EDITORIAL: A Betty White lie teaches a valuable social media lesson | Editorial

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

We at the Leader and Crow River Media recently became more closely acquainted with this adage.

As some of our readers who also spend time on social media may have seen, a photo was widely circulated this past weekend that included a link to a Betty White story with the headline “Betty White: I’m lucky to still be in good health.” Above a photo of White and the web address is a quote that says “‘Eat healthy and get all your vaccines. I just got boosted today.’ -Betty White, Dec 28th, 2021.”

White, of course, died Dec. 31, a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. The social media photo with the quote seems to imply that White died just days after receiving a booster shot for COVID-19. The only problem is that there’s no record of White actually saying it.

While the story about White — a summary of a larger interview published by People magazine — is true, White never spoke about being vaccinated and never said she received a booster shot. In fact, White’s agent, Jeff Witjas, confirmed to the Associated Press that she did not receive a booster shot on Dec. 28.

Anyone willing to put in a few minutes of reading and research, could quite easily determine that the quote was fake. Sadly, many people are unwilling to put in the work to determine the accuracy of social media posts, or are more than happy to accept something at face value if it aligns with their preconceived notions. This is the fundamental basis of most viral hoaxes in today’s world.

It comes as no surprise to us that someone created a hoax alleging that the COVID-19 booster was responsible for killing a celebrity. This sort of disinformation is quite common these days, especially in the war currently being waged against science and health care workers. What did come as a surprise was to have our newspapers dragged into the hoax.

Whoever created the photo with the fake quote decided to use the Crow River Media web address. There’s no telling if it was an intentional attempt to make us look bad, or if we were just the unlucky one out of dozens of news organizations that published the story on our websites. Either way, we’re more than happy to join the chorus of other journalists reporting the facts.

Betty White did not say she received her booster shot on Dec. 28.

Crow River Media did not quote Betty White as saying she received her booster shot on Dec. 28.

Crow River Media did not change the story about Betty White to remove a quote saying she received her booster shot on Dec. 28.

We hope this serves as a good reminder for us all to be discerning consumers of news and other online information.