There's an immediacy to journalism today that focuses on being the first to a story, satisfy search algorithms, and get as many eyes on the page as possible in order to make a profit off of ad-revenue. There's no other way around it, and this leaves many journalists with a stark choice: do you spend a little bit of extra time on a story and do your due diligence? Or do you gun for a headline that's going to attract eyes and throw caution to the wind?
There are ways to kind of have your cake and eat it too if you're unsure about a source or are waiting on an answer: just say so in the story and update date it with the actual facts later.
But to present something as fact to the best of your knowledge without working to the best of your knowledge is, well, just dishonest and lazy; some would call it the "death of journalism."
And people are saying that it's this very phenomenon Twitter user @JackoWest_3 exposed after publishing a faux-tweet pertaining to the Gamestop/Robinhood controversy.
If you aren't familiar with what's going on here's a brief rundown: Reddit's r/WallStreetBets decided to all band together to mess with hedge funds that were short-selling businesses that have been on a downward spiral.
Some retailers like Gamestop, Nokia, and Blackberry were on the skids for several years, but there are other companies, like AMC Theaters, that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. "Scavenger" short-sellers at hedge funds placed bets that these businesses would fail and they were set to turn a profit on said failures. Often times hedge funds can "manipulate" the market by aggressively short-selling or make mass purchases on stocks to over-inflate their value.
So WallStreetBets asked themselves: why can't we do the same thing? If major financial institutions are able to manipulate the market and then take US tax dollars once their plans blow up in their faces for a bailout, why can't the American people make the same moves? So WallStreetBets started mass purchases of these "defunct" businesses. Gamestop's stock value skyrocketed even though retail locations have steadily been shutting down.
The Redditors and everyone else who joined this effort invariably earned themselves a ton of money in the process and cost short-sellers billions.
The narrative that many news outlets who are said to receive funding from these financial institutions have taken massive losses is that these "rogue" Robinhood investors were committing illegal activity. Many are calling for the regulation of e-trading applications to prevent this same thing from happening again.
The real problem, that many are pointing out is that the massive transfer of wealth occurred the same way uber-rich institutions have been "gaming" the system for the longest time, they just got out-gamed by a bunch of "internet dweebs."
This, in a very long-winded way brings us to Jack, who decided to contribute to this narrative of "unruly kids" who just want to see the world burn.
? How could a 22 yr old take a 2nd mortgage on his parent's house— Mary Fabulous (@MaryFabulous3) January 29, 2021
Technically the parents have to sign
I just did a Heloc and I had to show up at the Bank to sign papers with the Title Co.
Seems like the guy committed fraud
He tweeted that he actually took out a second mortgage on his parent's home in order to dump more into the "worthless" stocks he and his fellow Reddit Revolutionaries were purchasing to stick it to the man.
That's when he started receiving DMs from reporters and an idea churned in his head. He decided to lie and say yes, he did actually take out the loan.
He didn't, and there really is no way he could.
Anyone who's purchased a home or even looked at the process of securing financing for one knows it's a long-winded, frustrating crucible of patience. And it's not like someone's child would be able to just up and get a second mortgage without the knowledge of their folks. There's a multitude of background and credit checks that are performed, which means he would've needed to commit major fraud to do so.
I mean to cover real estate you don't need to know how like deeds and ownership works, right?— KAREN™ (@karen_killjoy) January 29, 2021
However, the outlets that decided to report on the story didn't seem to ask Jack those questions and immediately decided to just go and post the story as fact.
Jack openly mocked two major news outlets that picked his "story" up The New York Post and Fox News.
Twitter users were cackling with delight at the developments and couldn't believe that a journalist would be so gullible.
Proof that sensationalism and reactionalism are destroying journalism. The urge to get a story out there asap outweighs the validity of the story. Sad times for journalism— Agent Steeze (@iamsteezze) January 29, 2021
I’m a commercial real estate lawyer, practicing for 20 years. I saw the NYP story and for a lot of reasons my first thought was that Mary Jacob got punked. And the Post slapped it in the top of their home page as an exclusive! Well done.— Farley Houston (@Farley____) January 29, 2021
Others lamented the death of "real" journalism where reporters doggedly pursued facts instead of just printing the lowest common denominator story to get clicks and ad-buys.
Lol. Anyone who has ever taken out a mortgage knows it takes a little bit of time. I can't believe how gullible that "journalist" was 😅— Matt Hawkins (@Th3Oasis) January 29, 2021
That's crazy, because I took out a second mortgage on your parent's house, too. In fact, I've taken out a second mortgage on 500 houses that belong to other people, and then I put in Red at Roulette table and doubled my money. Now I own 1000 houses. Interview me NYP!— ObstructTrump (@nihilistcomhour) January 29, 2021
One of the reporters tweeted about her mistake and owned up to getting had "BIG TIME" as she said.
Played is an understatement. Shouldn’t a reporter know extremely basic things about home finance? I feel like high schoolers know this shit— PedroYokes (@PedroYokes) January 29, 2021
The latest controversy in the entire GameStop madness is that Robinhood decided to put a cap on trades for the companies that cost hedge funds billions of dollars.
Many have argued that it's a blatant sign of favoritism towards big financial institutions and that Robinhood could care less for its "small scale" investors.
They didn't think you ask you for any documentation or whatever?— Hannah (@coollady42) January 29, 2021
insane that they don't realize you can't just take out a second mortgage on someone else's house in the span of an afternoon— Zachary Murray (@Rudefire) January 29, 2021
The Walking Dead actor Chandler Riggs even hopped on Twitter to share his displeasure. The young man usually doesn't post politically-charged sentiments on his social media accounts, but finds this obvious bending of the rules to serve one demographic of the population over the other as highly amoral.
i usually don’t use my platform for things like this especially when i’m pissed off, but this has to be a sustained collective effort or they absolutely will win— chandler riggs (@chandlerriggs) January 28, 2021
It's unclear what restrictions will be implemented in the future to further curb the business practices of hedge-fund short-sellers, but many are upset more politicians aren't seriously addressing the allegations of corruption/influence from powerful and wealthy hedge funds to change market rules to suit their ability to earn money a specific way.