The twitter distortion pedal (crank it up)

Being a transit dweeb, I generally read anything half-interesting related to buses, trains, funiculars, gondolas, light rail, pedicabs, water taxis and their ilk.

So, I came across an article on the transit-deprived hinterlands from which I hail, where some of the municipalities have hired a new transit director. Pretty boring read, if you want me to be honest.

Here’s the article’s headline: New director of ShuttleBus sees ridership picking up.

There is absolutely nothing more depressing than reading the online comments of my hometown newspaper, where hate and vitriol are passed around like a blunt stuffed with that good stuff at a Lil’ Wayne concert. Of course, I dove in. Nothing much there. But something else caught my eye in the comments section, where pingbacks and retweets have begun appearing.

You see that? This dude tried to synthesize the headline, which was pretty blah before, into something more interesting. But while he/she did that, CTMag1 not only changed the the meaning of the headline, but also said something patently false. Nowhere in the article does the writer state the ridership is increasing, only that the director would like it to.

Dangerous stuff, eh? Us Web journalists are called upon more each day to embrace social networking — but we can’t make mistakes like this when we tweet our latest article. If this was a story that more people cared about, it is easy to see how this slippery journalistic slope could do major damage, the headline distorted like it’s going around the room during a game of “Telephone.”

The tweeter made a mistake, which is all this example is; I doubt there is a nefarious plot to boost the resume of a transit director. But Internet journalism is the Wild Wild West these days: Anything goes. Where’s the sheriff when we need him?

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