OUR VIEW: Rumors, technology don’t mix well

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:29 am on Thursday, April 19, 2012

“A lie gets halfway around the world before truth has 
a chance to get its pants on.” — Winston Churchill

Carl Paepke, 86, of Pierson, died Wednesday.

The longtime Montcalm County commissioner did not, in fact, die Saturday, as was previously reported in several rounds of emails throughout Montcalm County.

Another Montcalm County commissioner, Ron Baker, was with a cousin of a friend who was with Mr. Paepke’s daughter Saturday. Baker said the friend who was with Mr. Paepke’s daughter texted information to the cousin stating Mr. Paepke had died.

And so an unfortunate chain reaction began.

Baker passed the information on to Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer, who emailed all county department heads Saturday evening, stating Mr. Paepke had died.

The Montcalm County Republican Party forwarded Hyzer’s email Sunday morning “to all Republicans and friends of Carl.”

When Hyzer discovered Paepke had not died, he emailed all county department heads Sunday, saying he had received inaccurate information and apologizing for his previous email. The Montcalm County Republican Party also sent out a corrected email.

The Daily News published a story about the rumor online Sunday afternoon, as well as in Monday’s newspaper.

But it’s difficult to account for everyone who forwarded the emails to others who didn’t happen to see the corrected emails or The Daily News story.

Case in point: Stanton City Commissioner John Kroneck emailed nearly 100 leaders and officials throughout the Montcalm County vicinity on Tuesday night.

“For those who may have not heard yet, Carl Paepke died Sunday morning,” Kroneck stated. “He has been a great voice for prevention and will be missed.”

What can we learn from this experience? Rumors and technology don’t mix well.

No one who relayed the inaccurate information had bad intentions. Those who aren’t reporters typically don’t feel the need to verify information with two or three additional sources.

In this case, no serious harm was done, but what about other rumors that are emailed or texted or posted to Facebook or Twitter without verification? The terrific and terrifying speed at which information is relayed today should make us all want to think twice before pressing the “send” button.

“I thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers,” Mr. Paepke told a Daily News reporter on Sunday afternoon — the last time we spoke with him. “I hope to live a long life.”

Today we honor Mr. Paepke’s 86 years of life and thank him for his service to Montcalm County. Last weekend, we thought we had lost Mr. Paepke. Today we must indeed say goodbye.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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