Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chinese Whispers

An interesting example of how stories are distorted in the telling, and how 'news' is created. Yesterday, at my place of work, there was a power cut. It happened around lunch time. I went out of my office to see if it was just my room, or more general. It was quickly apparent that the whole campus had lost electricity. Soon, a helicopter, a fire engine and two ambulances arrived. People on the corridor were immediately speculating as to what had caused the problem. In the space of three minutes I heard that construction workers on site had cut through cables, that there had been an explosion in a lab, and that there had been an explosion elsewhere, that the helicopter was there to take someone seriously injured to hospital. The local press reported it as a major incident.What had actually happened, it transpired, was that a power cut in the area had caused a distribution board to short-circuit, making a loud bang. Maybe whoever called 999 had been a little over-dramatic in describing the event. I imagine that person is a bit embarrassed.
The campus was not evacuated, classes were not particularly affected (especially as not that many classes happen on a Wednesday afternoon) and things were back to normal by mid-afternoon. Nothing to see here, move along...
Image: DailyPic

4 comments:

Martin Hughes said...

A similar thing happens via Twitter. And almost anywhere, I guess.

Initial speculation and excitement creates all sorts of erroneous reports. Did you hear about the Oxford Street 'shooting' incident that caused a Twitter stir?

http://goo.gl/odV06

Rob Spence said...

I hadn't seen that, Martin - but yes, same thing. We are gullible aren't we?

jellynewt said...

I thought it was fascinating. So many stories all claiming authenticity, felt like a book in the making. Personally, I thought my 'we'll all be eating each other by tonight' theory was the most plausible...

Rob Spence said...

I couldn't possibly comment, Jenni...