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Today, rumors and gossips make their way online and quickly find an audience. It happens faster and with a degree of abundance that’s unlike anything in the history of journalism or communication. Rumors constantly emerge about conflict zones, athletes and celebrities, politicians, election campaigns, government programs, technology companies and their products, mergers and acquisitions, economic indicators, and all manner of topics. They are tweeted, shared, liked, and discussed everywhere. This information is publicly available and often already being circulated by the time a journalist discovers it. What we’re seeing is a significant change in the flow and lifecycle of unreviewed information—one that has necessitated a shift in the way journalists and news organizations handle content. Some of that shift is conscious, some have thought about how to report and deliver stories in this new ecosystem. Others, however, act as if they have not, becoming major propagators of false rumors and gossips.

News organizations are meant to play a critical role in the dissemination of quality, accurate information in society. This has become more challenging with the onslaught of hoaxes, misinformation, and other forms of inaccurate content that flow constantly over digital platforms. Journalists today have an imperative and an opportunity to sift through the mass of content being created and shared in order to separate true from false, and to help the truth to spread. Unfortunately, as this paper details, that isn’t the current reality of how news organizations cover unverified claims, online rumors, and viral con-tent. Lies spread much farther than the truth, and news organizations play a powerful role in making this happen.

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