Digital literacy lessons for all- me included! Glad you’re alive and well Jeff!

I woke today to the news that Michael Jackson was in hospital and it was suspected that he had died. I didn’t go to my computer, just followed the mainstream media on Channel Nine here in Melbourne for awhile. Eventually news broke that he had died.

I went to the computer and opened Twitter where the story was being discussed by all. Then Richard Wilkins on Channel Nine’s Today Show  announced he had just received a report saying that Jeff Goldblum had fallen from a cliff in New Zealand while filming and was dead. Now hearing it on mainstream media led to me sending out a tweet about it. That led to a series of retweets that spread like wildfire while I tried to verify if the story was true.

Some tweets came through pretty early on suggesting it was a hoax. The links wouldn’t open.  I went to Wikipedia and saw interesting developments take place within minutes. Jeff Goldblum’s page was open when I first visited. I refreshed not two minutes later and the page was locked to users who were new or unregistered.

Editing of this article by new or unregistered users is currently disabled.   

That led to me getting suspicious that something was up, be it truth or hoax. Right after this Richard Wilkins announced that New Zealand police were investigating the death of Jeff Goldblum from a fall while filming. Rightly or wrongly, I tweeted this, just as I had been tweeting about changes to the Wikipedia page. I searched the web for verification but the page that would have confirmed the hoax wouldn’t open. Later in the morning, Ann Van Meter sent the link that opened to Top Stories, a site that generates stories like this one.     

Refreshing the Wikipedia page was interesting over that period. At one stage they had information saying the reports of his death were likely a hoax. I tweeted this. At another stage this information was no longer on the page, but they had after his name his birthdate and death and referred to him in the past tense. Not soon after this the page was updated again with this information missing and he was once again discussed in the present tense.

Wikipedia page not long after mainstream media announcement.


Hoax detail.


Past tense reference to Jeff Goldblum.


(Using the history tab in Wikipedia enabled me to grab these screenshots of the relevant pages) 

At around this time, The Today Show’s, Karl Stefanovic, mentioned on Channel Nine that Twitter was reporting the story as a hoax. I tweeted this too.  I then started to read tweets about ethical behaviour and the like. I felt like some of this was directed at me. (Maybe that’s paranoia!) Here’s some of the flurry in a screen capture;


I’m prepared to admit that I feel pretty bad about putting out the Tweet in the first place. I trusted mainstream media. I honestly did not think Richard Wilkins would report something that had not been properly verified. The Today Show had been quite insistant earlier in the morning about saying that the reports of Michael Jackson’s death were coming from TMZ, a gossip website.   But I do think I was making a concerted effort to get verification from other Web sources.

It’s a lesson in Digital literacy for us all.

Should I have searched first and tweeted later? Probably.

Would this have been a good lesson to use with students as it happened? Absolutely.

Will I be using this post with the classes I teach? You betcha.

Have I learnt a lot this morning?  Too right I have. Snopes slipped my mind just when I needed it! 

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12 Replies to “Digital literacy lessons for all- me included! Glad you’re alive and well Jeff!”

  1. Great post! As these stories have developed (Michael Jackson being true, Jeff Goldblum being false)I watched media outlets jump to update their websites. This is an excellent lesson for all of us in education and media. Thanks.

  2. Fantastic lesson for the students. It’s all part of the new expansion of perameters for news and the blending of black and white into shades of grey for truth and hearsay. I say, if we don’t learn on the run here, we’re left behind. You can’t say trust journalists and mainstream news either, so it’s not a matter of going back to mainstream. Fascinating.

    1. Wow – that there’s another lesson for us all. Thank you for sharing it – another resource I will be using!

  3. Jenny, this is a great post. That you have tried to write up the day as it unfolded, explaining the pitfall that can befall anyone using the new media was very informative to all of us , and many would not have been so open (dare I say brave!). There were many passing on the incorrect information and it will be interesting to see just how it got started. This type of thing is not new as the old game of “chinese” whispers proved years ago. It also shows up the arguments that some make along the lines that “you should trust journalists and the mainstream media”. The “mainstream” media was just as guilty as anyone else because it too led with the incorrect story. The lesson to all of us, not just students, about how easily we can be mistaken or misled. Our students need to understand that it not a bad thing to be a little incredulous and question what they hear.

    1. Thanks Rhonda. It was certainly another learning experience on the road to understanding social media, I can tell you. Thank goodness you can access previously loaded pages of Wikipedia; I felt the need to validate what it was I had said.

  4. I recently gave up all TV and am now looking to other sources of news information. With so much happening lately in Iran and celebrity deaths, it has been an interesting study in searching for the truth. Clearly there is some truth on twitter and other social networks, Wikipedia, and mainstream news websites. But, as you note, there are also major holes or problems with each of these sources as well. I feel like I am closer to being the investigative reporter myself, sorting through multiple sources to determine truth as best I can. And, the best way to verify truth is with time.

    1. Yes, these are interesting times we live in. It has led me to perhaps question more thoroughly and do my own investigation as you say. These are the ideas and type of thinking that we need to be seeding in the minds of our students. Not to be the servant of the media, but to be the master of it to some extent.

  5. ‘I honestly did not think Richard Wilkins would report something that had not been properly verified’ – surely Jenny, one look at Richard Wilkins face is enough to ascertain he is not the sharpest of fellows 🙂

    Like any media, social media can be a great tool for delivering information. But just like traditional media, you have to cross check your facts first.

    The great beauty about real time, social media is that misinformation or wrong facts are quickly shown to be false. There is no clearer example of this than the Jeff Goldblum debacle.

    1. Well, that was where the problem for me emanated from. It was mainstream media reporting the ‘incident’ – I was just unaware at the time that dear Richard was using social media as his reference point!!

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