We’re all familiar with the term “fake news.” We see it bandied around almost daily and now has more of a comedic catchphrase-type ring to it than any more profound meaning. However, fake news is a genuine thing; just ask the 60-year-old British Producer at the center of the latest media furor. A spontaneous side-hug he gave to one of the writers on a TV show they both worked on has taken him down a rabbit hole of having his name dragged through the mud, and dreadful things said about him.
The real story is that, yes, he side-hugged a writer, which she reported to her HR team. Her own personal code of ethics led her to believe that if someone can learn a lesson from a situation, then they should have an opportunity to do so. She requested he take a couple of hours of sensitivity training. He did, in fact, elect to take a whole class, wholeheartedly acknowledging that this was a delicate area in which much had changed over the last few years, and he felt he would get a lot out of it. The lady involved wanted nothing more than for him to become better educated about propriety in the workplace and was entirely satisfied with the outcome. Nothing more needed to be said.
The writer decided to leave because she felt they – her bosses – were treating her unfairly, something which both the network and her HR team didn’t support her on. Nothing at all to do with the producer. So, how then do we end up in a situation where the gentleman’s name has been plastered all over the international press?
Quite simply, it’s because, why on earth would a headline proclaiming, “Disgruntled Worker Leaves Studio, Blames Bosses,” get any traction from readers? Who cares? To sell papers, there must be scandal and salacious gossip, and what better way to get it than to take the most tenuous of threads and detonate it with fired-up language and falsehoods cloaked in ambiguous wording. And the press had leverage with this producer as his wife is a famous actress, so as soon as they dropped her name, they knew there would be interest.
This was good old, old-fashioned clickbait of the worse kind. Once a reader clicked on the headline, they weren’t then presented with the true story; instead, they got a far-stretched version that slurred a man’s reputation.
When will it cease to be okay to do this? Not only can it destroy innocent lives, but it is also downright insulting to those who have lived through truly horrendous experiences in the workplace and runs the risk of the public if those were exaggerated too. No good can come from these grossly distorted stories; no justice has been won. The only winners are the news sites themselves.