THe saying used to be that a lie could travel halfway around the world while the truth was still pulling on its boots. An earlier version was that "falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it."
The saying may need another update for the Internet, where deliberate fabrications are presented as fact and passed along instantly by some of the new major Internet media players, which claim to be providers of information.
Our sense from reading a recent New York Times story on the issue is that outfits like Huffington Post and Gawker have neither the time nor the inclination to try to confirm all stories that sound too good to be true, and usually are. Some of the people generating the whoppers say their audience (on Facebook or Twitter, etc.) knows a con when they read it and it is really the fault of the online media for picking it up.
"Let the buyer beware," I guess.
None of this fable-spreading is about to disappear. There are too many advertising-sought "hits" on such stories for them to stop.
At Thanksgiving, I had seen some friends online pass along one of these. To me, it sounded both fishy and mean-spirited, in which an airline passenger gets into a foul-mouthed dispute with an old woman wearing a medical mask.
When I read the Times story, I was discouraged that we are in for much more of this, but encouraged that the need remains great for legitimate, professional news-gathering companies.
Which is not to say that such companies, our own newspaper and websites included, don't sometimes fall prey to incorrect or false information. But unlike some of these modern media, our old-school editors and reporters actually try to avoid it.
"If your mother says she loves you, get a second source," is another old saying that remains valid.Readers disagree with us. They disagree with our editorials and with how we write some stories. And they certainly disagree with how we place stories that we cover and how we don't cover everything they think is a story.
That's fine. Readers are free to disagree with our decisions. But agree or not, I think most readers recognize that the information we produce is gathered and verified to the best of the abilities of our news team, which is among the best in New Hampshire.
So when you read it here, in print or at UnionLeader.com, you can trust that it is not a fable.
Write to Joe McQuaid at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @deucecrew.