In the newspaper business, we know that editing, or a lack of it, can radically skew the meaning of a story. With photographs, unethical editing or posing can alter or hide the true image, thus distorting reality.
On the popular social media site Facebook, posting altered images or video is an everyday occurrence. Unlike the news media, social media is not held to standards of fairness and truth. Regardless of the trouble it may cause, the material's poster is rarely held accountable.
It's a shame that longtime Wellsville Fire Chief Bill Smith had to respond to criticism about the time it took his department to get to the scene of a village fire after a video, which apparently distorted the truth, was posted on Facebook.
The fire in question occurred July 8 and destroyed three abandoned buildings at Main and 18th streets. The video, which was shot from the 18th Street view of the blaze, makes it look like the fire is raging on for nine minutes and no crews were on the scene. In reality, Chief Smith says firefighters were battling the fire from the Main Street side while the video was being shot.
Smith said the department response time on that particular fire was six minutes - not bad considering the call came it at 1:45 a.m. Wellsville's department, like many of our small towns and townships, is largely staffed by volunteers. That means most of the firefighters were probably in bed, so they had to get up, get dressed, drive to the station, get dressed in fire gear and roll the trucks. They did all this and arrived in six minutes - pretty impressive, we think.
Amazingly, the video was shot and posted by a member of village council, who says he did not do it criticize the department. Councilman John Morrow said his was not one of the voices heard on the video asking where the fire department was, and he never intended to show the department in bad light.
Morrow said that after watching the video he decided it was giving people the wrong impression about the department so he took it offline.
After watching the video?
He didn't view it before posting it and consider what public reaction might be? Now he's trying to side-step the criticism and said "I definitely would apologize if anything I said was taken the wrong way."
Well it was "taken the wrong way" because the video was taken from the wrong side of where the action was occurring and then it was posted before Morrow considered this gross omission of the facts.
The fire department deserves an apology from Morrow, and those who criticized the WVFD based on this video should apologize, too.
Author Edgar Allan Poe said, "Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear." Where Facebook and other social media is concerned, you'd better question everything that you see, too, before passing judgment.