Editorial: Beware Internet Rumors of the Oregon Coast
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Manzanita, Oregon) – First off, a disclaimer: it is not normally Oregon Coast Beach Connection’s policy to comment on the coverage of another news organization or even another writer who covers the Oregon coast. But in this case, there has been a blatant disregard for the truth – and one that is done in such a manner as to be harmful to Oregon coast tourism and even possibly libelous to some.
One nebulous Oregon writer named Dave Masko has again brought up the old axiom “you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”
Over the course of the last year or so, there’s been a growing rash of blatantly untrue articles written by Masko, making outrageous claims about radiation from Japan reaching the Oregon coast. He’s claimed (erroneously) that Newport residents were recently forced out of bed because of more tsunami alerts, that some coastal residents were told not to eat from their own gardens because of radiation from Japan, that dogs were getting sick or acting strange on the central coast, and most recently that Florence-area beaches were in need of “healing” from what appeared to be some unnamed environmental issue.
All of these and other stunningly strange claims he’s made are not true.
In one article, he outright claimed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had issued the make-believe tsunami alerts. In another, he purposefully misquoted scientists from two Oregon universities.
These articles have shown up on sites like HULIQ.com and Examiner.com, and in the interest of keeping the rumor mill to a minimum we are not providing direct links.
These are not actual news organizations that employ trained reporters. Anyone can sign in and submit "articles" - known as a citizen journalism site - and that's part of the problem.
HULIQ.com did remove the worst offending stories after a flood of complaints from coastal businesses and Oregon officials. Examiner.com has not.
This is not a free speech issue. You can say whatever you want. It’s about willfully spreading rumors while posing as a journalist. It’s about credibility and about (supposedly) being a professional, as Masko claims he is. So we're just warning you about this individual.
We asked HULIQ.com owner Armen Hareyan about why such mistruths and misleading information is being allowed on his site under the guise of a news story, and Hareyan – based out of North Carolina – said as an editor you can’t always know all the facts behind the stories of your reporters/freelancers. Being from the east coast, he’s not privy to the information we are in Oregon. He pointed out incidences of other major newspapers not knowing about the ethical infractions of their reporters in the past.
True. This happens. But to manufacture such facts as two more tsunami alerts is rather a grand and glaring error – but part of the hazard of owning a citizen journalism site.
Hareyan also partially defended Masko’s technique of interviewing random people on the street who are not experts. Hareyan said Masko is quoting actual people, even if they are not well informed.
Then why quote these people at all? Repeating their false impressions and fears based on the wrong information only generates crazy, inaccurate buzz about a subject. This is not a story. This is where sentiments like “Florence’s beach is in need of healing” come in, giving a wrong impression.
To worsen things, Masko doesn’t counter balance this with what actual experts and officials are saying about radiation or other possible hazards - the truth. He doesn’t bother to note there are no actual environmental hazards occurring on Florence’s beaches at this moment.
If there was indeed a real danger to coastal visitors, then this should be covered by media, even if it damages the tourism industry.
You must consider the source as well. Do a search on Masko’s name and you find almost as many sites complaining about him as he has “articles” out there. There’s a well documented incident where he made up various facts about a Twilight sequel being filmed near Florence, with both the movie company and the state film office coming down on him. In another hilarious incident, a UFO site picks apart one of his UFO pieces that contain references to UFO activity here being connected to current events in the Mid East. Even that world regards him with low credibility.
So in the end, if you see an article on the net with gloomy sentiments and insinuations about the disaster in Japan affecting the Oregon coast – or anything on the net written by Dave Masko – take it with many grains of salt.
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