From the Edmonds Mayor: Local ‘fake news’

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Dave Earling

We are all familiar with the term “Fake News.” The term has become “famous” (or infamous?) for the most part at the national level. Whether you appreciate the term or not, fake news and disinformation have widened the chasm in our national and local political dialog. For doubters of traditional media, fake news adds fuel to the fire. For believers of traditional media, social media news is suspect.

I have tried to stay out of that whole discussion, and so far have been successful. Most of our local news reporting is factual and credit is due to My Edmonds News, The Daily Herald and The Beacon.

However, there are occasions when local postings on social media are very misleading, or at times, simply wrong. I will raise two prime examples of information posted on social media that was simply wrong, yet had a negative impact on city government and community engagement.

You may recall over the past year or so the efforts of many cities across the nation that self-identified as a “sanctuary cities” — including Seattle. After considerable discussion and realizing the potential down side of potentially not receiving Federal funding, our City Council chose not to identify Edmonds as a “sanctuary city,” but rather, a “safe city” — which committed to the priority of keeping all citizens safe and respected, while not running the risk of a potential loss of funding.

Yet, a few days later, while commenting on a social media site, a writer identified several larger national cities that were sanctuary cities and included Edmonds in the list! Some of the postings after the original posting drew scathing comments regarding our city council’s “position.” It was simply incorrect information, which caused a stir. And it was simply wrong!

A more recent example was a social media posting that was a call to action to “pack” the council meeting on Jan.16 because of the claim that the council would be taking up the issue of providing a “safe injection site.” Once again, following the original posting were troubling comments based upon an untrue “fact”! Simply wrong! In fact the council does not have an item on the Jan. 16 agenda or any extended agenda addressing that issue. Again, passing along fake news and misinformation causes a stir without facts to back the statement.

In this era of fake news and misinformation, it has become incumbent on us consumers of both traditional media and social media to take the extra step to find out whether a “fact” is true or not. That can take the form of a quick internet search to verify information or claimed news, or with regard to city business one can simply go to the City of Edmonds website to get current or future information on city council agendas or other current information.  We can even provide you with the minutes or other information related to a particular meeting by simply, contacting the City Clerk’s office… or contacting a councilmember… or contacting my office. We will all be more than happy to turn around any “fake news” for you and provide you with the “real story.”

— By Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for clarifying those things, Mr. Mayor, and also for keeping the discussion refreshingly non-partisan. I have to admit I winced a bit when I saw “fake news”.

    I’m not sure if the fake news itself is the problem (yellow journalism has been around a very long time), or the increasing tribalism that makes people want to believe outrageous things about people with whom they disagree. Certainly things have taken a nasty turn in the past 10-15 years, and I hope I live to see us get past it.

  2. The Edmonds Noose, which appeared over Halloween, on a construction site was Fake News. The problem with the Mayor and the City Council declaring it a hate-crime before any investigation could be had, encouraging people to contact the FBI in statements to the papers, is two-fold. First, if it were a hate-crime, then prosecuting the guilty party would have been difficult because it could be demonstrated that city executives [and maybe the police department] were biased prior to an investigation. Thankfully our PD seemed to be very measured in their investigation of a piece of yellow rope. Second, if it weren’t a real hate-crime, then unmeasured statements could cause [I don’t know] protesters to show up to the job site, and maybe blue collar workers who were just trying to get a nut, who maybe didn’t know how to handle a manufactured PR situation, to be fired. I emailed the Edmonds PD about two weeks ago; the case is cold. In comments made in MEN, the foreman who was fired apologized and defended his character best he could, but was clearly devastated and professionally ruined. My best guess is he was a scapegoat. I don’t know. No one knows. That’s how Fake News works. But even as an atheist, I prayed he had people in his life to keep a close watch until he can get his life on track again.

    • The noose incident was not “fake news”, and classifying it as something that happened “over Halloween” is a bit misleading. The noose was found five days before Halloween, enough time to not be instantly associated. I won’t argue that there were not knee-jerk reactions to this incident, but if I were to find a symbol of hatred towards my race in the workplace, I’d take significant issue with it. While some may not fully appreciate the symbolism, negating it nonetheless isn’t helpful.

      • You don’t know that the noose was malicious. It’s just as likely that it was a hoax. You don’t have any facts beyond what the rest of us have. You, of all people, because of your op-eds, should reach out to the guy who was fired. I can give you his LinkedIn. mdrich2012@gmail.com

        • I don’t know and neither do you, that’s not my argument. My point is that one shouldn’t negate someone’s response to it, even if an investigation determines there was a different intent.

        • My best guess it was just someone stupid, who had no malicious intent. I just don’t know. The irony is that I’m hoping it was someone dumb while others hope it was someone racist. I’m hoping for the better world. Racism is a real problem, but #DueProcess is more important. I know of a guy who killed himself, with a noose, when he lost his job. Scary stuff.

        • “Due Process” is very important, when comments were posted in response to this story “it’s a good start”, referring to the foremen getting fired, it made me sad and sick that “due process” was not given a chance. Hopefully, someday we will know the truth regarding this event.

  3. Thank you for setting the record straight. Rather than spreading unsubstantiated information, it is a good idea to go to the people who know the facts.

  4. Just maybe as the Mayor traveled down his road of good intentions he confused some mistakenly by his “Why can’t we all get along” in his not so clear and unnecessary message. I assume his oath of office included a requirement to faithfully obey all laws, (which includes federal, state, and local). So why say anything that mistakenly splits hairs on a very sensitive subject?

    “Sanctuary cities” by definitions is a clear violation of law and the American spirit, and cannot long remain in an increasingly successful and united country. It is a divisive abomination.

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