Making Shit Up

Every now and then I get so mad at traditional news media I swear I’m going to quit watching TV and reading newspapers and keep up with the world through non-traditional media instead. But online news is every bit as misleading and inaccurate. Witness this, from Gawker today:

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Okay, you probably think that’s funny, and I do too. Diarrhea humor, after all, is the Rolls Royce of humor. But if you are Chipotle, you might be thinking about taking legal action against Gawker.

Here, read the full article on Gawker. I’ll wait.

Good, you’re back. As you just read, what the writer in fact reports is that 52 people in nine states have been affected by a strain of E. coli, and that 46 of them reported eating at a Chipotle fast food restaurant beforehand. Symptoms experienced by those affected included abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Gawker goes on to say that E. coli can, in rare cases, lead to death (implying, though not saying, that some of the victims who ate at Chipotle’s died). Serious, yes? Gawker implicates a particular Chipotle menu item, the “signature burrito,” as being “diarrhea-inducing,” describing it as “a menu item that is as unpleasant as it is unpopular.”

So why doesn’t Chipotle take its signature burrito off the menu? Well, as the article makes clear, there is no signature diarrhea-inducing burrito. No one knows what Chipotle menu item contains E. coli, or even if the outbreak can in fact be traced to Chipotle. Per the article, the “source of the outbreak—meaning which product in particular contains the strain of E. coli—has not yet been identified.”

Is E. coli in the meat, the guacamole, the salsa, the lettuce? Is it even coming from Chipotle? No one knows yet. Nevertheless, Gawker reports, the chain “has taken aggressive actions to implement indus Throughout its supply chain.”

What, exactly, is this “indus” being implemented? I ran Gawker’s quote through Google, which led me to Chipotle’s actual statement: “Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) has taken aggressive actions to implement industry-leading food safety and food handling practices in all of its restaurants and throughout its supply chain.”

So Gawker, in addition to libeling a corporation by falsely claiming it serves a “signature diarrhea-inducing burrito,” can’t be bothered to accurately cut & paste a sentence from the corporation’s official statement? Or even link to it?

I know, I know, never trust a corporation to tell the truth. I have to say, though, that this corporation appears to be aware of the problem and taking action. After all, doing so is in its best interest, no? I don’t eat at Chipotle and have no reason to defend it. I do read Gawker, though, and I’d like to defend it as a worthy aggregator of news, but now I can’t. What is Gawker trying to do with this kind of “reporting,” other than frightening people? Is it trying to shame Chipotle into shutting down its restaurants (as if that would ever happen) … or are they just trying to get clicks?

I don’t know much about the online news blog business, but I’m pretty sure Gawker’s writers get paid. That makes them professionals. I write for fun (and for free). But by god if I decide to quote someone or relay factual information, I look stuff up first to make sure I’ve got it right, and I show my work by linking to my sources. I proofread my posts before I click “publish.” If I’m offering opinion or simply making shit up, I say so.

What the fucking hell, Gawker? And why should I read another thing you write?

3 thoughts on “Making Shit Up

  • The simple answer to both questions is you shouldn’t. Still by reading the crap and pointing out the flaws you might have prevented someone else from believing the article and you have to weigh that up as well.

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