As Mark Twain wisely pointed out, there's a big difference between lightning, and a lightning bug.
There is also a big difference between someone really shooting a rifle at a school and someone having a rifle at a school. Big diff. Not that I think that anyone should do either, but still...
Here's the deal, and what I think it says about modern journalism. The other day as the Orioles were celebrating Opening Day down at the ballpark, the campus of one of our suburban colleges was upset when a couple of students who had been hunting squirrels with pellet rifles in the woods near the school wandered onto the campus, still with rifles in hand. Another student saw them and reported same to security, and within minutes the school's plan for handling such events went to work.
Bringing the guns on campus was a foolish thing to do.
There was only one problem, which became an even bigger problem: the school's head of security issued an immediate text to all school personnel advising them to shelter in place due to a report of someone on the Owings Mills campus seen with a gun. That was wise. What was not wise was the the school posted this warning on their website: "Active shooter reported on Owings Mills Campus. Shelter in place until further notice."
That's the school's problem, but putting that on their website meant that a local TV news station grabbed that headline and put it out as Live Local Latebreaking news: Active Shooter at Stevenson University.
This is the worst kind of journalism, to be quite frank about it. I was watching the ballgame and the bulletin came across my Facebook newsfeed, but as I checked into it, I was able to find that no one was actively shooting on the campus, which is certainly what "Active shooter" means. There is no wiggle room there.
And then friends of mine with family members who work at or attend the school were upset, asking what was going on. Had they had the opportunity to check further as I did, they would have found that the police advised that a person or persons was/were seen with a rifle, but there was no shooting; no bullets were fired. I pointed this out via FB and the news website rather archly told me that all they did was repeat what the school had said.
Whatever happened to news agencies verifying what someone said before they put it out there as solid fact? This is what happens now; people see a story on The Daily Currant or The Onion, two websites that publish satirical news stories, and they take them to be true, upsetting those to whom they disseminate the story. No worthwhile news agency sees something written by a public relations person at a school and runs with it.
The shame is that we have come to trust what we see in print or on the web, and if "they said it on TV," it must be true.
By the way, this same TV station reported in January that the killer of two people at a local mall and his two victims were involved in a love triangle, an adduction they had to retract when not one scintilla of evidence of it being true was unearthed.
Also by the way, as the back and forth went on between me and the news station, I found that "gun enthusiasts," always touchy when their right to tote and brandish firearms in any public forum is even mentioned in a bad light, were taking my back in the fight. Politics does indeed "make strange bedfellows," as Charles Dudley Warner said before Facebook was invented.