he said.

Neither Blevins nor Greiner said one side or the other is right in the situation. Both warned that other people should take a moment before jumping into the online frenzy, and try to learn more first.

"But too often on social media, there's just this temptation to respond quickly," Blevins said. People tend to — even if there was a link to a story — people tend to not read it. They just 'like,' 'share.'"