Between page views lies the truth

Ravi Somaiya and Leslie Kaufman, reporting for The New York Times on “viral” stories that garnered millions of page views yet turned out to be false. Money quotes:

“You are seeing news organizations say, ‘If it is happening on the Internet that’s our beat,’” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “The next step of figuring out whether it happened in real life is up to someone else.” 

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“The faster metabolism puts people who fact-check at a disadvantage,” said Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post, which reposted the fictional airplane tweets, the letter to Santa and the poverty essay. “If you throw something up without fact-checking it, and you’re the first one to put it up, and you get millions and millions of views, and later it’s proved false, you still got those views. That’s a problem. The incentives are all wrong.”