In today’s fast news cycle, there’s a lot of pressure to be first.
Today, literally anyone with a computer and a connection can present
and share a story. The recent proliferation of micro-blogging sites
like Twitter even removed the need for editing and concerns about
readability, allowing direct and nearly instant international
distribution of content (as long as it is under 140 characters).
It’s really enough to make one’s head spin.
There’s a robust and ongoing debate on where this instant
expectation of news is taking journalism. While there’s certainly much
to be said for the increased amount of news available, many believe
that this rush to be first has resulted in a general loss of quality.
The coin hobby saw an example of this with a May 16 press release
that a small auction house in Georgia was offering an extremely rare
1870-S Indian Head gold $3 coin. It was the second example ever made
available to collectors and was promoted as the star of an otherwise
modest June 2 auction, carrying an estimate of $2 million to $4 million.
Fox News ran with the story, which was shared hundreds of times
through social media channels and reprinted in dozens of mainstream
outlets. Steve White — owner of the Four Seasons Auction Gallery in
Alpharetta, Ga. — told FoxNews.com, “It’s almost folklore to have this
kind of rare coin be around.”
The mysterious coin was coupled with a wild provenance in that,
allegedly, it was discovered glued in an antique San Francisco
souvenir book, found there by a European tourist visiting a San
Francisco bookshop in 1997. The story seemed tailor-made to capture
mainstream media attention. Nearly all of the news stories barely
flirted with the tricky subject of the coin’s authenticity.
It seemed too good to be true. So, before running the story, of
course we did some checking with experts. They all quickly opined in
near-unison that the new discovery was likely a fake. The coin was
soon withdrawn from the sale, only a few days after its existence was
announced to the world, as the auctioneer recognized the “need for
complete independent verification of the coin and its authenticity.”
Perhaps fact-checking and trying to ascertain the truth of a story
is old-fashioned, an established media convention that is seen as
unnecessary today. However, one hopes that there still remains a valid
place for news that is vetted and thoughtfully presented and
considered from a coin-collecting perspective.
I hope that you agree.