How the journalists you trust from the YEP defeated fake news and our commitment to fact-checked journalism - the YEP says
Sarah Williment's four-year-old son, Jack, was forced to sleep on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary wrapped in his mother’s red coat due to a shortage of beds.
As a respected publisher your Yorkshire Evening Post regularly features stories that represent the very best of the NHS - the YEP’s own Health Awards is a prime example of how we champion the city’s health sector.
When Jack and his family attended the hospital it was on one of the busiest days the Trust and its hardworking staff have faced - leaving them without one of the most simple things that would be expected from our exceptional health service. A bed.
As a responsible and trusted publisher it is our duty to make sure the facts we are putting out in the public domain under our masthead have been verified and checked. The hospital statement sums it up - the hospital admitted there was no bed, the expectations of the family fell woefully short of the high standards of the NHS and as such an apology was issued.
Yet this very title and its reporting team continues to still come under attack from trolls and bots on social media channels purporting the story to be “fake news” - and as the tweets continue to be retweeted and spread the virus of misinformation continues to seep into the public conscious.
It is an interesting twist in the tale that a woman has claimed she was hacked after being named online as the source of a viral false claim that a photo of a boy on a hospital floor was staged. The woman, who was alleged to have posted the now-viral claim on Facebook,said she had received death threats as a result of being named online as the source.
Never has there been a time when journalism, the industry and our journalists have come under such scrutiny and criticism and frankly, it is worrying about the power of social media and its reach. The level of abuse would not be accepted on the streets and must not be tolerated.
Statistics from YouGov show that local press in print and digital is the most trusted source for local news and information (74.1 per cent). This contrasts starkly with the 22 per cent who trust what is published on social media. This figure should and must speak for itself.
Our team of reporters will fact-check and verify information at the highest level before it is published - yet anyone can hide behind the guise of a fake profile and tweet out spurious claims without a single check. We will be accountable - nobody will take accountability from a fake account.
The News Media Association today said: “The Yorkshire Evening Post’s exclusive story about a four-year-old forced to sleep on a hospital floor due to a lack of beds is a perfect example of why trusted local journalism is so important for our society, particularly in the run up to a general election
“That’s why the local news media sector has come together under the banner of the #trustedelectionnews campaign to highlight its highly trusted credentials, in stark contrast to the disinformation and abuse which is so often distributed on social media.
“It is appalling that, having published a legitimate story in the public interest, the Yorkshire Evening Post and their journalists have had to suffer torrents of abuse on social media from trolls who seek to denigrate and debase a highly trusted and respected brand.
“These vicious attacks on journalism undermine our democratic way of life and there is no place for them in our society.”
And this is why we take our responsibility so seriously as a local publisher.
Yet it is alarming to see that this story of four-year-old Jack is now being used as a political football to score points against politicians as the election campaign enters its final 24 hours.
However, the fear is now that with all the outcry on social media will this now put people off from coming forward in the future to share their experiences of the NHS whether they are good, bad or indifferent?
If you’re going to be vilified by strangers questioning your honesty, integrity and care and love for your child then who will ever want to speak out in support of the NHS staff and against its management?
That will be the real tragedy given that it is stories, such as this, which are integral to shaping the future of the NHS for the benefit of all - young and old alike.